What your team needs in 2018: Part 4
We complete our look at each NRL team's strengths and weaknesses in 2017, where they need to improve next year and how their recruits are shaping up.
2017 rank: 4th
Key 2017 stats: Completions 3rd; metres per set 3rd; metres conceded per set 1st; offloads conceded 2nd; bench metres 1st; attack 8th; defence 8th
What they've got: A very well-coached team that may not have the star power of some of the NRL's other big guns but makes up for it with aggression in the forwards and bursts of brilliance from the backs. They may not be standouts in attack or defence but they do all the little things right – their bench has been the best in the league, they don't concede many metres or offloads, they control the ball well and their go-forward is in the top three in the competition.
What they need: To replace the France-bound Semi Radradra – one of the most valuable wingers in the game – and to carry on the momentum they achieved this season. Mitch Moses's mid-season arrival took the Eels' attacking game to another level and Clint Gutherson was a revelation in the first half of the season, so the signs are bright for Brad Arthur's men.
What they're getting: Roosters prop Kane Evans adds size to a forward pack that had played above their weight this year. Radradra's departure isn't necessarily as big a loss as it appears with Gutherson and Bevan French likely to slot into the back three when they return from injury.
2017 rank: 3rd
Key 2017 stats: Attack 2nd; possession percentage 2nd; metres per set 2nd; ball control 3rd; bench metres 2nd; defence 4th
What they've got: Pretty much everything you'd want in a premiership contender. An effective forward pack, ranked second in the league for metres gained per set and bench metres; sensational attack led by the brilliance of Anthony Milford and James Roberts; great scrambling defence and the ability to control the ball.
What they need: To learn how to beat the Melbourne Storm. Also to replace several departing first-graders, headlined by playmaker Ben Hunt, veteran Benji Marshall and young guns Tautau Moga, Herman Ese'ese and Jai Arrow.
What they're getting: Jack Bird is a big signing, bringing star power and utility value which could come in handy with the versatile Hunt moving on. Wayne Bennett has been able to give long-term No.7 Kodi Nikorima plenty of game time at halfback this year so the club doesn't appear set to bring in a like-for-like replacement for Hunt at this stage.
2017 rank: 2nd
Key 2017 stats: Defence 3rd; kick metres 2nd; attack 7th; ball control 16th; penalties awarded 16th
What they've got: A team stacked with rep talent with one of the best defences in the league. They've well and truly put their 15th-placed finish in 2016 behind them to return to their usual position at the right end of the ladder, with a strong forward pack, a back three that is among the best in defusing (and scoring from) kicks and a dynamic halves partnership between NSW No.7 Mitchell Pearce and key recruit Luke Keary.
What they need: The Roosters made more handling errors and receive fewer penalties than any other team in 2017, and improvement in both areas would certainly give them more attacking chances. Their attack in general isn't quite at the standard of their excellent defence, scoring fewer points this year than bottom-eight sides Canberra and St George Illawarra, so some extra attacking spark could make them a dominant force.
What they're getting: When you're looking for the aforementioned extra attacking spark there are few better than NSW fullback James Tedesco, the leading tackle-buster in the NRL. The arrival of the former Tiger significantly improves an already strong team, and with the Storm to lose Cooper Cronk at the end of the year the Roosters could start 2018 as competition favourites.
2017 rank: 1st
Key 2017 stats: Attack 1st; defence 1st; line breaks 1st; dummy half metres 1st; kicking errors 1st; line breaks conceded 1st; metres conceded 2nd; tackle efficiency 3rd; discipline 16th
What they've got: The best team in the NRL. No longer dependent on 'the big three', the Storm are stacked with stars with names like Munster, Chambers and Bromwich having joined legendary trio Smith, Cronk and Slater as elite players at both club and representative level. Craig Bellamy's men boast the league's best attack – in terms of points, line breaks, dummy-half metres and kicking accuracy – and the best defence, in terms of points and line breaks conceded. But they are losing one of their best with Cooper Cronk exiting Melbourne, while Billy Slater's playing future remains a mystery.
What they need: To replace Cronk, and possibly Slater – although the club has done better than anyone expected in unearthing the next generation of talent in key playmaking positions in the past couple of years. However there are issues in the forwards too, with Jordan McLean (Cowboys) and Tohu Harris (Warriors) both significant losses.
What they're getting: Bulldogs big man Sam Kasiano is the only buy at the time of writing, but Cronk's departure means Melbourne have plenty of salary cap room to spend on a new playmaker. However with Brodie Croft and Ryley Jacks impressing in the halves this year and Cameron Munster able to thrive at either five-eighth or fullback the Storm have plenty of options when it comes to recruitment targets.