We finally get to put the off-field dramas aside for a while as the players hit the field for the start of the 2019 NRL season.
The opening round is littered with contests that will catch the unwary tipster out. We have new coaches, new players and new motivations all set to cause havoc in Round 1. Strap yourselves in as we run through all the details and hopefully come up with a few winners.
Good luck with your tips.
Thursday, March 14
Storm: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2 Suliasi Vunivalu 3 William Chambers 4 Curtis Scott 5 Joshua Addo-Carr 6 Cameron Munster 7 Brodie Croft 8 Jesse Bromwich 9 Cameron Smith (c) 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11 Felise Kaufusi 12 Kenny Bromwich 13 Dale Finucane. Reserves: 14. Brandon Smith 15 Christian Welch 16 Tui Kamikamica 17 Patrick Kaufusi 18 Ryan Papenhuyzen 19 Thomas Eisenhuth 20 Billy Walters 21 Marion Seve
Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jack Bird 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matt Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Matt Gillett Reserves: 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. David Fifita 16. Tom Flegler 17. Tevita Pangai Junior 18. Shaun Fensom 19. Patrick Carrigan 20. Sean O'Sullivan 21. Gehamat Shibasaki.
Verdict: New Broncos coach Anthony Seibold couldn't have asked for a tougher assignment first up, travelling to Melbourne to face last year's runners-up. This will be big year for Storm coach Craig Bellamy as he goes about proving that he can keep the team winning without Cooper Cronk AND Billy Slater. Cameron Munster will have a chance to show Storm fans how he'll keep the points flowing in the post-Slater era. This should be a great game, with the Storm edging a Broncos side who'll still be adjusting to a new style of play.
Friday, March 15
Knights: 1. Connor Watson 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Hymel Hunt 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Danny Levi 10. James Gavet 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Sione Mata'utia 13. Tim Glasby Reserves: 14. Kurt Mann 15. Aidan Guerra 16. Mitch Barnett 17. Daniel Saifiti 18. Jamie Buhrer 19. Herman Ese'ese 20. Josh King 21. Brodie Jones.
Sharks: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Josh Dugan 4. Josh Morris 5. Sione Katoa 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Paul Gallen (c) Reserves: 14. Blayke Brailey 15. Jayson Bukuya 16. Aaron Woods 17. Jack Williams 18. Scott Sorenson 19. Kyle Flanagan 20. Bronson Xerri 21. Braden Hamlin-Uele
Verdict: The Knights are placing a lot of faith in their halves combination of Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, with many tipping them to give the finals a shake this season. The Sharks are recovering from their share of off-field drama with coach Shane Flanagan run out of the game, heavy salary cap penalties and calls to have them stripped of their 2016 premiership. There will be a massive crowd in Newcastle for this opening clash, but if new recruit Shaun Johnson can find his feet early, the Sharks could just have too much class for the hosts.
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend (c) 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner (c) 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13 Victor Radley Reserves: 14. Isaac Liu 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Lindsay Collins 17. Angus Crichton 18. Nat Butcher 19. Matthew Ikuvalu 20. Lachlan Lam 21. Poasa Faamausili
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Dane Gagai 3. Greg Inglis (c) 4. Braidon Burns 5. Campbell Graham 6.Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Junior Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray. Reserves: 14. Liam Knight. 15 Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Corey Allan 18. Kyle Turner 19. Connor Tracey 20. Rhys Kennedy 21. Mawene Hiroti
Verdict: Wayne Bennett will have the Rabbitohs ready to make an impact early against the reigning premiers. They showed plenty of attacking flair against the Dragons in the Charity Shield, but Bennett won't be happy with their defence. The Roosters will have to be prepared for a season of facing team fired up to measure themselves against the best. There is a very good reason Bennett is considered one of the best rugby league coaches ever and the Bunnies could be set for an upset at the iconic SCG.
Saturday, March 16
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) 2. David Fusitu'a 3. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Adam Keighran 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Nathaniel Roache 10. Bunty Afoa 11. Adam Blair 12. Tohu Harris 13. Lachlan Burr Reserves: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Sam Lisone 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Blake Ayshford. 18. Gerard Beale 20. Ligi Sao 21. Karl Lawton 22. Chanel Harris-Tavita
Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Christian Crichton 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Marcelo Montoya 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson (c) 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Adam Elliott. Reserves: 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. Sauaso Sue 19. Jack Cogger 20. Nick Meaney 21. Chris Smith 22. Ofahiki Ogden
Verdict: The Warriors lost the heart of their attack when Shaun Johnson packed his bag for the Sharks at the end of last year. A lot of pressure will be on Blake Green and reigning Dally M player of the year Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as they look to fill the void. The Bulldogs finished the 2018 season strongly and welcome back Kieran Foran to the halves, where he'll partner Lachlan Lewis. This is coach Dean Pay's second year in charge of the Bulldogs and he'll be hell-bent on making the finals starting with a win here.
Tigers: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Mahe Fonua 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Esan Marsters 5. Robert Jennings 6. Benji Marshall (capt.) 7. Luke Brooks 8. Ben Matulino 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Luke Garner 13. Elijah Taylor. Reserves: 14. Russell Packer 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Josh Aloiai 17. Michael Chee Kam 18. Josh Reynolds 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. Jacob Liddle 21. Chris McQueen
Sea Eagles: 1. Brendan Elliot 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Moses Suli 4. Bradley Parker 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kane Elgey 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic. Reserves: 14. Trent Hodkinson 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Kelepi Tanginoa 17. Toafofoa Sipley 18. Tevita Funa 19. Cade Cust 20. Lloyd Perrett 21. Lachlan Croker
Verdict: There is only one thing better than watching the Tigers play at Leichhardt Oval and that's seeing them take on the Sea Eagles at that iconic venue. During the late 1980s these two teams used to go toe to toe in some ferocious battles and the animosity between them remains today. Both teams start the season with new coaches and Michael Maguire will be keen to go one up against Des Hasler's Sea Eagles. The result could come down to how well Luke Brooks plays against Daly Cherry-Evans.
Cowboys: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Justin O'Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Javid Bowen 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Michael Morgan (C) 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo Reserves: 14. John Asiata 15. Josh McGuire 16. Mitch Dunn 17. Francis Molo 18. Ben Hampton 19. Jake Clifford 20. Gideon Gela-Mosby 23. Enari Tuala
Dragons: 1. Gareth Widdop 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Jacob Host 12. Tariq Sims 13. Tyson Frizell. Reserves: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15 Matt Dufty 16 Blake Lawrie 17 Luciano Leilua. 18 Zac Lomax 19 Josh Kerr 20 Reece Robson 21 Jonus Pearson
Verdict: The Cowboys begin life after JT with some disruption following the sacking of Ben Barba. They have brought in Jordan Kahu from the Broncos to play fullback, but it is in the halves where they'll be tested. The Dragons notoriously start the season on fire, but the whole Jack de Belin mess has surely taken its toll on their preparations. They also have to squeeze Corey Norman into their side and hope he combines well with Ben Hunt from the very start.
Sunday, March 17
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Sione Katoa 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Jack Hetherington 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris Reserves: 14. Wayde Egan 15. Tyrell Fuimaono 16. Moses Letoa 17. Hame Sele 18. Jarome Luai 19. Tim Grant 20. Liam Martin 21. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson (c) 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Tepai Moeroa 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Nathan Brown Reserves: 14. Will Smith 15. Tim Mannah (c) 1. Kane Evans 17. David Gower 18. Josh Hoffman 19. Oregon Kaufusi 20. Bevan French 21. Junior Paulo
Verdict: The Panthers have suffered through some off-field dramas of their own, but will surely be fired up by claims that they have a toxic culture at the club. New coach Ivan Cleary and assistant coach Phil Gould will no doubt be in their ears and have them ready to run through walls. Brad Arthur has a tough year ahead as he tries to lift the Eels off the bottom of the ladder, without both Corey Norman and Jarryd Hayne. The 'Battle for the West" is always a tough affair, but the Panthers should be too good at home.
Titans: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Brenko Lee 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Brian Kelly 5. Phillip Sami 6. Tyrone Robers 7. Ash Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Ryan James 13. Jai Arrow. Reserves: 14. AJ Brimson 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Max King 17. Bryce Cartwright 18. Mitch Rein 19. Dane Copley 20. Anthony Don 21. Keegan Hipgrave
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson (C) 10. Sia Soliola 11. Joe Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. John Bateman. Reserves: 14. Siliva Havili 15. Ryan Sutton 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Corey Horsburgh 18. Sam Williams 19. Jack Murchie 20. Luke Bateman 21. JJ Collins
Verdict: The Raiders really should have had a better 2018, losing many games that they had in the bag. The Titans were unpredictable as always and will be hoping that new signing Tyrone Peachey can add some big game experience to their line-up. Coach Ricky Stuart must be on borrowed time at the Raiders and has taken the bold step of moving Jack Wighton into the halves as he battles to turn things around. In a real toss of the coin, the Titans could have the advantage at home on a warm Gold Coast evening.