Another season brings with it a whole new batch of recruits. But who will be the best of the best in 2019? NRL.com's reporters have their say.
Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)
Raiders recruit John Bateman plays above his weight and is a consistent performer. Look for him to be a utility for the Raiders even possibly moving into the No.6 jersey if the halves struggle.
Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)
The recruitment of Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga helped propel Newcastle off the bottom of the ladder in 2018 for the first time in three years but signing a forward of the calibre of Australian prop David Klemmer will transform the Knights into final contenders.
Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)
Anthony Seibold. His presence at the Broncos will be like a brand new leather saddle, reins and whip! He took South Sydney from 11th in 2017 to third in 2018 (or equal first on 34 competition points). He appears to have a much wider view of the game and can penetrate the psyche of players with ease. I'm sensing the Broncos will be tussling for the minor premiership in 2019 rather than settling for a top-eight finish.
Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)
The most logical choices for buy of the season are players that fix what was an obvious area of weakness. Blake Ferguson and Junior Paulo to the Eels both fit the bill while David Klemmer turns the Knights from a rebuilding team to genuine threats. But for a player who has a chance to seriously reinvigorate one of 2018's battling sides and help return them to premiership threats, Ben Barba looms as the buy of the year.
Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)
Ben Barba is in great shape physically and mentally as he prepares to return to the NRL for the North Queensland Cowboys. At just 29, and fresh from winning the Man of Steel in Super League, the livewire fullback is set to give the Cowboys dynamic starts to their sets and will score and set up tries. Barba is determined to prove he still has what it takes at the highest level and the Cowboys will be all the better for his presence as they target a return to finals football.
Hayley Byrnes (NRL.com reporter)
Shaun Johnson. Yeah, yeah, we've all heard this repeatedly since he debuted in 2011, but this is a new era. No longer does Johnson have the weight of a nation on his shoulders; it's now only the Sutherland Shire. Johnson played his best footy of 2018 when he was allowed to run off Blake Green. The improving kicking game of Chad Townsend will also build on Cronulla's attacking game. This will be a new SJ. Just wait and see.
Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)
Newcastle's acquisition of Jesse Ramien gives them something they've lacked since Matt Gidley retired – a centre with that extra level of class in attack that will produce plenty of points. If used correctly, Ramien has the potential to form a potent Knights backline alongside the likes of Kalyn Ponga, Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson.
Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)
I like recruits that fix an obvious weakness at a club, and while Newcastle were much improved last season they were still regularly outmatched in the forwards and ranked last in run metres and post-contact metres. The quickest way to fix that (apart from somehow signing Jason Taumalolo) was to recruit man mountain David Klemmer, a regular standout in the NSW Origin pack. A little over a year since winning the wooden spoon they are now genuine finals contenders.
Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)
Sydney Roosters recruit Angus Crichton is one of a few standout choices tipped to play well for their new clubs and should slot into the side with ease. Crichton's move to Bondi will only boost the defending premiers on the right edge with NSW teammate and skipper Boyd Cordner on the left side of the paddock. Add in James Tedesco's flamboyance and striking halves Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary, and Crichton could deliver his best season yet.
Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)
The Wests Tigers fell just short of a finals appearance in 2018, but I have a feeling that 2019 will see the Tigers make the finals for the first time since 2011. They have a new coach and have re-signed several key players including Luke Brooks. Benji Marshall, Moses Mbye and Corey Thompson and have also signed my buy of the 2019 season – Ryan Matterson. One of the challenges the Tigers faced last year was in their back row, particularly on their right-edge, with no player really taking that position and claiming it as their own. Ryan Matterson fills that gap and was also one of the most promising young players of 2017. His 2018 was impacted heavily by injury and I think a couple of people have forgotten that he exists but he's young, he's enthusiastic and I'm sure will be keen to make a big impact at his new club in 2019.
Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)
Tyrone Peachey is a great acquisition for the Gold Coast Titans. He’s versatile and he is a gamebreaker and just what the Titans needed to give them more options in attack. He is a current Origin player who will create tries and score them.
Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)
David Klemmer is a massive inclusion to the Knights forward pack this season. Last year Newcastle found themselves falling out of the grind of games because they lacked strength and stature – lucky for them the 25-year-old will strengthen the youthful talent by adding physical presence and aggression, along with plenty of representative experience.
Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)
Leeson Ah Mau. Took the first half of 2018 by storm with career-best form at the Dragons to have clubs clamouring for his services. Earned himself a long-awaited Kiwi Test call-up and plumped for returning home to the Warriors, where he can provide serious value for money if he maintains the same drive and fitness across the ditch. Ah Mau's 59 tackle busts as a prop last year ranked him behind only Andrew Fifita, Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake, offering Stephen Kearney a point of difference in his pack few other sides can boast.
Michael Chammas (NRL.com chief reporter)
David Klemmer will provide the mongrel and go-forward needed at the Knights to unleash Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce.
Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)
Shaun Johnson is already considered a superstar but many would argue, with no premiership and irregular finals appearances, has not yet reached his potential. A change of club and change of country will be all that he needs to break out of his comfort zone and rise to the top of the NRL halves ranks. A flamboyant playmaker, Johnson has played his best football when partnered with a reliable and consistent half, which is exactly what Chad Townsend can provide him. While many could argue the unknown nature of the Sharks coaching situation – not to mention their financial situation – could prove a distraction, Johnson knows he does not have the free pass he grew to enjoy back in Auckland and will be keen, if not desperate, to impress the Sutherland faithful.
Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)
Ben Barba, mainly because I want to see him return to his best. His flair will help reignite the Cowboys attack.
Katie Brown (NRL.com reporter)
Tyrone Peachey will add some X-factor to the Gold Coast Titans and take some pressure off young halfback Ash Taylor.