What will change from 2018?
The NRL have announced a further crackdown on time wasting during play. The countdown clocks that run for scrums and drop-outs will each be five seconds shorter, in an attempt to keep the game moving. Most satisfying to fans will be a new crackdown on the sin bin dawdle which came to prominence last season. When sent to the sin bin, players will now be required to jog off the field directly to the sheds or risk being charged with contrary conduct under the NRL judiciary code. It all means we should be seeing more football played during the 80 minutes.
What will remain constant?
Sadly, headlines relating to anything other than what is happening on the rugby league field. The NRL has become rich source of content for the tabloid media, with many outlets actively hunting down the latest scandal. Mind you, the way players continue to behave, they don't seem to be too concerned about the game's image. If it's not drunken/drug-induced misadventures or more sinister criminal charges, then we'll have the club-related intrigue of salary cap cheating and player and coach poaching. It would be nice to get through just one season where all the headlines were about the quality of the football being played.
What will define the season?
The success or otherwise of the many coaches who have changed clubs ahead of 2019 will define the season. The last time Wayne Bennett left the Broncos, he brought the Dragons a premiership in his second year at the club. Rabbitohs fans will look at their roster and expect similar, if not even quicker results. Anthony Seibold heads to the Broncos and will be under immense pressure from the start as he tries to bring premiership success to the club. Ivan Cleary returns to the Panthers to coach his son, Michael Maguire takes over the Tigers and Des Hasler returns to the Sea Eagles. Will all these clubs be pleased with their new coaches?
Who will win the premiership?
The Roosters must be a good chance at going back-to-back after strengthening their roster with the addition of Angus Crichton and Brett Morris, but since 1993 the task has proven too tough for any club. The Storm have lost Billy Slater and Craig Bellamy would be elevated to the rank of greatest coach ever if they can take out the prize. The Sharks have undergone massive changes and are now without coach Shane Flanagan. If last year was tight, 2019 promises to be almost impossible to pick. If not the Roosters, then it could well be the Rabbitohs, with the confidence Wayne Bennett will bring to the club.
Who will win the Dally M?
Cameron Munster finished the 2018 Dally M count in qual sixth position, despite sharing the stage with Cameron Smith and Billy Slater on the way a grand final appearance with the Storm. When it comes to winning the Dally M a player needs to not only have an outstanding season, he needs to outshine all of his teammates. If Munster can pick up the attacking slack and the share of the spotlight left by the departure of Billy Slater he could well pick up his first Dally M medal.
Who is in the firing line?
Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur had a horror year in 2018, picking up the wooden spoon after finishing in the top four the year before. With Jarryd Hayne and Corey Norman both leaving the club and Mitchell Moses rumoured to be after a release, Arthur has a struggle ahead of him with the side's creativity. Another poor start to the season could see his head on the chopping block
Who will be the biggest riser and slider of the year?
The Sea Eagles have way too much talent under returning coach Des Hasler to stumble through the season like they did last year. They will challenge for a top eight position after finishing 2018 one win above the wooden spoon. The Warriors squeaked into the top eight last season only to lose their elimination final against Penrith. Shaun Johnson has left the club to join the Sharks and his most likely replacement Mason Lino had already packed his bags for the Knights. A tough year awaits the New Zealanders.
What will be the headline of the year?
"Greenberg resigns, takes six-month holiday"