Every year we see people throw their hat into the ring and try to predict one of the nation's most unpredictable games.
So here are 50 fearless predictions for season 2018 to have you mulling over one the NRL's most closely contested seasons.
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25. Coach of the Year – Nathan Brown will finally lift his struggling Newcastle squad off the ladder’s bottom rung. And while they won’t make the finals, taking a team of youngsters and rejects as far as he will is a testament to his coaching ability.
24. State of Origin Debutants – Mitchell Moses, Tom Trbojevic, Damien Cook and Tyrone Peachey will earn their first sky blue jerseys, while lock forward Nathan Brown and Latrell Mitchell will spend the series as 18th men. Queensland will see the first appearance of Ashley Taylor and Korbin Sims, though the series will be defined by retirees more than debutants.
23. State of Origin winners – Brad Fittler will stun the rugby league world and lead the Blues to a 3-0 series victory, ushering in a new era of dominance for New South Wales on the back of Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk’s exit.
22. Top Point Scorer – Jordan Kahu will edge out Dylan Walker with a strong attacking season, while a Penrith half will nab third spot. It’s just a matter of whether Nathan Cleary or James Maloney snatch the kicking tee in 2018.
21. Top Try Scorer – The likes of Alex Johnston, Suliasi Vunivalu or Jordan Rapana would be safe picks here, but it will be Bevan French nabbing top honours with 24 tries following the exit of Semi Radradra. And if Reece Robinson starts 2018 in first-grade for the Roosters, expect him to nab second spot.
20. Female Player of the Year – Alanna Ferguson will shine for Cronulla and the Jillaroos as she fights her way back from injury to prove she belongs amongst the elite women of the game.
19. Rookie of the Year – Remember the name Payne Haas for your little black book. The teenager stands at 194cm, 120kgs and certainly delivers on his first name. Expect him to play plenty of minutes from Brisbane’s bench in 2018, while halves Kyle Flanagan (Cronulla), Tom Wright (Manly) and Adam Doueihi (South Sydney) will also be in strong contention if given their chance.
18. Ladder Slide – Manly’s salary cap saga will drag into their season, with the loss of experienced campaigners Blake Green and Brenton Lawrence to have a lasting effect on the side that will struggle with its consistency and composure over the regular season.
17. Climbing the Rungs – South Sydney will beat out the St George Illawarra Dragons in the race for Manly’s spot in the top eight. The arrival of Dane Gagai coupled with the return of Greg Inglis and the return of form to the likes of Adam Reynolds and the Burgess twins will see the red and green finals bound once more.
16. Should’ve Retired – Paul Gallen was fantastic in 2017, controversially beating Jason Taumalolo to earn the Dally M Lock of the Year award. But a host of niggling injuries and some short spelled suspensions will disrupt his campaign, and bring an end to his career.
15. Most Improved – The Hayne plane is back in town. Almost certain to line up in the centres, a simplified role surrounding a team more well rounded than the Gold Coast Titans were, Jarryd Hayne will show Eels fans what they’ve been missing.
14. Lock of the Year – Jason Taumalolo has this position on lock for the next five years at least, and will stand strides above the rest of the pack once more.
13. Second-Rower of the Year – Boyd Cordner will edge out Matt Gillett for the prestigious award, but expect strong seasons from youngsters Angus Crichton and Coen Hess as they back up their breakout seasons.
12. Prop of the Year – Sam Burgess will make the move from lock to prop in 2018 to allow youngster Cameron Murray a starting role, and will make the number ten jersey his own this year.
11. Hooker of the Year – Cameron Smith is a safe bet, but Damien Cook will shine in his first entire season as an eighty minute, starting hooker. The Dally M Hooker of the Year award will pair nicely with his maiden NSW jumpers as a testament to a breakout season.
10. Halfback of the Year – Mitchell Moses, in his first full year in the seven, will take home the award with such a strong side surrounding him. Expect Moses to top the try-assists tally as he rockets towards his long-touted potential.
9. Five-Eighth of the Year – Shifting back to five-eighth, Michael Morgan will just pip Cameron Munster and James Maloney as he bring his late-season form into this year, and takes more and more control of the side with Thurston passing him the reigns.
8. Centre of the Year – Dylan Walker will take out this award for back to back seasons, returning to peak form despite missing the pre-season with an ankle injury.
7. Winger of the Year – Bevan French will score two dozen tries this year as he takes over from Semi Radradra as Parramatta’s try-scoring machine. Playing outside Mitchell Moses and Michael Jennings, French has enough x-factor around him to pip Jordan Kahu for the top winger.
6. Fullback of the Year – While Greg Inglis will hit the paddock in 2018 as fresh as he’s been in years, this will be James Tedesco’s award. Finally playing with a strong squad, Tedesco will rise in his abilities, earmarking himself as the Kangaroo’s future custodian.
5. Wooden Spoon – It’s finally time for Newcastle to give up the unwanted utensil, and pass it onto the boys across the ditch, the New Zealand Warriors. Their recruitment is lacklustre and will highlight their issues this year, as they finish dead last, but don’t think the Wests Tigers won’t throw their hat in the ring for dreaded title as well.
4. Minor Premiers – They’ve lost quantity, but they’ve gained quality. That’s right, the Sydney Roosters will win their fourth minor premiership in six years as Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco lead the charge.
3. Dally M – There’s a lot of contenders this year. Jonathan Thurston and Greg Inglis are back, Jason Taumalolo can’t be stopped, Billy Slater is returning to his peak and you can never count out Cameron Smith. But it will be Mitchell Moses who rises as the cream of the crop, guiding the Eels to consecutive top four finishes as the blue and gold finish one game short of a grand final berth.
2. Runners-Up: You’ve got lose one to win one, right? The Sydney Roosters will return to the big show five years after their last appearance, but they won’t be walking away with the trophy this time. Cordner, Cronk and his mighty tricolours will fall by four points in a classic grand final.
1. Premiers: Talk about a fairytale. Jonathan Thurston, after missing the majority of 2017, returns in his final year in the NRL, and will close out a glittering career by holding the premiership trophy above his head. While it’ll be Lachlan Coote to claim the Clive Churchill medal in a thrilling 22-18 victory over the Roosters, all eyes will be on JT as he leaves the game with another ring on his finger.
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