Roosters well placed to crow again

Sysdney Roosters backs (from left) Joseph Manu, James Tedesco, Cooper Cronk and Blake Ferguson...
Sysdney Roosters backs (from left) Joseph Manu, James Tedesco, Cooper Cronk and Blake Ferguson take part in a training session in Sydney this week. Photos: Getty Images
The NRL started last night with the Broncos taking on the Dragons. Who is going to win the title and can Melbourne be beaten. ODt rugby league writer Michael Minty looks at the 16 teams. 


Roosters (premiers)

Expect the Roosters to be competition front-runner again especially with arguably the most dynamic tackle-busting fullback in James Tedesco running behind a decent pack and the mercurial Cooper Cronk at the helm running the show. Premiers, possibly? Yes please.

Key question: Teddy was great for the lowly Wests Tigers so will he hit new heights in a blue ribbon team?

Storm (runner-up)

If its World Club Challenge demolition of Super League champion Leeds Rhinos was anything to go by, then the Storm looks set to hit the ground running. There is no sensing failure here so expect it to line up again on GF day.

Key question: Can Brodie Croft slot in seamlessly? Cooper who?

Cowboys (third)

Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston are fit, meaning the Cowboys can start fresh and mount a challenge from the word go. Watch new signing Jordan McLean from the Storm up front and the usual wizardry from Thurston in what will be his final year in the NRL. Top four again.

Key question: Is Father Time finally catching up on the usually-injury free JT?


Eels (fourth)

Enigmatic Jarryd Hayne returns to where the plane took off. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen but there is enough competition for spots to keep him honest. Lock them for finals and going deep would not surprise with the amount of talent in the backline.

Key question: Hayne's return. To rally or to derail?


Sharks (fifth)

Other than the arrival of Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan the squad largely remains the same led by the old heads in seasoned pack. Should play finals footy and is a side tough enough to trouble the top echelon.

Key question: Will Moylan and Dugan help the Sharks exceed expectations in 2018?

Raiders (sixth)

Pre-season news about this lot has been quiet and coach Ricky Stuart will not mind that after sharing pre-season hype last year with the Panthers. A familiar-looking line-up to one that underwhelmed us in 2017 indicates there is just too much firepower to be shooting blanks two years in a row.

Key question: Can Team Le-Pana rediscover its Midas touch on the right edge?

Broncos (seventh)

Kodi Nikorima finally looks to have a permanent place in the halves, thanks to Ben Hunt's exit. The addition of Jack Bird, bad boy Matt Lodge up front and a rumoured positional switch from wing to back row for Corey Oates means there are a few questions marks over Brisbane this year. Top eight yes, top four no.

Key question: Will we see youth to the fore among the Brisbane pack's changing of the guard?

Rabbitohs (eighth)

There is still a query over the fitness of Greg Inglis and whether he can return to his best. Adding size to the backs alongside him is Maroons team-mate Dane Gagai, who is a marquee signing. New coach Anthony Seibold has the luxury of playing the Warriors in Perth first up, so at least his tenure should start on the right foot. Dropping into eighth in round 26.

Key question: It all starts up front. Can the Burgess boys rediscover their mojo under coach Anthony Seibold?


Knights (eighth)

When it comes to salary caps, things happen in a cycle and the Knights have reaped benefit from Roosters player exits. They will still have a bit of gelling to do but on paper there is enough firepower within the new recruits to push towards finals. Just outside the eight but a chance.

Key question: Can they live up to expectations or will it be Penrith 2.0?

Warriors wing David Fusitu'a dives over to score a try during a trial match against the Melbourne...
Warriors wing David Fusitu'a dives over to score a try during a trial match against the Melbourne Storm in Rotorua.

Dragons (10th)

Million-dollar man Ben Hunt will be under pressure to fire with Gareth Widdop from the get go while up front more will fall on X-factor players Paul Vaughan and Jack de Belin. James Graham joins from Canterbury. Close to finals but others preferred.

Key question: Will Ben Hunt live up to his price tag?

Panthers (11th)

Coming off one of the most disappointing campaigns as far as expectations go, Penrith will fly under the radar this year. The acquisition of James Maloney could be rocks or diamonds and there will be interest around who will be the dominant playmaker between himself and Nathan Cleary. Do not like the talk of unrest within so not liked.

Key question: Will Nathan Cleary have signed with Dad at the Tigers before the season ends?


Titans (12th)

A brief stand-off between Jarryd Hayne and Neil Henry now sees both exiled from the club. They have also lost some firepower up front, although the addition of Michael Gordon at fullback and Bryce Cartwright at lock means an improved showing could be on the cards for new coach Garth Brennan. No finals but sure to have some fun.

Key question: Bryce Cartwright to play a Greg Bird ball-playing role at lock. Will it work?

Sea Eagles (13th)

Shot themselves in the foot by releasing Blake Green while banking on signing Mitchell Pearce. Now likely to head into the season with a rookie half in Lachlan Croker meaning Daly Cherry Evans will have to take on more work. Simply cannot find a place for the Silvertails.

Key question: What effect will the defection of Blake Green mean for DCE?

Tigers (14th)

A massive off-season on the recruiting front sees the Tigers sporting a tinge of Mt Smart among the playing group. Former Warriors Ben Matulino and Russell Packer join Elijah Taylor and Tui Lolohea to link with former coach Ivan Cleary. Together with the former Bulldog crowd favourite Josh Reynolds, the Tigers will be a well-watched team.

Key question: Is this the year Josh Reynolds matures with leadership thrown upon him?

Bulldogs (15th)

Dean Pay takes over from Des Hasler and a key positional switch looks likely for Moses Mbye. Look out for more running from Michael Lichaa at dummy half. They might be the only highlights from the kennel, as the Doggies are likely to feel the pinch from a mismanaged salary cap and a Mickey Mouse 2017 coaching saga. No.

Key question: Can Kieran Foran finally return to the form that once secured a rich Eels contract?


Warriors (16th)

Don't be surprised to see this side 1-5 after the first six weeks.

The side is rumoured to be returning to its old Warriors ball style but if this does not work then the season and coach Stephen Kearney's career could be toast before Origin. Highlanders took a 12-year hiatus from finals - Warriors are drawing close. Where is my spoon?

Key question: With no expectations, will the Warriors rise from the ashes or burn like a couch on Castle St?


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