The NRL season is back tonight and if you were enticed by this headline, you must love footy as much as I do.
So you won't challenge me when I say that today is the best day of the year.
After a great All Stars match and seeing how our Indigenous Australian and Maori players are keeping up with their gameplay, it's time for the premiership action to begin on a weekly basis.
The past off-season has had a lot of ups and downs with a number of things happening off the field, but what we should focus on are the number of signings and new recruits that we will see gearing up in new colours this year.
After a stellar 2018 season which resulted in the premiership win, the Roosters look like they could go back-to-back.
With 13 player losses gone to new teams, the major misses will be Blake Ferguson (gone to Parramatta Eels) who had the most Run Metres for 2018 and big hitter Dylan “Big Papa” Napa (gone to Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs). However, picking up Angus Chrichton from the Bunnies and Brett Morris from the Doggies will surely be enough to fill in those gaping holes.
But for me, it’s the Newcastle Knights who have secured the best recruitment with Cronulla Sharks' speedsters in Edrick Lee and Jesse Ramien adding to the already established backline from last season's signings of Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce. Honourable mentions go to the signing of Melbourne Storm prop Tim Glasby and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs prop David Klemmer, which will no doubt impact a strong forward pack. The Knights could very easily make the Top 8 or even the Top 4 — but one thing I’m certain of is that a new era has begun in Newcastle. They’ll be strong contenders in the big dance before you know it.
With that being said, I’m actually most keen to see how the North Queensland Cowboys take on the league in a Post-JT era.
Young captains being named like Michael Morgan and Vice Captain, Jordan McLean (a new recruit from last year). is going to make for an interesting watch, seeing how they improve themselves this year after a not-so-great season in 2018. However, they've got some fast centres and wing in Tom Opacic, Jordan Kahu and Nene McDonald along with veteran prop Josh McGuire. I’ve got to say, there's scope that Morgan and McLean can lead the Cowboys to another premiership very soon.
Storm vs. Broncos
I know that the Broncos only had one less loss compared to the Storm last season, but I’ve got to back Melbourne on this one.
Even though last year’s Grand Final didn’t have the best performance by the Storm, you don’t get to three consecutive Grand Finals without the word ‘Dynasty’ coming to mind.
It's doubtful that losing veteran Billy Slater to retirement will slow down the Storm, as Cameron Smith is still signed until the end of 2020. Cameron Munster is also at the helm, mastering his craft and directing the team. Not to mention, having the fastest player in the game on your team might help... So, I reckon Josh ‘The Fox’ Addo-Carr scoring of an intercept try and Storm to win by 12 in this one is a possibility.
Knights vs. Sharks
As I said earlier, Newcastle have one hell of a side and I predict they are going to be enforcing early on in the season to make their mark. Also, the Sharks have had a bit of drama concerning salary cap breaches and all sorts of things so it could be assumed that their heads won’t be in the right state. I reckon we'll see Jesse Ramien to dive over the line in his Knights debut and they win by 6.
Roosters vs. Rabbitohs
With as much firepower that the Roosters have, I think it’ll take them a bit to heat up in the beginning of the season coming off the back of a trip overseas and also celebrating their convincing Grand Final win, I reckon they’ll have a slow start but kick it up a notch properly in round 2. I reckon it’ll be a tight one but I’m going for GI over Latrell in this battle. Bunnies by 2-6 points.
Warriors vs. Bulldogs
With the loss of Shaun Johnson, the Warriors might struggle a bit but instead, will look towards Isaac Luke and 2018 Dally M winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to guide them in the start of the season as they try to find their connections in the halves. The Doggies have a solid side but losing David Klemmer, Moses Mbye, Brett Morris, Josh Morris and Aaron Woods, I'm not convinced they'll have the right chemistry to take on the Warriors in this one. Warriors by 8.
West Tigers vs. Sea Eagles
In the offseason, the Tigers got Robbie Farrah back and I’m keen to see that Benji/Farrah connection working again so my pick will be the West Tigers in this one. Tigers by 6.
Cowboys vs. Dragons
Cowboys, as I said earlier, are going to have a chip on their shoulder to make up for their overall outcome last year. With the new recruits and new leadership under Michael Morgan who pretty much single-handedly carried them to the 2017 Grand Final but ultimately fell short, I think the boys from North Queensland will have a surprising season. Cowboys by 10.
Panthers vs. Eels
Some drama in the Panthers camp over the past few weeks may lead to some on-field trouble, so I’m backing the Eels this weekend and I reckon Blake Ferguson will try to make his presence known on his new team. Eels by 6.
Titans vs. Raiders
Blake Austin had a big impact on the Canberra Raiders and I think without him it may take a bit for someone to step up and fill the shoes he left behind. Titans had a pretty well-established team already and with new additions of Tyrone Peachey and Tyrone Roberts, the Titans and Raiders will have a close one... but Titans will win by 4.
These are my picks for the first round of the NRL, and with the footy season and the NRL starting up that also means the return of NITV's flagship League show #OverTheBlackDot.
Over The Black Dot airs on Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34) from 19 March.
Grayson McCarthy-Grogan is a passionate rugby league fan and NITV Digital Producer. He writes about Sports, Politics and Indigenous Affairs. To follow Grayson or contact with story tips, find him on Twitter @GraysonMcG