Strengths: A full spine with Josh Hodgson back from injury later in 2018 saw what Canberra was really capable of. A new season with skipper Jarrod Croker also returning will see the Raiders attack flourish tremendously with their backline still one of the most potent in the league; with linebreak and tackle-busting potential, variation in their play will prove to be deadly if their spine clicks with their strong outside backs.
Flaws: Being one of the most penalised teams in their past season the Raiders’ discipline at crucial moments will be damaging if reoccurring; their halves still pose as a problem with a many of their matches being lost late due to lack of control through their playmakers. Their right-side defence was also a concern with Joey Leilua and co being targeted, forcing penalties with many tries coming down that channel. Ricky Stuart will need to fix this.
Strengths: Having Des Hasler come in to start a new era of coaching will do wonders for Manly, the squad is there to make a run to the finals. Returning key men in Apisai Koroisau and Curtis Sironen will be boosted through the middle and return the Sea Eagles to a proper full-strength outfit.
Flaws: With a new coach the side will need to become quickly familiar with Hasler’s coaching style or it could be a rough beginning. A playmaker partner for Daly Cherry-Evans is also paramount if the Sea Eagles are to be any chance of winning more games with the team lacking kicking options at crucial moments.
Strengths: A runner-up in 2018 they will still hold a strong side with more experience for their young players in the likes of Brodie Croft and utility hooker Brandon Smith to try to push the side further. Their young forwards will benefit heavily from the hurt of losing the grand final; with many in representative outfits, it should be another dominant year for their pack.
Flaws: Craig Bellamy will not be able to afford to shift the halves around as much as he did, having to put full faith in Croft to deliver throughout the entire season. Another year for Cameron Smith with his best looking likely behind him now; with Billy Slater’s retirement, the fullback role will need to be filled in the pre-season so that this young spine can gel or it could be an uncharacteristic year for Melbourne.
Strengths: A promising step to finals in 2018 has the Warriors poised to go even better with acquiring prop forward Leeson Ah Mau with more Kiwi internationals filling up the side making cohesion great. Another season with Blake Green alongside Shaun Johnson and the rest of the spine the New Zealand outfit will be close to a top-four finish.
Flaws: Only a few weaknesses in the way that the Warriors play with the consistency across the park that had them fall short in their return to finals, they need to identify moments in games to close out and/or put the foot down. Johnson – playing for a contract – will need to be an elite playmaker with consistent dominant performances to lead or the same results will repeat.