After the off-season from hell, the NRL is finally (and thankfully) ready to kick off again, with a clutch of teams ready to challenge for the Provan-Summons trophy come October 6.
Can the Roosters be the first club to go back-to-back in 26 years? Can Wayne Bennett ready the Rabbitohs for more premiership glory? Will his replacement at Brisbane Anthony Seibold get the Broncos bouncing? Or can the Melbourne Storm manage another tilt at silverware despite Billy Slater’s retirement?
Here’s how the teams shape up.
ARRIVALS: Angus Crichton (Rabbitohs), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Brett Morris (Bulldogs), Brock Lamb (Knights), Craig Garvey (Raiders)
DEPARTURES: Blake Ferguson (Eels), Paul Momirovski, Ryan Matterson (Wests Tigers), Sean O’Sullivan (Broncos), Kurt Baptiste (Cowboys), Dylan Napa (Bulldogs), Treymain Spry (Titans), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (retired), Eloni Vunakece (retired), Mitch Cornish (retired). Released: Reece Robinson
IN A PERFECT WORLD: The Roosters repeat their outstanding 2018 season by making history, adding another minor premiership and grand final double.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Cooper Cronk has played on a season too long and does a Johnathan Thurston from last year. That, and injuries, cripple the boys from Bondi.
ARRIVALS: Marion Seve (Broncos)
DEPARTURES: Tim Glasby (Knights), Ryley Jacks (Titans), Lachlan Timm (Dragons), Billy Slater (retired), Ryan Hoffman (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: The Storm go one better than last year, avenge their grand final defeat by beating the Roosters and add another title to their bulging trophy cabinet.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Jahrome Hughes is a bust at replacing Slater and the decline of Craig Bellamy and his men finally begins.
ARRIVALS: Kurt Dillon (Sharks), Bayley Sironen (Wests Tigers), Corey Allan (Broncos), Cory Dennis (Knights), Liam Knight (Raiders), Tom Amone (Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles), Ethan Lowe (Cowboys)
DEPARTURES: Jason Clark (Warrington), Angus Crichton (Roosters), Jesse Arthars (Titans), Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers), Hymel Hunt (Knights), Robert Jennings, Zane Musgrove (Wests Tigers), Vincent Leuluai (North Sydney), Richard Kennar (Broncos)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Wayne Bennett, Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis lead the Bunnies to the promised land and a second ring in the past five years.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: The 69-year-old has lost his touch and Souths make a big mistake letting Anthony Seibold leave the hutch.
ARRIVALS: Josh Morris (Bulldogs), Shaun Johnson (Sharks)
DEPARTURES: Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee (Knights), Ricky Leutele (Toronto), Kurt Dillon (Rabbitohs), Joseph Paulo (St Helens), Valentine Holmes (NFL), Luke Lewis (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: The Sharkies shrug off their nightmare season and with a rookie coach in charge set the Shire alight again.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Young coach John Morris fails to control hotheads Andrew Fifita and Josh Dugan, and Cronulla’s campaign goes down in flames.
ARRIVALS: Tim Grant, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Wests Tigers), Tyrell Fuimaono (Rabbitohs), Hame Sele (Dragons)
DEPARTURES: Christian Crichton, Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Tyrone Peachey (Titans), Maika Sivo (Eels), Corey Waddell (Sea Eagles), Trent Merrin (Leeds), Peter Wallace (retired), Tim Browne (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Father and son duo Ivan and Nathan Cleary drive the proud Panthers to their first grand final since 2003 and their third premiership title.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: More sex tapes go viral and the Chocolate Soldiers are ravaged by scandal and media scrutiny.
ARRIVALS: Sean O’Sullivan (Roosters), Shaun Fensom (Cowboys), Richard Kennar (Rabbitohs)
DEPARTURES: Korbin Sims, Jonus Pearson (Dragons), Tom Opacic, Josh McGuire, Jordan Kahu (Cowboys), Marion Seve (Storm), Corey Allan (Rabbitohs), Sam Thaiday (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Seibold takes the Broncos where Bennett couldn’t, getting their monster young forward pack to steamroll the opposition.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Injuries to Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett and Andrew McCullough bite hard again, the youngsters struggle and Brisbane misses the top eight.
ARRIVALS: Korbin Sims, Jonus Pearson (Broncos), Mikaele Ravalawa (Raiders/Mounties), Lachlan Timm (Storm), Lachlan Maranta (rugby union), Corey Norman (Eels)
DEPARTURES: Leeson Ah Mau, Patrick Herbert (Warriors), Nene Macdonald (Cowboys), Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles), Hame Sele (Panthers), Kurt Mann (Knights), Jason Nightingale (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: The Dragons end their late season fades, Corey Norman behaves and they reach their first decider since 2010.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: The Jack de Belin saga gets worse, the prop is jailed and the club is shamed.
ARRIVALS: Leeson Ah Mau (Dragons), Lachlan Burr (Bulldogs), Adam Keighran (Panthers ISP)
DEPARTURES: Anthony Gelling (Widnes), Mason Lino, James Gavet (Knights), Shaun Johnson (Sharks), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Raiders), Simon Mannering (retired). Released: Joseph Vuna (Mormon mission)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: The Warriors manage the loss of marquee man Shaun Johnson, break new ground and go deep in the playoffs.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: It’s back to the wonky Warriors of old and Stephen Kearney is axed after a stack of awful performances.
ARRIVALS: Paul Momirovski, Ryan Matterson (Roosters), Robert Jennings, Zane Musgrove (Rabbitohs)
DEPARTURES: Tui Lolohea (Leeds), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens), Sauaso Sue (Bulldogs), Bayley Sironen (Rabbitohs), Tim Grant, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Panthers), Pita Godinet (Villeneuve)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Benji Marshall rolls back the years and Michael Maguire gets the Leichhardt Oval cheering once more.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Marshall and Luke Brooks don’t click and Moses Mbye fails at fullback. The Tigers are battling to avoid the wooden spoon.
ARRIVALS: Ryan Sutton, John Bateman (Wigan), JJ Felise (Knights), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors)
DEPARTURES: Shannon Boyd (Titans), Junior Paulo (Eels), Blake Austin (Warrington), Charlie Gubb (Widnes), Mikaele Ravalawa (Dragons), Liam Knight (Rabbitohs), Craig Garvey (Roosters)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: John Bateman is the best English signing since Sam Burgess and the Raiders make the top eight.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Bateman is more Chris Thorman than Burgess and Canberra flatter to deceive again.
ARRIVALS: Tim Glasby (Storm), Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee (Sharks), Mason Lino, James Gavet (Warriors), David Klemmer, Zac Woolford (Bulldogs), Hymel Hunt (Rabbitohs), Kurt Mann (Dragons)
DEPARTURES: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney (Bulldogs), Brock Lamb (Roosters), Ken Sio (Salford), JJ Felise (Raiders), Cory Denniss (Rabbitohs), Luke Yates (London), Dylan Phythian (Burleigh), Pat Mata’utia (Wests Newcastle), Chris Heighington (retired), Jacob Lillyman (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Kayln Ponga is a huge hit at five-eighth, the Knights end their finals absence and the good times return to the Hunter.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: The new-look Knights fail to gel, miss the semis again and Nathan Brown is sacked.
ARRIVALS: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney (Knights), Christian Crichton, Corey Harawira-Naera (Panthers), Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers), Dylan Napa (Roosters)
DEPARTURES: Josh Morris (Sharks), Brett Morris (Roosters), David Klemmer, Zac Woolford (Knights), Matt Frawley (Huddersfield), Lachlan Burr (Warriors), Greg Eastwood (Newtown). Released: Asipeli Fine, Clay Priest, Josh Cleeland
IN A PERFECT WORLD: The underdog Doggies uncover new stars in Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King and crack a semi-finals spot.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Dean Pay fails to find answers and Canterbury claim their fifth wooden spoon.
ARRIVALS: Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Titans), Corey Waddell (Panthers), Reuben Garrick (Dragons)
DEPARTURES: Aku Uate (Huddersfield), Shaun Lane (Eels), Tom Wright (rugby union), Brian Kelly (Titans), Matt Wright (CQ Capras), Jonathan Wright (retired), Lewis Brown (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Des Hasler’s magical return revives memories of his first stint at Brookvale and the Sea Eagles start beating the big clubs.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: There’s nothing but horror under Hasler and the Trbojevic brothers sign for Parramatta.
ARRIVALS: Tom Opacic, Josh McGuire, Jordan Kahu (Broncos), Nene Macdonald (Dragons), Kurt Baptiste (Roosters)
DEPARTURES: Lachlan Coote (St Helens), Kane Linnett (Hull KR), Shaun Fensom (Broncos), Sam Hoare Josh Chudleigh, Kyle Laybutt, Shaun Hudson (all Townsville), Ethan Lowe (Rabbitohs), Johnathan Thurston (retired), Antonio Winterstein (retired)
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Michael Morgan takes over from Thurston as the main man and leads the Cowboys all the way to ANZ Stadium.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: It’s another season of pain for North Queensland as they prop up the bottom end of the table, just like they did last year.
ARRIVALS: Tyrone Peachey (Panthers), Shannon Boyd (Raiders), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington), Jesse Arthars (Rabbitohs), Ryley Jacks (Storm), Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles), Treymain Spry (Roosters)
DEPARTURES: Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Sea Eagles), Konrad Hurrell (Leeds), Brenton Lawrence (retired), Ryan Simpkins (retired). Released/Unsigned: Tyrone Roberts-Davis, Tony Mata’utia
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Bryce Cartwright finds his best form and the Titans turn from no-hopers into contenders.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Cartwright reverts to type, Gold Coast go back to being easybeats and Garth Brennan’s head is on the chopping block.
ARRIVALS: Junior Paulo (Raiders), Blake Ferguson (Roosters), Shaun Lane (Sea Eagles), Andrew Davey (Townsville Blackhawks), Maika Sivo (Panthers)
DEPARTURES: Suaia Matagi (Huddersfield), Corey Norman (Dragons), Cameron King (Featherstone), Beau Scott (retired), Kirisome Auva’a (retired).
Released: Nathan Davis, Siosaia Vave, Tony Williams, Jarryd Hayne
IN A PERFECT WORLD: Mitchell Moses gets picked for NSW, Blake Ferguson is the NRL’s top-tryscorer and the Parramatta community is once again proud of the Eels.
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Parramatta has a season that mirrors their miserable 2018, 2013 and 2012 campaigns.