10. State of Origin winner
The 2018 series victory wasn’t fortuitous like 2014 was for New South Wales. There’s a genuine dynasty building on the back of Brad Fittler’s quirky methods. The shield will stay below the border.
9. Bargain buy
Many won’t even be tipping Ryley Jacks to be the starting five-eighth for the Gold Coast, but he’ll be the man to bring out the best in Ash Taylor. Great buy for the Titans.
8. Worst buy
Corey Norman. He doesn’t have the spark or the defence required for a fullback, and if he plays five-eighth for the Dragons then expect a clunky partnership with Hunt. This is if the deal does finally go through.
7. Best Buy
Dave Klemmer is the man Newcastle have needed. A strong, aggressive leader of the forward pack. He’s on big money, but he’ll show why he deserves it when he lifts the players around him – and takes the Knights to just their second finals series in the span of eight years.
6. Biggest drop
While the Dragons will fall, the Warriors will be the biggest drop off, falling from finals football down to the bottom four. Releasing an international caliber halfback without a replacement will do that.
5. Biggest improver
The Cowboys have arguably the best forward pack in the competition, and with Michael Morgan leading the ship at halfback and Ben Barba at the back, North Queensland will jump from the bottom four to sixth.
4. Wooden spoon
Look away Bulldogs fans – it’s gonna be a long year. The spine is inexperienced and clunky, the forward pack is undermanned and there’s little strike in the backline. This won’t be a year to remember for Canterbury.
3. Minor premiers
The Roosters have a fantastic squad, and Trent Robinson knows how to manage a regular season. Provided the spine stays fit, they’ll be on top again.
2. Runners up
No one goes back-to-back. The Roosters will make the big one, but they won’t win it. The premiers are a hunted species every year, everyone improves against them. Fatigue will get them at the end of the season.
Wayne Bennett is the best coach in rugby league history and will guide a stacked South Sydney side to their 22nd premiership. While they lose Crichton, it opens a spot for Cam Murray to start. Bennett has a knack of getting the best out of his players, and he’ll lift players like Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker to a new level.
Here are predictions: