Soward's Power Rankings: Round 1

The Eels and Bulldogs will struggle again, Melbourne are on the slide, while the Roosters will play catch us if you can with the rest of the field.

Check out NRL.com expert Jamie Soward's early-season thoughts in the first Power Rankings for 2019.

Power Rankings: Round 1

1. Sydney Roosters

Fifteen teams are vying to play the Roosters on grand final day. I don't see them dropping any lower than three in the Power Rankings for the year. They have a better chance of going back to back than Melbourne had the previous year. It's made for the Roosters to lose and everyone else is chasing them.

2. South Sydney Rabbitohs

I've got them finishing fifth but they looked outstanding in the Charity Shield. Everyone knew their jobs and Sam Burgess on an edge is a real bonus and allows him to be freshened up. I can see Souths starting the year on fire under Wayne Bennett and putting themselves in a really good position.

3. Brisbane Broncos

I love the look of the young pack, but again the question marks will be over Nikorima and Milford. They've got some young talent and they'll have to adapt to Anthony Seibold's attacking style, but I really think this team could be a smoky to take out the competition.

Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima.
Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima. ©NRL Photos

4. Penrith Panthers

Expectation meets hype meets pressure. It's been a tumultuous off-season for the Panthers but I've got them finishing second. The time is now for this team and they can't let the opportunity go to waste with some of the best young players in the competition. They'll come out and make a statement in round one and put everyone on notice straight away.

5. Melbourne Storm

I've got them on the bubble of the top eight but you can't write them off. They have to work in new combinations with no Billy Slater but they've still got the best player ever in Cam Smith and until he retires, the Storm get a lot of leeway with their ranking.

6. Cronulla Sharks

They have a new halves combination and are shifting Matt Moylan to fullback, and they need to be able to tread water until Wade Graham gets back because he's so important. It will take a bit of getting used to with the new combination.

7. St George Illawarra Dragons

It'll take a little time before the Dragons hit their stride and play their best footy. The Norman/Hunt/Widdop combination might need time to gel and there's been changes in the outside backs. They'll be wary of burnout early on and get better as the season goes.

8. Newcastle Knights

I think the Knights will finish fourth but it will take a while to get there and work out the combinations, which was apparent in their trial form. The expectations are huge and rightly so, but it will take time before we see the best version of them.

Knights recruit Jesse Ramien.
Knights recruit Jesse Ramien. ©NRL Photos

9. North Queensland Cowboys

This is a fresh start and they'll be amped up at home in the first game of the post-JT era. They've picked up Josh McGuire which will help but the big question mark is at fullback and whether they can settle on one bloke back there all year.

10. Canberra Raiders

It wouldn't surprise me if they made the top eight because they've got talent but they don't know how to win close games. Until they sort out their halves they'll live in that bracket of teams from eight to 12 on the ladder. Jack Wighton at five-eighth has a lot on his shoulders.

11. Gold Coast Titans

Picked up some quality players in Tyrone Peachey and Shannon Boyd, and it's going to be interesting to see how it meshes together. They have a couple of Sunday night games and need to start well or they could be in for another long year.

Titans prop Shannon Boyd.
Titans prop Shannon Boyd. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

12. New Zealand Warriors

They were tipped to finish last in 2018 and aren't tipped to do well this year. They don't have a known five-eighth and it's the home games that will be crucial for the Warriors, which was the case last year because they were good on the road.

13. Canterbury Bulldogs

I think they'll struggle and finish lower than 13th, but they'll catch some teams out in the opening couple of rounds with their young guys. There's some selection headaches in key positions and it'll be interesting to see what Dean Pay does.

14. Wests Tigers

I think they'll finish higher than 14th but from their trial form I don't know if they're set on their combinations. I'd like to see positions set in stone because that trial against the Warriors didn't look like they were sure who was going to go where.

15. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

I've ultimately got them finishing higher up the ladder, like many of these teams in the first Power Rankings, but I just don't know about their depth. It's going to be hard for Des Hasler to get some early wins without Tom Trbojevic.

16. Parramatta Eels

The Eels showed some decent form in the trials but I still have them down the bottom with a ways to go. I'm curious to see how that connection with Dylan Brown and Mitch Moses goes.