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2018 premiers the Sydney Roosters.

The Roosters are my prediction to become the first team in the NRL era to go back-to-back and all three Queensland teams will feature in the 2019 finals.

After studying the team rosters I firmly believe Trent Robinson's team has what it takes to do what no side has done since the Broncos team I was part of won the  1992 and '93 grand finals.

As for the two teams to make way for the return of the Cowboys and Titans to the Telstra Premiership finals, it won't make for happy reading for Sharks and Warriors fans.

This is my top eight for the 2019 Telstra Premiership and the reasons why:

1. Roosters

It is historically so hard to go back-to-back in the modern era but the Roosters have the personnel to do it, just like the Broncos back in 1992-93.

There is no excuse for them not to win it again.

Their squad hasn't changed too much and with the addition of Angus Crichton they have picked up a game-breaker who will take them to another level. That was a real coup for them to sign him from Souths.

Roosters lock Victor Radley.
Roosters lock Victor Radley. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

I love the way Victor Radley plays his footy. He is tough and doesn't care who he is playing against, and he will only get better.

Luke Keary copped an injury last year and missed three games but returned on fire and won the Clive Churchill Medal. He will be keen to start the season strongly and as a dual premiership winner I am sure he will.

Last year's finals series showed the Roosters had another gear to go to and they didn't look like losing the grand final.

2. Storm

It is the Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy show in Melbourne. They have a system in place and it works time and time again.

Sure, they don't have Billy Slater or Cooper Cronk anymore but the Storm are masters at bringing players in who then fit in perfectly with their style of footy.

A spine that has Smith, Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft is still going to create problems for the opposition. Scott Drinkwater is out of the picture for a while but Bellamy has options with a quality performer in Jahrome Hughes there.

With Jesse Bromwich and that beast Nelson Asofa-Solomona leading the way up front they will be there when the whips are cracking.

3. Broncos

I am excited by what Anthony Seibold is going to do with the Broncos' attack. I think we've been underdone there in the past. The stats may not show that but I firmly believe Brisbane can get a lot better in that area.

Anthony will take care of the defence but I am looking to him bringing in a more expansive style of footy. I think that got a bit stale the last few years.

I am tipping James Roberts will explode this year once the side gets the ball-shifts Anthony talks about down pat. I am also hoping Anthony springs a surprise on us and plays Jimmy at left centre in the first match.

Soward's Say: 2019 Brisbane Broncos

4.  Rabbitohs

Wayne Bennett will love the squad he has to work with at South Sydney. He knows what they are capable of.

He has worked with the Burgess brothers with England and he's got Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker to get the attack going.

I think John Sutton is going to thrive under Wayne. He's an experienced campaigner and probably one of the underrated players in that team.

In my column last week I wrote about the Inglis/Bennett combination being a winner and I am looking forward to how all that unfolds.

Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary.
Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

5.  Panthers

There is pressure on the Panthers to perform. Fifth is the worst Penrith should be finishing this year with the squad they have at their disposal. They have the ability to be sitting in the top two with their pack and with the father/son combination of Ivan Cleary and Nathan Cleary.

After the off-field dramas they have had already this year and the coaching upheaval they had at the end of last season, and the way it was handled, it will be interesting to watch what impact that has on their season.

One thing they will have to change is giving up leads early and then coming back to win. You can't do that throughout a season and expect to reproduce it in a finals series.

6. Cowboys

Despite what happened last season and the retirement of Johnathan Thurston they are too good a team to finish outside the top eight.

They already had one of the best forward packs in the competition, full of Origin and Test stars, and that will only be strengthened by Josh McGuire if he fits into the Cowboys way of playing.

I am tipping Michael Morgan will step up this year. He is not in the shadow of JT anymore. This is his team to guide around now and he is capable of doing that, as he showed in 2017.

A New Era Begins

7.  Dragons

I don't understand why the Dragons have changed their halves combination. I was very critical of their attack a couple of years ago. They changed it up last year with Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt together and it worked so well. Hunt said himself that Widdop was a perfect complement for him.

I just think Hunt and Corey Norman are too similar. They are very much individuals. They will miss Jack de Belin (for as long as he is missing) but any pack with Tariq Sims, Tyson Frizell and Paul Vaughan in it will be hard to handle.

Dragons recruit Corey Norman.
Dragons recruit Corey Norman. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

8. Titans

The Titans have recruited so well with Shannon Boyd, Tyrone Peachey and Tyrone Roberts joining the club.

The Titans got exactly what they needed in a big middle forward to start their sets on the right note, a match-winning Origin representative and a controlling half to take the heat off Ash Taylor.

I was so impressed with Roberts in the All Stars game. Some of the cut-out passes and expansive balls he threw to set up tries were special. He has the foresight to weigh up a situation and take the right option.

Having Mal Meninga on board as head of performance and culture is only going to boost the Titans. Mal is a winner and he will instil that mentality in the team.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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