NRL.com's fearless 2017 predictions: Part 1
The NRL Telstra Premiership is one of the most unpredictable sporting competitions in the world – and yet the writers at NRL.com have put themselves to the test with some educated guesses as to how the 2017 season will play out.
Who will win the comp?
Tony Webeck: I've got a hunch that the Raiders will be the team with the most wins at the end of the regular season and qualify for the grand final but it might be Wayne Bennett's Broncos who sneak up and steal the prize on grand final day. There are some question marks surrounding the Broncs but also a ton of class in every position which in a wide open race could make all the difference.
Chris Kennedy: With the closeness of the comp you could easily nominate six or more teams here but I'll go with Canberra after their excellent 2016 season to go even better.
Dominic Brock: I'll say the Storm. They were very close last season and could/should be even better with Billy Slater back. They've got the best spine, prop and probably coach in the business.
Andy Bryan: Canberra Raiders. Can they continue to improve and hold their nerve in the finals? That remains to be seen – but there is a lot to like about the Green Machine. Their premiership window is wide open, and if they get through the season without many injuries they'll have learnt a lot from the 2016 finals campaign.
Martin Gabor: The Melbourne Storm. Last year's minor premiers went within minutes of grand final glory, and they did it all without star fullback Billy Slater. The 33-year-old is back after missing the best part of two seasons with a shoulder injury and is training the proverbial house down. Throw in the fact they've always finished on top the year after losing a grand final (in 2006 and 2008) and it's clear the Storm will be premiers in 2017.
Adrian McMurray: 2016 was a promising year for the Green Machine, and I'm tipping the Raiders to clinch their first premiership since 1994. The Panthers should also challenge, while the Storm won't be far off either.
Jack Brady: Everybody expected them to win last season following the golden point grand final loss to the Cowboys in 2015 – and while the season is still over three months away I wouldn't be surprised to see the Broncos take out the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership. Corey Parker is a huge loss but it may also positively motivate Wayne Bennett's men to win their way to their first grand final win since 2006.
Tony Webeck: It's obviously a slow build at Newcastle and as much as it pains me to say it for the good and loyal Novocastrians, it might be another 12 months before things go on a significant upward trend.
Chris Kennedy: Sorry to say but it's hard to see the Knights winning enough games to finish better than 16th.
Dominic Brock: Newcastle again, unfortunately.
Andy Bryan: Newcastle will win more games than they did last year, but they are still in for a long tough learning period. There are some great young players coming through, they just need to tough out the next season and things will eventually get better in the Hunter.
Martin Gabor: Sorry Newcastle fans but I think your beloved Knights will claim their third wooden spoon on the trot. In better news, they are bound to win more than one game in 2017.
Adrian McMurray: It'd be easy to pick the Knights as their rebuild continues, but with Drew Hutchison's injury further depleting the Dragons' playmaking stocks, I'm tipping it might be a frustrating year for the Red V.
Jack Brady: I think Newcastle may cop one more wooden spoon before they start finding their feet again in the NRL. Things are looking up in the Hunter but it's hard to think of any club they may finish ahead of.
Dally M winner?
Tony Webeck: It would be easy to pick Cronk or Thurston (and you'd probably be right) but if James Tedesco has a full season injury free he'll be a regular vote-getter for the Wests Tigers.
Chris Kennedy: Josh Hodgson or Corey Norman.
Dominic Brock: The Storm again look likely to get the most wins this season, and with Cooper Cronk winning it last year I'll go Cameron Smith for 2017.
Andy Bryan: The usual candidates are Cam Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk. But I'll go left field and say Mitchell Pearce. The Roosters will be much improved this year and Pearce will be in the thick of the action.
Martin Gabor: Matt Moylan. The Panthers skipper just keeps getting better and better with age and I can see him dominating the field with 31 votes next year.
Adrian McMurray: Matt Moylan. If Penrith are in for a big year, their skipper will be key.
Jack Brady: I think Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson will live up to the billing in 2017 especially if Canberra can replicate their amazing past 12 months moving forward.
Tony Webeck: Can I just say they will be of Fijian heritage? Suliasi Vunivalu ahead of Semi Radradra.
Chris Kennedy: Jordan Rapana?
Dominic Brock: Jordan Rapana will probably start as the favourite for this but I'll go Bevan French. The guy is made for scoring rugby league tries and should get more game time this year, plus the Eels should be better.
Andy Bryan: I think the Eels will do well this year, so looking at Bevan French to score a lot of tries in blue and gold.
Martin Gabor: Jordan Rapana will take home the title with 24 tries next season, with James Tedesco and Blake Ferguson in equal-second with 19 four-pointers. Bevan French will score 17 tries.
Adrian McMurray: After making the move south to the Storm, I'm tipping Josh Addo-Carr to lead the try-scorers tally.
Jack Brady: If Bevan French can produce a whole season at the Eels then I envision him taking out the mantle.