The 2018 NRL season is fast approaching and I am beyond excited!!
This year shapes as one of the tightest competitions in recent memory, with a merry-go-round of players in full swing right throughout the summer sides have picked up fresh faces, big names and troubled stars. Trying to pick the winner and top 8 this far out is a tough gig, so naturally I'll attempt that and more. Hopefully, there's not too much egg on my face come October.
The top eight
Melbourne Storm- Two words, Craig Bellamy. The Storm will be well drilled, incredibly fit and disciplined beyond belief in the opening rounds which usually takes them to the minor premiership. Very tough to beat the defending champs even with their star halfback leaving.
North Queensland Cowboys- The return of Thurston and Scott and the addition of Jordan McLean will be a huge plus for Paul Green's men. Jason Taumalolo will be looking to cement his status as the best forward in the game.
Parramatta Eels- Tough, aggressive forward pack, slick outside backs and two of the best attacking halves in the competition. The Eels have all the ingredients to give this competition a shake and I think they will.
Sydney Roosters- Thanks to Uncle Nick Politis the Bondi boys have more stars than Hollywood. Even with some of the biggest names in the game their depth may be tested at different stages, especially with a few aging forwards. They are always a chance with the roster they assemble each year.
Brisbane Broncos- One of the smaller packs in the NRL but year after year Wayne Bennett just finds a way. Write him off at your own peril. Once Jack Bird returns from injury expect big things from the Superstar signing.
St George Illawarra Dragons- The Red V making the top 6 may surprise some pundits but I expect them to do quite well. Already a great forward pack they welcome James Graham who will bring the competitive attitude the Dragons need in tight games. Ben Hunt will need to be excellent from the get go or face the wrath of some of the harshest supporters in the league.
Penrith Panthers- Even with the off field sideshow going on, a team with Nathan Cleary, James Maloney and a near representative forward pack will be making the top 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard will look to lead the way up front. Anthony Griffin is under huge pressure.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks- Could finish anywhere from 1 to 16 so I've put them right in the middle. With an unproven 6 in Moylan outside him Chad Townsend will take on a huge responsibility, his experienced forward pack will hope he doesn't become flustered under pressure as he has in the past.
The rest of the sides will spring more than a few upsets during the year, taking big scalps with them but if injuries hit, they won't have the depth to compete with the top squads. The Worst of the lot will be the Canberra Raiders. Already losing Hodgson hurts them and i think Ricky Stuart is wearing thin on the players which he has a tendency to do after 3 years at the helm.
The other accolades
Premiers- North Queensland Cowboys. JT goes out a winner.
Runners Up- Parramatta Eels. So close yet so far for the yellow and blues.
Wooden Spoon- Canberra Raiders. Ricky collects some more woodwork.
State of Origin- NSW Blues (FINALLY!)
Dally M- Corey Norman. Attacking genius with the swagger of an origin star.
Top Try Scorer- Suliasi Vunivalu. Exceptional finisher in an exceptional side, no brainer.
Top Point Scorer- Jonathan Thurston. No Rep footy will do wonders for the future immortal.
I've had my say, now the real question is, what are your predictions?
Bring on the footy!
Which teams do you think will make up the top eight and win the big prize? Let us know in the comments below.