New coaches, player movement, last year's results, injuries, club culture and trials - there was a lot to consider in the first edition of Power Rankings for 2021.
Taking all that into account, I've ranked each team 1-16 ahead of the Storm and Rabbitohs kicking things off on Thursday night.
For those unfamiliar with NRL.com's Power Rankings, the table will update after each round based on a variety of factors including how a team has performed and the strength of their opponent, the intensity of the match, injuries and who they play the following week.
A lower-ranked team beating a top side will carry more weight than a highly-ranked team defeating a side well below them, or an underperforming club downing a fellow struggler.
I'm now part of the Dragons' staff as a halves and kicking coach, but that won't affect my objectivity for the rankings.
Three of the four teams with new head coaches (Brisbane, St George Illawarra and Canterbury) were ranked in the bottom six as it's hard to judge them without a proper game being played.
Don't be disheartened if your team is ranked near the bottom at this time of year. If you have questions, fire away on social media.
1. Melbourne Storm
The champs until they're the champs no more. No Cameron Smith, no worries for me, though I think Melbourne may miss the top four. Losing Harry Grant to start the year throws a spanner in the works, but I like Brandon Smith at hooker.
Cameron Munster will assume more responsibility and I'm one of Jahrome Hughes's biggest fans. He's turned himself into an elite playmaker. Don't be surprised if the Storm are holding the trophy again in October.
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2. Penrith Panthers
Everything went right for Penrith last year. You need a lot of luck to win a title but they couldn't get it done in the end.
There's been a lot of re-signings and loyalty, but what will that look like if the Panthers hit a rough patch?
I'm not expecting them to win 17 in a row this year, but they're a great team. With no Trent Barrett as attacking coach, it will be interesting to see how their offence has changed and how they'll adapt if opponents work them out.
3. South Sydney Rabbitohs
If Latrell Mitchell stayed fit last year, South Sydney could've won the premiership. They were attacking in an unstoppable frame of mind. I'm keen to see how they start against the premiers in Melbourne, which is usually a tough game.
Latrell has the potential to win the 2021 Dally M Medal.
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4. Sydney Roosters
They can potentially make the grand final having recharged the batteries after not going all the way in 2020. Victor Radley and Sam Verrills will be massive inclusions after their knee injuries, and they have depth in the outside backs.
Expect Luke Keary to get more involved at first-receiver, allowing Lachlan Lam or Sam Walker to find their feet at five-eighth, but their structures won't change much.
5. Canberra Raiders
I think the Raiders will finish in the top four, but I want to see how halfback George Williams attacks the start of the season and how he looks with hooker Josh Hodgson back alongside Jack Wighton and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
We never really got to see them all at their best last year with Hodgson being injured.
This can be the year that Canberra bounce back and put themselves in the premiership frame.
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6. Parramatta Eels
There are some concerns about Parramatta. There have been the "big four" teams for a while now, and they'd probably consider themselves in that group, but you could stretch it to six.
Mitch Moses, Clint Gutherson, Dylan Brown and Reed Mahoney form one of the NRL's better spines, but they just didn't get it right in the finals last year. That usually creates hunger and I'm expecting the Eels to start fast, but I've got five teams above them.
7. Gold Coast Titans
I usually don't reward hype, but I'm very interested to see how the Titans go. They won five straight games to finish 2020. How will marquee recruits Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and David Fifita look in this side if they're not getting the ball versus if they're getting the ball too much?
The Gold Coast's clash with the Warriors is the game I'm most excited to watch.
8. New Zealand Warriors
Finished the season in great form last year, just missing the finals. Nathan Brown has started as coach. I have some concerns for the Warriors, but I've put them in eighth out of respect to their recruitment. Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila are two premier forwards.
They have the chance to prove they deserve this ranking but could drop quickly after a couple of rounds.
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9. Cronulla Sharks
Cronulla didn't beat anyone in the top eight last year despite making the finals but were a bit unlucky in their lone playoffs game against the Raiders. There's no Shaun Johnson to start the season and Matt Moylan is looking for a big year. Can he stay injury-free?
The Sharks have a massive forward pack, not much leg-speed through the ruck, but they will compete and be on the bubble.
10. Newcastle Knights
The Knights are in a holding pattern. I'm interested to see how they start against Parramatta without Kalyn Ponga and what their attack looks like when he's back.
I'm still cautious about the Ponga-Mitchell Pearce combination and whether it's working to its full potential. Blake Green may take the pressure off the duo when he's fit.
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11. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
With Trent Barrett as coach, Canterbury have signed Kyle Flanagan, Corey Allan and Nick Cotric, but there's still uncertainty over who plays hooker and five-eighth.
They've got some class players and if Matt Burton was there I'd have them a bit higher.
12. Wests Tigers
This might be an underrated team. Daine Laurie is going to be fantastic, but I have queries about their No.6 and No.9. I thought they might have gone a bit harder to get a genuine five-eighth. It's a wait-and-see for the Tigers.
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13. North Queensland Cowboys
Fully fit, but there are questions about their attack. How do Valentine Holmes and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow best fit into the team? I'm looking forward to seeing how they go, hopefully with a full season of Val and Michael Morgan combining.
14. Manly Sea Eagles
A huge blow losing Tom Trbojevic for the opening rounds with another hamstring injury. Manly haven't gained much in the way of depth and already they have to shuffle some pieces around.
I had concerns about their defence last year and they may struggle this season.
15. St George Illawarra Dragons
Anthony Griffin has taken over as coach, bringing new systems and putting players in different positions. This is a project that's going to take time. There is potential and for Dragons fans, I hope it can turn around quickly.
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16. Brisbane Broncos
Finished last in 2020, have a new coach in Kevin Walters and they're still trying to build their culture and get back to the Broncos that we all know. I think it's a fair place for them to start.
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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.