WIGAN, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Captain Boyd Cordner of Sydney Roosters holds the trophy in victory with team mates after the World Club Challenge match between Wigan Warriors and Sydney Roosters at DW Stadium on February 17, 2019 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The 2018 Premiers look set for another huge season.

Now that they’be become the hunted, can they hold off the chasing pack to record back-to-back title wins?

2019 Gains

Egan Butcher (2019), Angus Crichton (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2021), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, 2020), Brock Lamb (Newcastle Knights, 2019), Brett Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2020)

2019 Losses

Kurt Baptiste (North Queensland Cowboys), Mitch Cornish (retired), Blake Ferguson (Parramatta Eels), Grant Garvey (released), Dean Matterson (released), Ryan Matterson (Wests Tigers), Paul Momirovski (Wests Tigers), Dylan Napa (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Frank-Paul Nu’uausala (retired), Sean O’Sullivan (Brisbane Broncos), Chris Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Eloni Vunakece (retired)

2018 Recap

After a slow start, the Roosters ended the 2018 season as, by far and away, the best side in the competition.

The Minor Premiers and Premiers did a job on a brilliant Melbourne Storm side in the decider despite carrying their superstar halfback on the final day of the season.

Tedesco and Cronk were recruited to deliver a Premiership to Bondi and they did just that. By the end of 2018, they were almost in a league of their own.

Blake Ferguson was a monster, Daniel Tupou had a career-best year, while their centre pairing of Latrell Mitchell and Joseph Manu is almost unstoppable.

Throw in the emergence of Victor Radley and the crowning of Boyd Cordner as NSW and Kangaroos captain, and 2018 was as close to a perfect season as you could possibly hope for.

Best Recruit: Angus Crichton

To think that the Roosters will enter 2019 with almost their complete 2018 title-winning pack PLUS the addition of NSW and Kangaroos second-rower Angus Crichton, must have other sides wondering what they can do to stop the premiers.

The Bunnies moved heaven and earth to retain their prize asset but the Bondi allure was just too strong.

He rounds out the game’s best forward pack, joining Radley and Cordner in the back row/lock spots.

At only 22 year’s of age, it’s scary to think just how good Crichton will end up. Under Robinson and surrounded by superstar forwards, there is no reason he can’t reach his ridiculous potential this season.

Future Star/One To Watch: Lindsay Collins

Victor Radley had a breakout season in 2018 and I believe it will be Collins who emerges from 2019 as yet another Roosters superstar.

With Matterson moving on, Collins becomes a near automatic selection for the Roosters bench meaning he will add many games this year to his 10 NRL appearances.

At only 22 year’s of age, the young man mountain will round out a fearsome prop rotation.

He missed the 2018 Grand Final but produced in his two finals appearances against the Sharks and Bunnies, two of the best forward packs in the competition.

Star Player: James Tedesco

James Tedesco, after a slowish start considering his abilities, ended 2018 as the game’s premier fullback. Fans of RTS will comment but for mine Tedesco is the ultimate fullback.

He was huge for the Roosters and seemed to get better and better as the season went on. He’s also now the long-term Origin and Roos number one.

Tedesco threatens from literally everywhere. Whether that be returning a kick, or sliding across the park behind his halves, you can never take your eyes off Teddy.

He was frighteningly good in 2018. Given the confidence he’ll take into 2019 there is literally no predicting just how high he will fly in 2019. The Dally M favourite for mine.

Recruitment Grade: A

It’s hard to believe it but the 2018 Premiers look an even better side entering 2019 on the back of a masterful recruitment drive.

They’ve added NSW and Kangaroos second-rower Angus Crichton as well as Brett Morris and Ryan Hall. Although Hall suffered an unfortunate injury and will miss a large part of the season, that is scary.

Crichton is arguably the game’s best young second rower. He will slot straight into an already stacked Roosters pack, replacing the departed Dylan Napa after a shuffle.

For a side to lose the likes of Matterson, Ferguson and Napa yet enter the next season even stronger, after a dominant Grand Final win … Yikes!

Prediction: 1st

This looks like one of the hardest to predict seasons in recent memory. There are really perhaps 12 sides that I want to put into my top eight, but the gap between the best side in the comp and the rest looks huge.

The Roosters dominated the Storm in last year’s Grand Final despite their star halfback Cooper Cronk only having one arm. He, by all rights, had no business taking the field for the decider.

Tedesco is now the game’s top number one. I expect him to be even better in 2019 and lock in the jersey at all levels of the game for as long as he wants it.

Luke Keary will challenge for an Origin jumper this year after a massive 2018. He was the man of the match in the decider and played twice for the Kangaroos.

They managed to minimise the losses to the squad with only really Napa, Matterson and Ferguson departing, yet have managed to replace those players with the likes of Crichton and Brett Morris.

Of course, the premiers of each year enter short price to go back-to-back in the next season, but this Roosters side looks even stronger than it’s 2018 self.

I can’t see anyone seriously challenging the tri-colour dominance in 2019.