By Stephen Gallagher
FOURTH: CANBERRA RAIDERS
Ins: Aidan Sezer (Gold Coast Titans), Elliott Whitehead (Catalan Dragons), Adam Clydsdale (Newcastle Knights), Jeff Lima (Catalan Dragons), Zac Santo (Cowboys), Joseph Tapine (Newcastle Knights), Kato Ottio (PNG Hunters)
Outs: David Shillington (Gold Coast Titans), Andrew Heffernan (Penrith Panthers), Mark Nicholls (Melbourne Storm), Joel Edwards (Wests Tigers), Mitch Cornish (Parramatta Eels), Josh McCrone (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jeremy Hawkins (Melbourne Storm), Bill Tupou (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Jeff Lynch (Gold Coast Titans)
It was safe to say the Raiders were 10x better than they were in 2013, but last season was still one of those “what could have been” years – as they fell off the pace late and didn’t make the eight.
The mouth watering halves combination of Sezer and Austin is going to light the fire of this already impressive squad. A booming forward back that will eat metres like M&Ms and a backline that will be an absolute joy to watch – the Raiders will pick up big wins at home, and they will get some really solid scalps away from home too.
The Green Machine are going to be close to their glory days!
THIRD: CRONULLA SHARKSIns: James Maloney (Sydney Roosters), Chad Townsend (New Zealand Warriors), Jesse Sene Lefao (Manly Sea Eagles), Jordan Drew (Brisbane Broncos), Josh Cleeland (Ipswich Jets), Joseph Paulo (Paramatta Eels), Kurt Capewell (Ipswich Jets), Matt McIlwrick (Sydney Roosters)
Outs: Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels), Blake Ayshford (New Zealand Warriors), Josh Addo-Carr (Wests Tigers), Jeff Robson (New Zealand Warriors), Kyle Stanley (retirement), Curtis Scott (Melbourne Storm)
It’s a shark attack as the boys from the Shire blow their opposition away. It’s an overdue season performance from Cronulla – but they’ve earned their success in 2016.
The addition of James Maloney adds in an element they’ve been missing for years. Townsend and Maloney will create danger with every chance they get – and the forward pack of Gallen, Lewis, Graham and Ennis will hold all the cards when it comes to getting the best of their opponents.
Keep an eye on Cronulla. They will fly under the radar.
SECOND: BRISBANE BRONCOS
Ins: Carlin Anderson (Ipswich Jets), Caleb Timu (Mormon mission), Salesi Funaki (Wests Tigers), James Roberts (Gold Coast Titans), Sam Scarlett (Penrith Panthers)
Outs: Justin Hodges (retirement), Dale Copley (Sydney Roosters), Todd Lowrie (Newcastle Knights), Ashley Taylor (Gold Coast Titans), Mitch Garbutt (Leeds Rhinos), Matt Parcell (Manly Sea Eagles), Mitchell Dodds (Warrington), Jayden Nikorima (Roosters), David Stagg (retirement), Jordan Drew (Cronulla Sharks), Daniel Vidot (Salford)
It pains me to say this – but if you thought Brisbane were good in 2015 – they will be even better this year.
Supercoach Wayne Bennett is the master of these ponies, and they will be groomed and ready to go from the first encounter.
With not too many signings worth talking about in the off-season, they didn’t need too much to add to their already phenomenal roster – however with James Roberts joining them – watching him in space for Brisbane is going to be bloody brilliant.
Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford will be stronger, faster and more elusive – just try and stop the bucking Broncos.
FIRST: NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Ins: Shaun Hudson (Gold Coast Titans), Jahrome Hughes (Townsville Blackhawks)
Outs: Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers), Cameron King (Parramatta Eels), Glenn Hall (retirement), Robert Lui (Salford Red Devils), Kelepi Tanginoa (Parramatta Eels), Scott Schulte (Parramatta Eels)
This team will be the team to beat. Premiers last season after frekish antics of the next immortal, Johnathan Thurston and a whole team dedicated to success.
They will be the Golden State Warriors of the NRL – expect less than five losses across their 24 regular season matches.
There will be no pressure on the Cowboys – despite fifteen other teams chasing what they currently have hands firmly on, Paul Green will know how to get the most out of his squad and they will not suffer in their title defence.
The Cowboys front runners from last season will not be knocked out of first position all season.
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