Voss: My top eight for 2017
Andrew Voss on his predicted top eight, the next big thing in rugby league, the game of the round, Kieran Foran and more.
What will the top eight be in 2017?
How on earth am I supposed to fit 13 teams into eight spots?
But that's what I have left myself with as I try and commit to a list of teams that will contest the playoffs this season.
I've been around long enough to know you don't make any friends with top eight forecasts, but every fan and pundit worth their salt has to have a crack, so here goes.
I have dismissed the chances of just three teams: Newcastle, St George Illawarra and Manly.
Last week, I tipped the Cowboys as premiers so lock them in also as minor premiers. As I did last year, I'll say Melbourne will make the grand final.
For the remainder of the top eight, I like the Raiders, Panthers, Sharks, Broncos, Warriors and Bulldogs. It wouldn't surprise me though if there were multiple teams on the same competition points around the bottom half of the eight with the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Titans thereabouts.
And I can mount a case for the Eels and Tigers to be involved in the playoffs, with little improvement required on their 2016 efforts to achieve that.
That's my 10 cents on the final eight. (And it's probably all its worth!!!)
Who will be the next Immortal?
Hold the front page!
The next Immortal in rugby league will be anyone who manages to tip eight out of eight in the opening round this week.
Not a ball kicked and I've been having cold sweats contemplating who will win and who doesn't.
Sharks v Broncos? No idea.
Bulldogs v Storm? No idea.
Rabbitohs v Tigers? Ditto.
And so it goes.
Good luck one and all.
Perhaps we need a rugby league tipsters help line?
Don’t miss the action on Friday, March 3 when the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs tackle the 2016 Grand Finalist at the new time slot of 6pm.
What's the standout game in Round 1?
Take your pick. I won't be missing a minute.
However I'll nominate the Cowboys v Raiders clash in Townsville as number one in the blockbuster stakes!
And what's more I can't want to call it on Saturday night for Fox League.
It's the clash of two sides that both finished one game short of the grand final last year. It wouldn't have taken too much to change for either to have ended up premier.
We're also talking about the two best attacking sides from the 26 rounds in 2016. I can't come up with any strong reason to think they won't be just as potent in attack this year.
If their handling is up to scratch to start the season, this could be an absolute classic.
Who will be the best new face in Round 1?
I'm a little more relaxed in making a forecast on this one.
It'll also be in Townsville with Nick Cotric on debut for the Raiders.
This 18-year-old is one of the most exciting schoolboy footballers I've ever called. Now he's a young man who has added muscle and size through an off-season with the NRL squad in Canberra.
Ricky Stuart has given him his chance straight up in Round 1. I think he can match the potential of the Cowboys Kalyn Ponga. Despite his age, lower grade football might be a thing of the past for Nick.
Would the Warriors be hard done by if Kieran Foran played elsewhere in 2018?
No. It's just business.
Foran has denied reports of links to Brisbane, but I actually don't have a problem if there has been an approach from either side. And nor should the Warriors.
Yes they are the club about to give him a chance to get his career back on track, and have obviously prioritized his wellbeing off the field, but this is how things run these days.
And the Warriors have 'bought in' to that system. Early in 2015 they announced they had signed Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for 2016. In case you've forgotten, they've already signed Melbourne's Tohu Harris for 2018.
Why should Foran's career position be any different?
Having said that, in my opinion, the Warriors are the best fit for the former New Zealand captain to return to his best. Above all, I just hope he becomes a superstar player again – no matter where that is.
Can we have one more big prediction?
My crystal ball indicates we will top our golden point game tally of 15 from last season.
And if that's the case, I reckon it will spell the death of the extra time period in its current form from 2018 onwards.
Adding to the controversy that golden point delivers this season will be the virtual 10-metre line that Fox League will introduce this weekend to its game coverage.
More like, offside everyone!
My first call for the year on Fox League will be at Belmore on Friday night. Let's have some fun!