By Stephen Gallagher
11: Sydney Roosters
There is plenty to like about the Roosters. They’ve got quite the roster, and they’re always enjoyable to watch when they’re playing well.
Roosters need a big season from their halves. This is where their strengths lie. A controlled and consistent performance from the 6 and 7 feels like a bridge too far for me. If they can get it right, then they will run riot.
The forwards have to deliver too. They were weak when it counted last season, which created a domino effect across the team.
I think a lot of their premiership-winning NYC players will get a crack at first grade this season too. A good thing, definitely.
2017 Gains: Paul Carter (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2017), Mitch Cornish (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Michael Gordon (Parramatta Eels, 2017), Brock Gray (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Luke Keary (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2018), Liam Knight (Manly Sea Eagles, 2019), Brenden Santi (2017), Chris Smith (Mid Season: Penrith Panthers, 2017), Zane Tetevano (2017)
2017 Losses: Pakisonasi Afu (released), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Tyler Cornish (QLD Cup), Brendan Elliot (Newcastle Knights), Jackson Hastings (Manly Sea Eagles), Ian Henderson (retired), Vincent Leuluai (Melbourne Storm), Joey Lussick (Manly Sea Eagles), Sam Moa (Catalan Dragons), Charlie Taylor (released)
10: Wests Tigers
For some reason or another, they always decide to flog off their good players, or something stupid happens to them.
The Tigers have about 18 good players, and that’s it. Thankfully for them, they are very good players. I don’t think they’re good enough to make the eight, but they will compete well this year.
Brooks and Moses have to take more responsibility, and Tedesco needs to get more involved. He’s really the key here.
A forward pack that is a little undersized will get muscled-over in the tight games, which will be their downfall.
2017 Losses: Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm), Jack Buchanan (Widnes Vikings), Tyler Cassel (released), Manaia Cherrington (Cronulla Sharks), Josh Drinkwater (Leigh Centurions), Robbie Farah (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Asipeli Fine (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Dallas Graham (released), Rod Griffin (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Dene Halatau (retired), Lamar Liolevave (released), Billy McConnachie (released), Nathan Milone (released), Jesse Parahi (Rugby Sevens), Chance Peni (rugby union), Curtis Sironen (Manly Sea Eagles)
9: North Queensland Cowboys
Now this is a tough one for me. The Cowboys are obviously talented. They’re a slick outfit, they’re committed and they’re a well-made team.
In 2017 though, I just don’t think the spark they had in 2015 to win them the premiership is there any more. A few older players, and a few players that aren’t up to the physicality of first grade every week will be their downfall.
I also think their major suffering will happen around Origin. I don’t think they have the numbers and the reinforcements to survive.
If Thurston has anything to do with it, he’ll be leading this team on his own. Just needs a little support from their young kids and they might just keep their season alive.
2017 Losses: Ben Hannant (retired), Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm), Rory Kostjasyn (Newcastle Knights), Tautau Moga (Brisbane Broncos), Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm), James Tamou (Penrith Panthers), Matthew Wright (Manly Sea Eagles)
8: Cronulla Sharks
They have to defend their premiership with everything they’ve got. I think that last year was their best shot, and they nailed it. Congratulations to them. There’s no pressure on this team to win now, and I kind of feel like this is what will happen. They’ll do enough to make the finals, but not much more than that.
I also thought Paul Gallen should have ended his career last year. I know he’s tough as nails, but I don’t want him to be on a farewell tour for the whole year.
There is plenty to be happy about though as a Sharks fan. They’ve got a stack of talent in all the right places, and some of the guys who have been around for a few years will really lead this side in experience.
Lets see if they can be the first side to go back to back since the Broncos in 92/93.
2017 Losses: Ben Barba (French Rugby), Mitch Brown (Leigh Centurions), Josh Cleeland (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Michael Ennis (retired), David Fifita (Wakefield Trinity), Jacob Gagan (Newcastle Knights), Matt McIlwrick (Wests Tigers), Anthony Moraitis (released), Junior Roqica (London Broncos), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Castleford Tigers), Connor Tracey (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
7: Melbourne Storm
A battle-ready team always there to perform, fight, and execute to the orders of Craig Bellamy.
A 7th spot isn’t all that bad, especially when I believe this is the tightest premiership race ever. They’ve still got the warhorses who have been there and done it, and they especially know how to get good early ball to their speedsters to finish the job right.
The Storm may just fall in to a trap they’ve set themselves. Sides have learnt how to pressure them for 80 minutes. With a nonstop effort, with relentless physical nature.
Melbourne are always dangerous, no matter where they finish on the table.
2017 Gains: Josh Addo-Carr (Wests Tigers, 2019), Jahrome Hughes (North Queensland Cowboys, 2018), Ryley Jacks (2017), Vincent Leuluai (Mid Season: Sydney Roosters, 2018), Justin Olam (2018), Brandon Smith (North Queensland Cowboys, 2019)
2017 Losses: Blake Green (Manly Sea Eagles), Ben Hampton (North Queensland Cowboys), Richard Kennar (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Josh Kerr (St George Illawarra Dragons), Marika Koroibete (rugby union), Ryan Morgan (St Helens RLFC), Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans), Francis Tualau (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
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