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Soward's Power Rankings: Best halves combinations in 2019

The halves carry the hopes of every team's fortunes. They put all the kicks in, throw the final pass a lot of the time and come up with the clutch plays.

Some halves in 2019 will play together for the first time, while the champs will look to roll on with a familiarity that saw them dominate the NRL in 2018.

I ran the eye over possible combinations and came up with the early power rankings for each of the 16 halves pairings which I think should run out for the teams in the first round.

1. Cooper Cronk-Luke Keary (Roosters)

While Keary dominated the try assists for the Roosters with 21 last season, it was Cronk who often positioned Keary to be able to attack with freedom throughout 2018. Look for this pair to roll on and torture the whole NRL again.

2. Mitchell Pearce-Kalyn Ponga (Knights)

Ponga's move from fullback to five-eighth is intriguing. I haven't been excited about a player switching positions since Darren Lockyer. Pearce bounced back from his exit from the Roosters and apart from injury was dominant for the Knights in his first year at the club. I'll be watching closely to see how Ponga adjusts his kicking game in tight contests.

The best of Kalyn Ponga's breakout 2018

3. Adam Reynolds-Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)

Walker and Reynolds complement each other well but it was a failure to adapt the game plan last year when Plan A wasn't working in the big games that cost them. I look forward to Reynolds running the ball more.

4. Ben Hunt-Corey Norman (Dragons)

Hunt will steer the team around enough and put Norman in position to link with Gareth Widdop, who looks dangerous as a fullback option. I'll be keeping an eye on if it goes sour early as this new combo may take time.

5. Nathan Cleary-James Maloney (Panthers)

These two combined for only 19 try assists in 2018 but it's the big-game experience Nathan has seen at State of Origin level combined with Mr Experience himself in Maloney that could see them make the biggest jump from now until September. Cleary will need to bounce out of Origin better this year. 

6. Daly Cherry-Evans-Kane Elgey (Sea Eagles)

DCE is the Pied Piper for the Manly team and how he goes will shape how they'll go. Elgey struggled at the Titans so I'm looking for him to be able to relax and play footy while letting DCE steer the team around.

7. Chad Townsend-Shaun Johnson (Sharks)

Townsend and Matt Moylan had a combined 30 try assists last year and I thought showed some real promise with the partnership blossoming. With Moylan switching to fullback this year, Johnson brings an ad lib style that will complement Townsend and his consistent game.

8. Anthony Milford-Kodi Nikorima (Broncos)

The most interesting pair in this list, who actually had some really good stats in 2018. Their kicking game and decision-making when games get tight continue to be their Achilles heel for me. They have the forward pack and all the talent. Milford is the key.

Broncos' top five tries of 2018

9. Ash Taylor-Tyrone Peachey (Titans)

Taylor had a big year individually in 2018. I look for Peachey to be the perfect foil for Taylor; a running five-eighth who makes things happen. If they go with Tyrone Roberts he and Taylor love playing together.

10. Luke Brooks-Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers)

Brooks had his best year in the NRL despite not having a regular halves partner in 2018. If Benji can stay fit I expect Brooks to continue to raise his game. He seems to love having Benji play alongside him as the security blanket to help steer the team.

11. Brodie Croft-Cameron Munster (Storm)

Croft settled late last year and looked good. Cam Smith will direct the traffic which should allow Croft and Munster to continue to play footy. They have no Billy Slater out the back of all the plays now which pushes this combo down my rankings to start the year.

Storm top five tries of 2018

12. Michael Morgan-Jake Clifford (Cowboys)

Morgan is under the most pressure to get it right from the start. Look for him to be very hands-on early to start the year. Clifford or Te Maire Martin will partner Morgan and the two have differing styles. Clifford is a footballer who has finesse and has a great kicking game. Martin is a competitor and will be solid in defence.

13. Kieran Foran-Lachlan Lewis (Bulldogs)

Foran needs to be fit and running the ball to help Lewis in year two. I worry that neither of these two has a strong kicking game, although Lewis does have an accurate short kicking game.

14. Aidan Sezer-Jack Wighton (Raiders)

Sezer has to be the man every game with Wighton adjusting to the new halves role. Wighton will run the ball and compete but it won't help if Sezer can't direct the team and close out games. Sam Williams will be champing at the bit at the first sign of trouble with this combination.

15. Blake Green-Chanel Tevita-Harris (Warriors)

Green will have to be patient and I would love to see him in the No.7 until Tevita-Harris feels comfortable. This kid can play but it will take time. The steady hand of Green is the perfect fit. Adam Keighran is the other option to replace Shaun Johnson in the Warriors line-up.

16. Mitch Moses-Dylan Brown (Eels)

Sorry, Eels fans but this is a rebuilding year after last season's wooden spoon. Moses has the keys to the car now so I expect him to dominate and direct the team in 2019. His form and body language will be so important in allowing 18-year-old Brown to grow into learning to be a first-grader.

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