Here’s TNT’s predictions for the 2010 competition.
Overview: The Broncos last missed the finals in 1991; though vulnerable, they should be able to grind out enough wins to preserve that streak.
The key man: Darren Lockyer – he’s nearly 33, but he’s still the man who drives Brisbane.
Overview: Came up just short last year and will be desperate for another crack. Everyone loves to hate them, but they’re tough as old boots.
The key man: Brett Kimmorley – when Noddy got injured last year, the Bulldogs unravelled.
Overview: Have added wayward big man Willie Mason to an exciting mix of talent. Need to deliver greater consistency to play finals.
The key man: Johnathan Thurston – when the Cowboys are on song, it’s usually because of JT.
Overview: Were the best team for much of last year – will the revolution under Wayne Bennett continue or are they too short match-winners?
The key man: Jamie Soward – the Dragons’ most creative player, reborn under Bennett.
Overview: Will be hoping to start the season the way they finished the last and, certainly, at times in 2009 they looked every inch a premiership side.
The key man: Jarryd Hayne – hailed as the league’s top dog, but disappointed in the decider.
Overview: One of the league’s yo-yo sides returned to the finals last year, but might struggle to hold ground if sides below them improve.
The key man: Matt Gidley – the league’s stand-out utility pulls the strings for Newcastle.
Overview: Rebuilding after claiming the wooden spoon in 2007, but look set to tread water in mid-table for at least another year.
The key man: Frank Pritchard – the big Kiwi forward is dangerous with ball in-hand.
Overview: Bunnies fans are as optimistic as ever, but they may struggle against the top sides.
The key man: Sam Burgess – Russell Crowe has lured one of the world’s best forwards to Redfern.
Overview: Up and down for the past six seasons – they have some firepower, but have struggled recently to produce even performances.
The key man: Terry Campese – the five-eight has emerged as one of the competition’s most exciting players.
Overview: Last year’s wooden spooners will be boosted by Jason Ryles’ arrival, but are still too short on quality to challenge for finals.
The key man: Braith Anasta – can play lock or five-eight and will need to have a big year.
Overview: Have had plenty of success in recent years, but the loss of workhorse halfback Matt Orford could see the Silvertails slide.
The key man: Brett Stewart – sexual assault charges aside, Stewart remains a try-machine.
Overview: Coach Ricky Stuart will have his work cut out dragging the Sharks up the ladder; they simply don’t look to have the cattle.
The key man: Anthony Tupou – hard to stop, the lock will need to step up if the Sharks are going to improve on last year’s second-last spot.
Prediction: Wooden spoon.
Overview: Are they too old? Have they lost too many players? If the Storm can continue their golden run, it will be one of the year’s big stories.
The key man: Greg Inglis – a match-winner; if he fires, the Storm are a chance against anyone.
Overview: A spectacular young side has been bolstered by Lote Tuqiri, but they need to produce their best football more regularly.
The key man: Benji Marshall – the Kiwi pivot is the Tiger who worries even the best teams.
Overview: Made finals for the first time last year and will be better for the experience.
The key man: Scott Prince – the halfback has starred since heading north and is again the key.
Overview: Last season was a major disappointment after the Kiwi World Cup win, and the Warriors may have missed their moment.
The key man: Lance Hohaia – the Huntly Hurricane can play anywhere and is a star.
State of Origin
The NRL season won’t be too far in before, inevitably, talk starts to turn to this year’s State of Origin series.
Certainly, when you run an eye over the players eligible for Queensland, and compare it to the blokes available to the Blues, it’s hard to see how New South Wales can prevent the Cane Toads from taking out a fifth Origin series on the trot.
Origin One is scheduled for May 26, Origin Two for June 16 and Origin Three for July 7.
Words: Tom Sturrock
Have we got it right? Where will your team finish? Let us know below.