It's crunch time, from any point of view

Which team will win the competition?

NATHAN CAYLESS: I'd love to say the Eels, they've trained really hard. But if it's not them I reckon Souths are in with a good show. They went fairly well last year and they were unlucky to lose their halfback in that final against the Dogs. They've been playing really well and added some strength and experience to their roster having already gone deep into the finals. They will be a real threat to the competition this year.

LUKE PATTEN: It's got to be someone from the top four from last year. My gut is saying Souths at the moment. I know they've lost Dave Taylor but they've bought well, Ben Te'o is a really good signing. Greg Inglis has got an off-season under his belt, he's had that one year playing at fullback and he will come into this season really confident. Adam Reynolds showed what he can do last year. He's coming into his second year and that can get players, but it could have been a different story last year in that semi against the Dogs if he didn't do his hammy, they were coming back. The same teams will be up there but I'll go with Souths.

MARK COYNE: The Storm or Bulldogs. I'd probably pick the Storm with Bellamy settled there now and those three guns there they will be hard to knock over again.

2. Who will win the Dally M medal?

NC: The way Ben Barba started off last weekend, it will be hard to go past him. If the Bulldogs play a similar style of football, which I'm sure they will off the back of their big forwards, I can see them scoring plenty of tries. And Ben Barba will be in the thick of the action.

LP: It will be the usual suspects, but if Souths have a good year then I'd say Greg Inglis will be up there.

MC: I'm a big fan of Cameron Smith. To me, he's the player of the year because of the stuff he does behind the scenes, the way he controls the ruck and speed of the game. He doesn't tend to get picked for the big awards but he's the most valuable player in my point of view.

3. Will NSW finally win an Origin series?

NC: It's going to be pretty tough, they're probably going to have to wait until guys like Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges and Johnathan Thurston all retire. It's going to be tough for them to win it.

LP: They've got two games at home but my concern is that Laurie Daley won't be sure if he can do a similar thing to what Ricky Stuart did in the past two years. It's a bit of an unknown and I hope he can. We'll go in as underdogs but it would be great for Origin if they could. It's certainly a tough ask.

MC: Put down a resounding no! NSW are certainly getting closer and Laurie Daley will be excellent for them and continue the good work which Ricky did. But they've got superstars in key positions and do what needs to be done when the game is on the line.

4. Will Sonny Bill Williams live up to the hype?

NC: For sure, I can't wait to see him play. He's an outstanding athlete, I watched him fight last week. I'm never one that's been interested in rugby but I'm watching it when he was playing. That's what he does, people want to see him play. He's going to bring a lot to our game. People might say this and that about Sonny Bill but he can certainly draw a crowd … It would be great to have Sonny Bill playing in the World Cup for New Zealand.

LP: I'm not sure what level of Japanese rugby he's coming in from. He's coming in without a pre-season and that might tell later when he's getting a few whacks, he may get a few injuries. Like everyone else, I'm interested to see how he goes and if he can come back to the level he was at. There's no reason why he can't, he looks after himself well and the Roosters will improve, so that will help him.

MC: Yes, he's going to be fantastic for the game. Hopefully he will stay long term and he will be an absolute standout for the Roosters this year.

5. Is David Smith the right man to take the NRL forward?

NC: He's obviously very experienced in what he's done and held some high positions. Like anything, you need to wait and see how he goes. Ask David Gallop, it's not an easy job. There are a lot of things that will get thrown up that he will have to deal with.

LP: We haven't seen that much of him. He's come in at a tough time with all this drugs stuff going on, so only time will tell. I hope he is, that he does a great job and leads the game to greater things.

MC: It's too hard to answer. We need to see how he goes. He's been OK around the drug stuff, he's been thrust into it. But I'll reserve my decision until he goes through a whole year.

6. Has the Australia Crime Commission's report changed your perception of the NRL?

NC: No, because at the moment it's all hearsay, Until there's some hard evidence and names, nothing has been proven. Until it all comes out it will be business as usual. Rugby league has dealt with so many of these things in the past and it continues to get stronger and stronger. I can see this being any different.

LP: No, not at all. It's very vague at the moment until they name players and what they have done. I'll wait 'til then. This is a huge year for league, we've just done a huge TV deal and fans are so looking forward to the footy starting. This has put a bit of a dampener on it but hopefully the games will be of a very high standard and they sort all of that other stuff out. For me, 99 per cent of players are clean and work hard to do what they do. It's not an issue for me.

MC: Not at all. I believe the vast majority are doing the right thing.

7. Will Ricky Stuart lift the Eels into the top eight?

NC: Yes. We're going to need some luck with injury, especially with Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt retiring and Justin Poore going overseas. We've lost a fair bit of experience but based on the way the guys have been training, and having regular chats with Ricky Stuart, they're passionate and working very hard.

LP: I think they will improve, Ricky always gets the best out of his players and I'm sure they have had a very hard off-season. They will improve but I'm not sure they have the quality of player across the board to get into the finals. They still might be a couple of years off hitting their peak.

MC: I don't think they have overly built up a lot of strength in their playing roster and they will take a while to warm up to Ricky's approach.

8. Should the shoulder charge be brought back into the game?

NC: Yes. You love seeing that first big hit of the game, it's a shoulder charge. It's been a big part of the game for so long and it's a tough call to get rid of it.

LP: They should have made it that if you make a shoulder charge that contacts the head, you get a minimum of six weeks. Then you wouldn't see guys doing it. For me, watching George Rose the other night in the All Stars getting penalised for a shoulder charge doesn't sit right. No one got injured and fans like seeing that sort of contact. I appreciate they are worried about player welfare and brain damage. There are numerous ways you can get injured, it could be a swinging arm or something like that. I'd like to see it changed but we'll have to wait and see.

MC: Yes, it's been a good part of the game and if it's policed properly it is an entertaining part of the game.

9. Which is the bigger threat to western Sydney: GWS or the Wanderers?

NC: Occupying the same stadium as us, it's definitely the Wanderers. They are going great guns and a lot of our fans are going to the games and many corporate partners are getting involved as well. They are definitely a massive threat, but in saying that we've got a lot of people who are interested in being members of both clubs. It's a win-win for everyone.

LP: You would never have said that a few months ago but they are going really well. But there's not much crossover [with the league season] so it's not that much of a threat. When GWS are playing at the same time, if they become successful, they could take some fans. We should just worry about what we're doing and if our western clubs are strong and put out a good product, I'm sure the fans will follow.

MC: The Wanderers. Soccer has had really good exposure this year and a lot of kids start off with it. With Premier League teams coming out it will make a lot of kids stay in soccer rather than moving across to league.

Twitter -@proshenks

This story It's crunch time, from any point of view first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.