Top 17s in 2018

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With only 11 weeks until the 2018 NRL season kicks off, it is hard to recall a pre-season where there has been so much player movement between clubs and even looking at the various gains and losses list across the 16 teams it is still very confusing.

The betting agencies have responded to the active player market by installing the Roosters flagged by marquee signings in Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco as early premiership favourites but how does their revitalised squad look on paper? Fortunately I've poured over all of the current squad lists with some early predictions about how your side is shaping up heading into the 2018 season.


1. Darius Boyd (c)
2. Corey Oates
3. James Roberts
4. Jack Bird
5. Jordan Kahu
6. Anthony Milford
7. Kodi Nikorima
8. Sam Thaiday
9. Andrew McCullough
10. Matt Lodge
11. Alex Glenn
12. Matt Gillett
13. Josh McGuire

14. Korbin Sims
15. Tevita Pangai Junior
16. Joe Ofahengaue
17. Andre Savelio

Bolters - Tom Opacic looks to be in line to fill in for Jack Bird while he recovers from a well publicised shoulder injury, which was only identified upon his arrival at Red Hill. Bird's early season absence could also see Jordan Kahu switch to centre, with Jonus Pearson coming onto the flank. New Warrington recruit Andre Savelio is aiming to emulate the success of fellow British forwards such as Sam Burgess and James Graham by having an immediate impact in the NRL. The 23 year old Super League recruit looks set to be tasked with providing some impact from the bench for Wayne Bennett's side. All the pre-season hype out of Red Hill been for 18 year old giant Payne Haas, who may get his chance during Origin.

Key Player - The exit of Ben Hunt sees Kodi Nikorima receive full ownership of the famed #7 jersey and Nikorima will be under pressure to quickly reignite a lethal partnership with Anthony Milford in order for the Broncos to be a success in 2018. If Nikorima isn't up to the task, this could see the Broncos big signing Jack Bird switch to five-eighth.


1. Jack Wighton
2. Nick Cotric
3. Jarrod Croker (c)
4. Joey Leilua
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Blake Austin
7. Aidan Sezer
8. Junior Paulo
9. Craig Garvey
10. Shannon Boyd
11. Josh Papalii
12. Elliott Whitehead
13. Joseph Tapine

14. Sam Williams
15. Iosia Soliola
16. Dunamis Lui
17. Charlie Gubb

Bolters - The loss of hooker Josh Hodgson is obviously a devastating blow for the Green Machine before a ball has been kicked in 2018. At this stage it looks as though that former Bulldogs back up Craig Garvey could start in the #9. Further to Hodgson's loss, Kurt Baptiste has also departed the Nation's Capital, which opens up a bench spot. Tongan hooker Siliva Havili has landed a contract with Canberra but could be in a battle with the returning Sam Williams for the #14 jersey who could offer something different off the bench and see Blake Austin move to hooker late in games to provide some spark. Luke Bateman will also push Dunamis Lui and Warriors recruit Charlie Gubb for a spot in the 17.

Key Player - With Josh Hodgson looking at returning in Round 16 at the earliest, halfback Aidan Sezer will be responsible for steering the ship along with Blake Austin. The Raiders inability to close out close games was a huge issue in 2017 (they lost seven matches by six points or less), and with the return of local junior Sam Williams to the club, the pressure will be well and truly be on Sezer heading into 2018.


1. Moses Mbye
2. Brett Morris
3. Josh Morris
4. Will Hopoate
5. Marcelo Montoya
6. Kieran Foran
7. Matt Frawley
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Michael Lichaa
10. Aaron Woods
11. Josh Jackson
12. Adam Elliott
13. David Klemmer

14. Fa'amanu Brown
15. Greg Eastwood
16. Clay Priest
17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner

Bolters - The Bulldogs look set to start the season with a major overhaul to their backline with Moses Mbye likely to start the season at fullback as new coach Dean Pay looks to make his mark. This sees an opening in the halves and the real bolter could be Josh Cleeland whose attack has been outstanding in both the NSW and QLD Cups in recent years. PNG international Rhyse Martin will also push for a spot in the game day 17 after an outstanding World Cup and with no recognized goalkicker (besides Mbye) in the above squad this could help his chances.

Key Player - Kieran Foran arrives at Belmore after a turbulent few seasons at both the Eels and Warriors and is without doubt the key to the Bulldogs fortunes in 2018. There is absolutely no denying that on his day the former premiership winner and Kiwi international is one of the best players in the game, but the question will be whether he will be whether he is able to settle in to his new surroundings and put his off field woes behind him. With not many experts expecting the Dogs to finish high on the NRL ladder in 2018, this may benefit him immensely.

1. Valentine Holmes
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Josh Dugan
4. Ricky Leutele
5. Aaron Gray
6. Matt Moylan
7. Chad Townsend
8. Andrew Fifita
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Matt Prior
11. Luke Lewis
12. Wade Graham
13. Paul Gallen (c)

14. James Segeyaro
15. Joseph Paulo
16. Ava Seumanufagai
17. Jayson Bukuya

Bolters - The Sharks are another club set to run with a revitalised backline, as they welcome Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan to the club. Their forward pack however remains the same, with the make-up of the interchange bench set to be hotly contested which could see Kurt Capewell push for a spot come Round 1. Rookie halfback and coach's son Kyle Flanagan will provide back up in the halves and in the outside backs Jesse Ramien will also be pushing for an NRL debut in 2018.

Key Player - Matt Moylan looks likely to start his Sharks career in the five-eighth role, after it was vacated by premiership winner half James Maloney's move in a straight swap to the Panthers. Moylan had an injury affected year in 2017 at his former club and will be out to prove the doubters wrong. Having the likes of Dugan and Valentine Holmes outside him, the Sharks look very potent in attack.


1. Michael Gordon
2. Anthony Don
3. Dale Copley
4. Konrad Hurrell
5. Brenko Lee
6. Kane Elgey
7. Ash Taylor
8. Jarrod Wallace
9. Nathan Peats
10. Leilani Latu
11. Kevin Proctor
12. Ryan James (c)
13. Jai Arrow

14. Mitch Rein
15. Joe Greenwood
16. Morgan Boyle
17. Jack Stockwell

Bolters - The Titans have a number of spots up for grabs in their starting side and pre-season trials will prove important for a number of pending positions. Garth Brennan has already flagged his intention of moving skipper Ryan James from prop to the second row in 2018, with Panthers recruit Leilani Latu likely to start at prop. Former Bronco Jai Arrow will be looking to emulate fellow Brisbane alumni Jarrod Wallace and see some serious minutes in the Titans pack. Arrow looks to be big benefactor after the departures of Agnatius Paasi and Leivaha Pulu to the Warriors and looks a good chance to move into the #13 jersey. An injury setback to Anthony Don has potentially opened up a spot on the wing from Round 1, with younsters Phillip Sami, Tyrone Roberts-Davis and John Olive all in the frame. Reports also suggest that under 20's half Alexander Brimson has been training in the pre-season at fullback under the guidance of veteran offseason recruit Michael Gordon.

Key Player - Having recently re-signed to the club for a further for a further three seasons, halfback Ash Taylor will be looking to take the step to the next level now his future is sorted. With the high profile departure of Jarryd Hayne, this should see the Titans become Taylor's team and give the youngster the licence to demand the ball and direct his team around the park.


1. Tom Trbojevic
2. Jorge Taufua
3. Dylan Walker
4. Brian Kelly
5. Akuila Uate
6. Jackson Hastings
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c)
8. Darcy Lussick
9. Apisau Koroisau
10. Martin Taupau
11. Joel Thompson
12. Curtis Sironen
13. Jake Trbojevic

14. Lewis Brown
15. Lloyd Perrett
16. Addin Fonua-Blake
17. Frank Winterstein

Bolters - The Sea Eagles side looks pretty settled, all bar who will wear the #6 left vacant by the departure of Blake Green to the Warriors. Former Rooster Jackson Hastings has the inside running on paper, however the real bolter could be the Eagles under 20's star Tom Wright. Wright sparked the Sea Eagles to victory in their incredible Holden Cup run from 8th position last year and the former Australian Schoolboys Rugby Union star has been touted as a future superstar in the making. Whether coach Trent Barrett looks to start Wright in the centres or throw him in the deep end at five-eighth remains to be seen.

Key Player - Tom Trbojevic firmly cemented his status as the club's next great fullback, with his second full year in the top grade going up yet another gear scoring 11 tries, 21 line breaks and a stunning 17 try assists for the season. The 20 year old loomed as a certainty to be picked to make his NSW debut, only for an injury in Round 12 against the Broncos ruling the youngster out cruelly just before the selection of the Blues squad for the State of Origin opener. With Tommy Turbo in the side, the Eagles are going to be a threat.


1. Billy Slater
2. Suliasi Vunivalu
3. Will Chambers
4. Curtis Scott
5. Josh Addo-Carr
6. Cameron Munster
7. Brodie Croft
8. Jesse Bromwich
9. Cameron Smith (c)
10. Sam Kasiano
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. Ryan Hoffman
13. Dale Finucane

14. Tim Glasby
15. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
16. Kenny Bromwich
17. Joe Stimson

Bolters - The defending premiers again have a strong squad on paper, despite some significant losses in Cooper Cronk and Jordan McLean. A lot of the make-up of their 17 will depend on whether Cameron Smith continues to play 80 minutes hooker or whether young gun Brandon Smith comes off the bench late in games, with the Kiwi junior earmarked as Smith's successor. Jahrome Hughes has proven to be too good for reserve grade whenever he has been given his chance in the top grade and looks next cab off the rank in the Storm's very classy backline.

Key Player - Cameron Smith more than ever will be the Storm's key player, given the departure of Cronk and the development of Brodie Croft. Coming off a season where he won absolutely everything from a premiership to a Golden Boot & Dally M award to a State of Origin series to a World Cup the 34 year old looks set to retire in 2027…absolute freak.


1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Nathan Ross
3. Tautau Moga
4. Sione Mata'utia
5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
6. Brock Lamb
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Daniel Saifiti
9. Danny Levi
10. Jacob Lilyman
11. Aidan Guerra
12. Jamie Buhrer
13. Mitchell Barnett

14. Connor Watson
15. Jacob Saifiti
16. Chris Heighington
17. Herman Ese'ese

Bolters - The new look Knights finally have something that they haven't had in some time..depth. Sione Mata'utia looks set to return to the backline given the host of backrowers available on their roster and should form an exciting centre combination with new recruit Tautau Moga. Ken Sio provides back up for the outside backs, while the sensational debut seasons in 2017 from Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Sam Stone make them very hard to leave out of the starting 17. Tyrone Amey also made his debut late in 2017 and could also force his way into the side with a strong off-season.

Key Player - Marquee signing Mitchell Pearce will lose the air of expectation surrounding the responsibility of leading the Roosters and NSW, whether this relaxed build up has an effect on his game, only time will tell. Given Pearce will undoubtedly have a point to prove in 2018, the Knights will just be happy to be back in finals contention after a long and painful absence.

1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c)
2. David Fusitu'a
3. Peta Hiku
4. Solomone Kata
5. Ken Maumalo
6. Blake Green
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Albert Vete
9. Issac Luke
10. Adam Blair
11. Bunty Afoa
12. Tohu Harris
13. Simon Mannering

14. Gerard Beale
15. Leivaha Pulu
16. Agnatius Paasi
17. James Gavet

Bolters - Certainly a few major losses and gains for the Warriors over the off-season which makes their top 17 a little bit of a mystery. Can Issac Luke return to his best after a poor 2017? If not then Nathaniel Roache may be the bolter that comes in. Ata Hingano provides some support in the halves after a solid World Cup. Both Gerard Beale and Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad will be pushing for starting spots in the backline.

Key Player - As per every year, the form of Shaun Johnson will be paramount to the Warriors returning to the finals in 2018. If the Kiwi halfback remains on the park and in form then the Warriors can always trouble most sides. The departure of Kieran Foran to the Bulldogs and arrival of Sea Eagles recruit Blake Green looms as the likely obstacle, however generally when Johnson has a steady scrum base partner it allows him to be at his dynamic best.


1. Lachlan Coote
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Justin O'Neill
4. Kane Linnett
5. Antonio Winterstein
6. Michael Morgan
7. Jonathan Thurston
8. Matt Scott
9. Jake Granville
10. Jordan McLean
11. Gavin Cooper
12. Ethan Lowe
13. Jason Taumalolo

14. Scott Bolton
15. Coen Hess
16. John Asiata
17. Shaun Fensom

Bolters - With the return of skipper Jonathan Thurston to last year's Grand Finalists, coach Paul Green must now find some space for Te Maire Martin. Should Martin be able to handle some of the workload at hooker late in games then he may force his way into the 17. The electric Gideon Gela-Mosby and Javid Bowen look likely to act as cover in the outside backs again this coming season.

Key Player - Jonathan Thurston is the key player in any side, especially in his final season. However the Cowboys still made the Grand Final without him and add to that the Cowboys also welcome back Queensland and Australian prop Matt Scott to combine with current Australian forward and Storm recruit Jordan McLean. So that is 3 Australian players to come into their beaten Grand Final side…you do the math.


1. Clint Gutherson
2. Bevan French
3. Michael Jennings
4. Jarryd Hayne
5. Josh Hoffman
6. Corey Norman
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Tim Mannah (c)
9. Cameron King
10. Suaia Matagi
11. Manu Ma'u
12. Tepai Moeroa
13. Nathan Brown

14. Daniel Alvaro
15. Kenny Edwards
16. Kane Evans
17. Will Smith

Bolters - One thing is for sure, Brad Arthur has plenty of depth in 2018. With the arrival of Jarryd Hayne to an already slick backline, Brad Takairangi may be the odd man out to start the season, however the Kiwi international can also play in the backrow so may jag a spot on the bench. Another player who is looming large (literally) is the big T-Rex himself Tony Williams, who joins the club after tearing his ACL in a failed stint with the Sharks in 2017. Kaysa Pritchard also returns from injury and will be looking to regain his #9 jersey. Kirisome Auva'a was also very strong in the backend of 2017 and will also push for a start over the experienced Josh Hoffman.

Key Player - Mitchell Moses certainly went up another gear upon his arrival at the Eels and was also outstanding for Lebanon during the World Cup. Incoming NSW coach Brad Fittler has already stated that Moses is in the mix for the Blues and this may be the ammunition for him to really explode in 2018.


1. Dylan Edwards
2. Josh Mansour
3. Dean Whare
4. Waqa Blake
5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
6. James Maloney
7. Nathan Cleary
8. James Tamou
9. Peter Wallace (c)
10. Regan Campbell-Gillard
11. Bryce Cartwright
12. Isaah Yeo
13. Trent Merrin

14. Tyrone Peachey
15. James Fisher-Harris
16. Sam McKendry
17. Corey Harawira-Naera

Bolters - Viliame Kikau was outstanding for Fiji in the World Cup and if he can keep his good form going into the pre-season he may squeeze onto the bench for the Panthers. Tyrone May will miss the start of the season due to his ACL injury suffered at the end of 2017 and will offer plenty when he returns to full fitness mid-season.

Key Player - Bryce Cartwright exploded on the scene in 2016 and looked to be headed towards representative duty until he suffered a horrific follow up season, which was marred by injury and off field issues. With the signing of premiership winner James Maloney at five-eighth this should allow Cartwright some stability in the backrow and he can again be the sides' X-factor in 2018.


1. Greg Inglis (c)
2. Alex Johnson
3. Dane Gagai
4. Hymel Hunt
5. Campbell Graham
6. Cody Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Sam Burgess
9. Damien Cook
10. George Burgess
11. John Sutton
12. Angus Crichton
13. Cameron Murray

14. Robbie Farah
15. Tom Burgess
16. Kyle Turner
17. Zane Musgrove

Bolters - A new coach enters the frame, with the highly regarded Anthony Seibold taking over from Premiership winning coach Michael Maguire. The outside backs looks to have competition for spots with Tyrell Fuimaono, Robert Jennings and Bulldogs recruit Richie Kennar looking to push for a spot in the centres. Dean Britt arrived from the Storm mid-season and could also push for a spot in the forward pack come Round 1.

Key Player - Greg Inglis returns from a devastating ACL injury suffered in Round 1 last year. It is hard to believe that the 39 Test veteran is still only 30 years old. If Inglis returns to his legendary best then Souths will be in the frame for a Top 8 spot.


1. Matt Dufty
2. Nene MacDonald
3. Euan Aitken
4. Tim Lafai
5. Jason Nightingale
6. Gareth Widdop (c)
7. Ben Hunt
8. Paul Vaughan
9. Cameron McInnes
10. James Graham
11. Tyson Frizell
12. Tariq Sims
13. Jack De Belin

14. Jacob Host
15. Leeson Ah Mau
16. Jeremy Latimore
17. Kurt Mann

Bolters - The Dragons certainly have some quality youngsters coming through their junior pathways, with last year's Auckland Nines star Jai Field, along with 18 year old Zac Lomax who are tipped to push for a spot in the backline in 2018. Luciano Leilua will also look to press for more first grade opportunities from the bench after a disappointing 2017.

Key Player - Gareth Widdop had his best season in the Red V and is now joined at the scrumbase by Ben Hunt, which should see him have slightly less responsibility inside the attacking zone for the Dragons. Widdop was terrific for England at fullback in the World Cup but looks certain to return to the halves for the start of the season.


1. James Tedesco
2. Daniel Tupou
3. Latrell Mitchell
4. Blake Ferguson
5. Joseph Manu
6. Luke Keary
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Jared Waerea-Hargraves
9. Jake Friend
10. Dylan Napa
11. Boyd Cordner (c)
12. Mitch Aubusson
13. Isaac Liu

14. Sio Siua Taukeiaho
15. Zane Tetevano
16. Ryan Matterson
17. Nat Butcher

Bolters - The competition favourites will have a few players pushing for spots, with young guns Nat Butcher and Victor Radley pushing for a spot on the bench. Former Raider Reece Robinson returns to the NRL after a stint in Super Rugby for the Waratahs and will hope his experience can secure a start on the wing.

Key Player - Cooper Cronk is the high profile signing of 2018 and given the Australian and Queensland halfback has replaced favourite son Mitchell Pearce, Roosters fans will be expecting plenty. Cronk starts his first NRL season without Smith and Slater by his side and will need to gel with his new spine of James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Jake Friend with immediate effect if they are to lift the Provan-Summons trophy in his first year for the Tricolours.


1. Tui Lolohea
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Taane Milne
4. Kevin Naiqama
5. Moses Suli
6. Josh Reynolds
7. Luke Brooks
8. Russell Packer
9. Matt McIllwrick
10. Ben Matulino
11. Chris Lawrence
12. Chris McQueen
13. Elijah Taylor

14. Benji Marshall
15. Matthew Eisenhuth
16. Tim Grant
17. Josh Aloiai

Bolters - Coach Ivan Cleary has built some depth in his squad in 2018 and the make-up of the forward pack is quite versatile. Matt McIllwrick and Jacob Liddle look set to dual it out for the #9 jersey. Could Benji Marshall be the bolter? You would have to think the Tigers legend finds his way into the match day 17 but Josh Reynolds brings a lot to the team dynamic and will start in the #6.

Key Player - The Tigers have invested in the services of Kiwi international Ben Matulino to take the place of the former skipper Aaron Woods. If Matulino can regain the form he had under Cleary at the Warriors, then the combination between he and Russell Packer looks to be crucial if they are to trouble the big sides. If the Kiwi front row combination get the go forward, then the likes of Reynolds, Luke Brooks and Tui Lolohea can be very dangerous for any defensive line.

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