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Top eight predictions: NRL.com experts have their say

Which eight teams will play finals football in 2019?

NRL.com's experts view

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

1. Roosters
2. Storm
3. Broncos
4. Rabbitohs
5. Panthers
6. Cowboys
7. Dragons
8. Titans

 

When the Broncos went back-to-back in 1992 and 1993 we had the personnel and belief to do it and knew that when the blowtorch was applied in the finals series we had the team to beat anyone. The Sydney Roosters are in the same position this year and with Angus Crichton on board the pack is only going to be stronger. I like the look of the Gold Coast Titans this year with Tyrone Peachey, Shannon Boyd and Tyrone Roberts on deck and I envisage they will rocket back into the top eight.

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)

1. Roosters
2. Panthers
3. Broncos
4. Knights
5. Dragons
6. Rabbits
7. Sharks
8. Storm

The Roosters never beat themselves, they never panic, they always turn up for each other. Nobody's been able to go back-to-back in the past few years, but I reckon they will. I think the Panthers will improve under Ivan Cleary and won't have the slow starts they had last year. The Storm will struggle a little but should still find a way of making it into the finals.

Michael Chammas (NRL.com chief reporter)

1. Roosters
2. Sharks
3. Rabbitohs
4. Panthers
5. Dragons
6. Broncos
7. Storm
8. Knights

It's hard to see too many changes to last year's top eight. The Newcastle Knights now have enough muscle and strike power to play finals football, while the addition of Shaun Johnson could see Cronulla challenging for a premiership. The Dragons have a roster capable of winning the title but Jack de Belin is a huge blow.

Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)

1. Rabbitohs
2. Roosters
3. Broncos
4. Storm
5. Sharks
6. Raiders
7. Dragons
8. Panthers

I think Penrith's youngsters will take longer than most expect to recalibrate under Ivan Cleary while the Raiders are jam packed with talent and overdue for a finals run. The Roosters could easily claim yet another minor premiership but regardless I see both Anthony Seibold and Wayne Bennett coming up trumps after the old club swap.

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

1. Roosters
2. Dragons
3. Rabbitohs
4. Storm
5. Broncos
6. Knights
7. Sharks
8. Panthers

On paper the Roosters look to have a stronger team than the one which won the 2018 premiership, while the signing of Corey Norman should add potency to a Dragons outfit already brimming with talent. Newcastle are a team on the rise and have arguably recruited better than their rivals in a bid to return to finals football.

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)

1. Rabbitohs
2. Broncos
3. Roosters
4. Storm
5. Dragons
6. Cowboys
7. Panthers
8. Titans

The most successful coach in the game has joined the most famous club in the league and that has the makings of an incredible story. More importantly, Wayne Bennett has a South Sydney team at his disposal that is right up his alley. I'm tipping the Rabbitohs to be on a collision course for a grand final showdown with the Brisbane Broncos. Anthony Seibold is the right man to take the young Broncos forwards to another level and with a star-studded backline at his disposal Seibold's expansive philosophies will only enhance their potency.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

1. Panthers
2. Broncos
3. Roosters
4. Rabbitohs
5. Dragons
6. Storm
7. Sharks
8. Raiders

The Panthers have assembled a roster which can go all the way and they now have the coach who can deliver them their first premiership in 16 years with Ivan Cleary back on board. Brisbane will rise, the Roosters will start to wear down towards the finals and the Raiders will edge out the Titans to be this year's big improvers, stealing the eighth playoff berth.

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

1. Roosters
2. Rabbitohs
3. Storm
4. Panthers
5. Knights
6. Broncos
7. Sharks
8. Wests Tigers

All the signs point to at least two sides sliding out of the top eight based on last year. History suggests one of those clubs is traditionally heavily favoured before a ball is kicked so I've gone for the Dragons as the smoky side to miss the eight, with the Wests Tigers sneaking in.

Maria Tsialis (Big League editor)

1. Rabbitohs
2. Broncos
3. Panthers
4. Storm
5. Roosters
6. Sharks
7. Dragons
8. Knights

Plenty of pundits are tipping the Roosters to go back-to-back, but it wouldn't be the first time we see reigning premiers come into the year with basically the same roster but a lower success rate. I still think they'll be hard to beat but have them outside the top four.

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

1. Rabbitohs
2. Broncos
3. Roosters
4. Storm
5. Sharks
6. Panthers
7. Cowboys
8. Eels

I have the Warriors and Dragons dropping out, with each losing key players from last season. However I am coming around to the Sharks despite some huge losses from their playing and coaching rosters. I think McGuire, Macdonald and co will help the Cowboys will return to September footy which leaves me with one spot for a smokey. After mulling the Knights and Titans I've tossed the Eels in there on the back of their strong trial form and some savvy recruiting – if it comes off I'll look like a genius and if not we can pretend this never happened.

Tony Webeck (NRL.com reporter)

1. Roosters
2. Storm
3. Rabbitohs
4. Broncos
5. Cowboys
6. Raiders
7. Titans
8. Knights

Confident the top four will all be there in September; the following four could all very easily miss out. In such a tight competition home ground advantage must count for something which is why I favour the likes of Canberra, Newcastle and Canberra over the Wests Tigers, Panthers and Dragons.

Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)

1. Roosters
2. Broncos
3. Rabbitohs
4. Storm
5. Panthers
6. Dragons
7. Knights
8. Sharks

Brisbane's young guns could have them rivalling a Roosters side that has seemingly improved since winning the comp. The Knights will return to finals footy with the Dragons and Sharks holding on.

Brett Keeble (NRL.com reporter)

1. Roosters
2. Panthers
3. Rabbitohs
4. Broncos
5. Sharks
6. Knights
7. Storm
8. Dragons

The Roosters, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Broncos would seemingly have to suffer a significant injury toll to miss the finals. Of the teams that made the eight last year, the Warriors appear the most vulnerable. The revamped Knights look good things to replace them. If Cameron Smith was to be sidelined for any length of time, you could argue a case for the Cowboys or Raiders to sneak in at Melbourne's expense. But it would take a braver soul than this one to tip the Storm to miss the finals for the first time in nine seasons and only the second time since Craig Bellamy took the reins in 2003.

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)

1. Broncos
2. Roosters
3. Panthers
4. Rabbitohs
5. Storm
6. Knights
7. Cowboys
8. Sharks

I did my top eight a few weeks ago – before Cowboys fullback Ben Barba was deregistered by the NRL and before the latest lewd video scandal to engulf the Panthers – but I still believe those teams can overcome these pre-season setbacks and qualify for the finals. Anthony Seibold's arrival at Brisbane will help rejuvenate the Broncos who have a great young pack and exciting outside backs. Let's hope Seibold can be the 'halves whisperer' the club needs to ensure Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima reach their potential in 2019.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

1. Roosters
2. Broncos
3. Rabbitohs
4. Storm
5. Dragons
6. Wests Tigers
7. Knights
8. Cowboys

We all know how difficult it is for premiers to go back-to-back, but if any team can do it it's the Roosters. Their squad has only been bolstered by the addition of Josh Morris and Angus Crichton and unlike last year, I expect the Tricolours to click into gear quickly. The usual suspects make up the remainder of my top eight with a couple of surprises including the Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights. I also expect North Queensland to bounce back after an uncharacteristically challenging year in 2018.

Katie Brown (NRL.com reporter)

1. Rabbitohs
2. Roosters
3. Storm
4. Broncos
5. Dragons
6. Panthers
7. Titans
8. Knights

He's not labelled the super coach for nothing. I have a feeling Wayne Bennett can coach South Sydney to a premiership and he'd love to send a message to the Broncos. I'm tipping the Warriors to slide out of the eight. Titans and Knights, don't let me down.

Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)

1. Roosters
2. Broncos
3. Rabbitohs
4. Storm
5. Panthers
6. Sharks
7. Titans
8. Wests Tigers

Titans and Tigers to shock them all, while the Dragons and Warriors fall out the back. The real battle will be for the safety of the top four. The pre-season distractions and the pressure on the coaching team to perform will see the Panthers stall at fifth, with the Sharks to hang on to the bottom four in what will be their last year in the finals for a while.

Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)

1. Sharks
2. Roosters
3. Rabbitohs
4. Storm
5. Panthers
6. Broncos
7. Wests Tigers
8. Raiders

Despite the Sharks salary cap issues and the recent loss of CEO Barry Russell, Cronulla still possess one of the biggest forward packs in the game, eight NSW Origin reps and an exciting new halves combinations with the addition of Shaun Johnson. The Dragons and Warriors have dropped out of my top eight for 2019, with the West Tigers and Raiders making their way in.

Jonathan Healy (NRL.com reporter)

1. Panthers
2. Roosters
3. Broncos
4. Storm
5. Knights
6. Sharks
7. Rabbitohs
8. Cowboys

It's difficult to imagine the Roosters not once again being around the mark, but expect the Panthers to challenge them at the top of the ladder and the Knights to be the big improvers and play finals for the first time in six years.