First of all, how bloody hard is it to pick a team to win the comp. But, like many people, I'm leaning towards the Sydney Roosters to make a comeback and win a Premiership. With the firepower they've got all over the park, they're going to be hard to beat. The last two years, they've had a dreadful run with injuries. Even despite losing some of their best players, they've still done alright. Now those young blokes coming through have got the experience playing at the top level and it'll make the Chooks hard to knock off. Plus with Trent Robinson now locked in until 2028, they'll be even stronger going forward.
The Roosters are my pick, but you can never overlook the Penrith Panthers. In their pre-season trial games they've looked a bit sluggish. The main man Nathan Cleary hasn't played a single match and a few of their players appear to be carrying injuries. Penrith might start a bit slower, but I still think they'll be a threat later on in the campaign.
We must also remember that the South Sydney Rabbitohs made the Grand Final last year, so it'd be silly to write them off completely. They've got some very exciting players in their system. I've got so much time for Cameron Murray - he's an excellent, excellent player. And, of course, if Latrell Mitchell can stay on the field then they're a good shot because it ultimately ended up costing them last season. He's just so important and his connection with Cody Walker when they're flying is frightening.
My big call ahead of the season, saying this at my own peril, is that I don't think the Melbourne Storm will be in the top four this year. They'll make the Finals, yes. I know it's a bold statement to make because they always end up throwing egg on your face when they get rolling.
For me, the trials are very misleading. I remember back when I was playing at the Brisbane Broncos and we didn't win a pre-season game one year. We didn't take too much notice of them back then, but nowadays they put a bit more emphasis on them. So while some of the teams have looked impressive, don't read into it too much.
So when it comes to looking at potential wooden spooners for 2022, the Newcastle Knights could be in the running. Kalyn Ponga is the key for them, but if he goes down injured then they could be in big trouble. The same with one of the Saifiti brothers. Losing one of their big names means they'll struggle. At the same time, we're waiting to see how the new-look halves partnership of Jake Clifford and Adam Clune gels.
This could be controversial but the Canterbury Bulldogs may take some time to adjust. They've bought very well in the off-season by signing Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton, Tevita Pangai Jr, Matt Dufty, Paul Vaughan and Brent Naden. But as is the case with recruitment sometimes in the NRL, we can often experience teething problems in the first season. They're certainly not in the running for the wooden spoon, but they will be an interesting team to watch this year.