MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Cameron Smith of the Storm arrives with the NRL premiership trophy during the Melbourne Storm NRL Grand Final celebrations at Federation Square on October 2, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The 2018 NRL season is rapidly approaching and though plenty can change between now and the start of the season there are already premiership favourites emerging. Three teams stand ahead of the rest of the pack heading into the new season.

These teams are the 2017 grand finalists, the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys, as well as the Sydney Roosters.

Each of these teams has won premierships in recent years and have extensive finals experience. There is also an abundance of powerful forwards and explosive backs in each of these teams which means they are always a challenge to beat.

The Melbourne Storm boasts an incredible modern record and is always a contender for the premiership. It would surprise few people if the Storm had another stellar season, despite the loss of Cooper Cronk and other key players such as Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean.

With the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cameron Munster and Jesse Bromwich all playing in 2018 the Storm will continue to be one of the toughest teams to defeat. Craig Bellamy has proven time after time that his side is never to be underestimated or written off.

However, there is no doubt that Cooper Cronk was incredibly important to the Storm. This means that the team will have to adjust to playing without him fast, or risk being outclassed by fellow competition heavyweights.

Unlike the Storm, the North Queensland Cowboys have not lost key personnel, and therefore seem as though they can only get better in 2018. They will welcome Jonathan Thurston and Matt Scott back into the team and will add Jordan McLean to a team that continues to look more deadly.

In 2017 Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo led the team on an inspired run to the grand final, a result which few predicted. With huge players returning to the side it is clear the Cowboys will be difficult to beat.

The Sydney Roosters are another team that will be tough to beat, due to their excellent recruiting which has added serious firepower to an already strong team.

Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco will ensure the Roosters go up a level in 2018. The spine of Tedesco, Cronk, Luke Keary and Jake Friend is dynamic and dangerous, and the team will be hoping they deliver results.

The test for the Sydney Roosters will be if they can overcome their extensive losses. While Cronk and Tedesco are massive gains, the likes of Mitchell Pearce, Aiden Guerra, Connor Watson and Michael Gordon are just a number of strong players that have moved on from the Roosters.

The depth of their squad will be tested and the team’s season relies on them covering losses via injury or suspension.

There is no doubt these teams are major contenders for the premiership, but whether they can go all the way remains to be seen. The Storm, Cowboys and Roosters will be the favourites but the NRL often delivers the unexpected.

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