Some of the biggest names to have played rugby league in recent times have made intriguing predictions for the upcoming NRL season, with Matty Johns, Benji Marshall and Cooper Cronk all unveiling their tips.
The comments from the trio - who all played the sport at the highest level during their own careers - came during the Fox League season launch.
Matty Johns, host of numerous shows and one of the most respected halves coaches in the world, was asked who could make a shock run at a premiership.
Admitting how difficult cracking the top-four is, the team he gave the best chance to was the Cronulla Sharks.
“Fitzy (Craig Fitzgibbon) is a rookie coach and I suppose he doesn’t really know what sort of coach he is until you lose three in a row...but he has the right temperament, I like their roster," Johns said.
Craig 'Fitzy' Fitzgibbon has high expectations for his first year, stemming from his Sydney Roosters pedigree and stellar career.
Expectations should be high.
The Sharks also add Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes from the Melbourne Storm and welcome back Jesse Ramien from the Knights. Sharks fans also get to see Cameron McInnes lace up his boots after missing 2021 with a knee injury.
Those weren't the only predictions Johns gave forth, putting together a list of contenders for 2022.
“The Roosters, what they showed last year without so many players, they are going to go close,” Johns explained.
Panthers fans might want to stop reading now. He wasn't as confident in the premiers defending their title.
“It is hard to go back-to-back...Every time they play a side they are going to going to be playing a side at their best...that can take a toll on you."
It's all-but-guaranteed the Storm will make the top-four but Johns proffered a team he isn't sure about.
“The Rabbitohs...big challenge for Jason Demetriou... big challenge for him because you know he is following Wayne in and usually when Wayne leaves a side just goes boom."
“For whatever reason, Wayne just takes the magic with him.”
In 2008 the Brisbane Broncos finished fifth, falling 16-14 to the Melbourne Storm. The next year the Bennet-less Broncos finished sixth and were obliterated 40-10 by the Storm in the preliminary final.
In 2011 the St George Illawarra Dragons won the premiership with Bennet at the helm. They fell to ninth when he left.
While things didn't end well at the Newcastle Knights, they made it to the preliminary final in 2013. They haven't seen much success since.
Most recently, Bennet left the Broncos in the hands of Anthony Seibold after barely scraping into the top-eight the year before. We know how that went.
Demetriou, along with the stars and veterans that remain at the Rabbitohs should be enough to remain in the mix. Can they truly contend for a premiership? That's the challenge.
Andrew Johns' Brother wasn't the only one throwing courageous predictions into the air.
“I have a couple of predictions this year," Benji Marshall said.
"I think the Roosters are going to bounce back in a big way with the inclusion of Luke Keary."
While Marshall agreed with Johns that the Roosters will be back to their best after an injury-riddled 2021, Benji wasn't so cautious of the Panthers defending their title.
"I think the Penrith Panthers are a chance of going back-to-back, and a little sneaky one here, Luke Brooks for Dally M Halfback of the Year," Marshall said.
Brooks has already won the award once and with all the negativity surrounding him and the Tigers last season, a bounce-back could be on the cards.
Four-time Premiership winner Cooper Cronk wasn't on the same page as Johns when he gave his thoughts on who would be a shock performer.
“They played finals last year but I will say Newcastle, I think they are going to have a big year on the back of Kalyn Ponga,” Cronk said.
He's not wrong. Playing only fifteen games last year for the Knights, Newcastle felt his absence, winning only 12 of 24 matches. While the knights had an only slightly better record with Ponga, winning eight and losing seven, he played less than 45 minutes in two of them.
As for his premiership choice, Cronk couldn't split his two old teams.
“The head and the heart always say the Roosters and the Storm.”