People who know me will tell you I rarely sit on the fence.
But when it comes to ranking my top eight in order, I'm going to wear a few splinters.
Just trying to work out who will make it let alone in what order is hard enough and can leave you looking like a goose.
I am paid to give you an opinion so for what it's worth here is my top
eight in no particular ranking: Wests Tigers, Warriors, Brisbane,
Newcastle, Manly, Canterbury, North Queensland, Melbourne.
great surprises there I suppose, although I can see the Zorba effigies
being prepared for burning at Redfern as you read this.
The Bunnies may well prove me wrong and don't be surprised if the Sharks jump out of the ground, but you can only fit eight in.
Here's my rundown of the teams I believe will be still standing come September.
A lot of people don't know a lot about Brian McClennan but he's coached
with great success at international and Super League level. The Kiwis
will be better for last year's grand final experience and boast
excitement-plus players across the park.
Broncos: Locky's gone and that's a problem but Petero's back among a youthful looking side. They will be up there again.
The Bennett factor combined with unlimited resources, Kurt Gidley and
the cauldron that is EnergyAustralia Stadium should see Newcastle
genuinely challenging for the first time in years.
The Doggies snuck in under Manly's guard and lured Dessie Hasler to
Belmore in what will go down as one of the great coaching coups. Hasler
took the Sea Eagles from basket case to premiers twice in four years. It
probably won't be this year but they will win a comp on his watch. He
will make Ben Barba an even greater player and we'll see a different
Mick Ennis under Hasler's no-nonsense regime while Frankie Pritchard
will be fit for the first time in his career.
Thurston is a genius and then there's big Matt Scott up front - the best
prop in the comp for mine. They will be very hard to beat, particularly
in steamy Townsville.
Tigers: Exciting backs, tremendous
strength in the forwards and one of the best coaches in the business. If
they don't win it this year there will be some serious questions asked
in Tiger Town.
Sea Eagles: People have been quick to write
off my old club due to all the turmoil over the off-season but don't
read too much into it. This squad is very resilient and used to
overcoming adversity. I doubt they can make it back-to-back simply
because it's so bloody hard to do so but they will be up there again.
As long as Smith, Cronk and Slater stay healthy that old fox Craig
Bellamy will have them travelling up near the head of the field. Some of
their long-in-the-tooth forwards worry me though.
At the other
end of the table I think Gold Coast will pick up their second wooden
spoon in as many years with the Raiders not far behind.
And my early pick for the Dally M is Kurt Gidley.Now bring on the footy!