It feels like the longest off-season ever, given the seemingly endless string of off-field dramas endured by the NRL this summer.
But, as of Thursday night, we can start talking about tries and tackles, stars and flops again.
With the season upon us, Mercury sports editor Tim Barrow delivers his NRL predictions, believing even with the Allianz Stadium development, the Roosters can be the first team to go back-to-back since the Broncos in 1997-98 (including the Super League premiership) and 1992-93.
Check out the full club-by-club breakdown below and sign up for the Illawarra's best sports coverage online.
Squad: Jack Bird, Darius Boyd, Patrick Carrigan, Troy Dargan, George Fai, Shaun Fensom, David Fifita, Thomas Flegler, Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn, Payne Haas, Jamayne Isaako, Richard Kennar, Matthew Lodge, Patrick Mago, Andrew McCullough, Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima, Corey Oates, Joe Ofahengaue, Sean O'Sullivan, Tevita Pangai Jnr, Izaia Perese, James Roberts, Andre Savelio, Gehamat Shibasaki, Kotoni Staggs, Jaydn Su'A, Sam Tagataese.
Coach: Anthony Seibold
Last year's finish: Sixth (Elimination final)
2019 prediction: Second
Mercury says: What to make of the Anthoiny Seibold-Wayne Bennett swap? After taking Souths to a preliminary final, Seibold has created something of a Broncos revolution away from some of Bennett's old-fashioned ways. It might be just what they need to make the grand final.
Squad: Brad Abbey, John Bateman, Luke Bateman, JJ Collins, Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker, Emre Guler, Siliva Havili, Ata Hingano, Josh Hodgson, Corey Horsburgh, Royce Hunt, Sebastian Kris, Joey Leilua, Dunamis Lui, Jack Murchie, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Michael Oldfield, Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana, Aidan Sezer, Bailey Simonsson, Iosia Soliola, Ryan Sutton, Joseph Tapine, Hudson Young, Sam Williams, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton.
Coach: Ricky Stuart
Last year's finish: 10th
2019 prediction: Eighth
Mercury says: Make it 60-minute games and the Raiders would be genuine contenders on recent history. If the Raiders can close out some big games this year, they could push the top four.
Squad: Fa'amanu Brown, Jack Cogger, Christian Crichton, Adam Elliott, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Kieran Foran, Danny Fualalo, Corey Harawira-Naera, Morgan Harper, Kerrod Holland, Will Hopoate, Josh Jackson, Lachlan Lewis, Michael Lichaa, Jeremy Marshall-King, Rhyse Martin, Nick Meaney, Marcelo Montoya, Dylan Napa, Ofahiki Ogden, Jayden Okunbor, John Olive, Zac Saddler, Chris Smith, Reimis Smith, Sauaso Sue, Aiden Tolman, Renouf To’omaga, Francis Tualau, Brandon Wakeham.
Coach: Dean Pay
Last year's finish: 12th
2019 prediction: 10th
Mercury says: Plenty of experts are already handing them the spoon. Have they been paying attention? When Dean Pay released the shackles last year, the Dogs won four of their last six games. They have a forward pack to do some damage.
Squad: Aaron Gray, Aaron Woods, Bronson Xerri, Chad Townsend, Cruz Topai-Aveai, Josh Dugan, Josh Morris, Kyle Flanagan, Matt Moylan, Rusiate Lumelume, Sione Katoa, Sosaia Feki, William Kennedy, Andrew Fifita, Ava Seumanufagai, Billy Magoulias, Blayke Brailey, Braden Uele, Briton Nikora, Jack Williams, James Segeyaro, Jayden Brailey, Jayson Bukuya, Kurt Capewell, Matt Prior, Paul Gallen, Scott Sorensen, Shaun Johnson, Wade Graham.
Coach: John Morris
Last year's finish: 4th
2019 prediction: Fifth
Mercury says: A rookie coach, John Morris, swimming or sinking in the deep end after the salary cap troubles and deregistering of premiership coach Shane Flanagan. How he handles it will determine their top eight hopes.
GOLD COAST TITANS
Squad: Anthony Don, Ryan James, Nathan Peats, Kevin Proctor, Tyrone Roberts, Ashley Taylor, Jarrod Wallace, Jesse Arthars, Alexander Brimson, Brian Kelly, Brenko Lee, Bryce Cartwright, Dale Copley, Michael Gordon, Phillip Sami, Jack Stockwell, Jai Arrow, Jai Whitbread, Keegan Hipgrave, Leilani Latu, Max King, Mitch Rein, Moeaki Fotuaika, Morgan Boyle, Will Matthews, Shannon Boyd, Ryley Jacks, Treymain Spry, Tyrone Peachey.
Coach: Garth Brennan
Last year's finish: 14
2019 prediction: 14th
Mercury says: The Titans dropped seven of their last nine games last year. Just can't see a massive improvement. If this was horse racing, the comment would be the dreaded 'prefer others'.
MANLY SEA EAGLES
Squad: Addin Fonua-Blake, Daly Cherry-Evans, Albert Hopoate, Apisai Koroisau, Brendan Elliot, Cade Cust, Corey Waddell, Lloyd Perrett, Curtis Sironen, Jorge Taufua, Martin Taupau, Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker, Frank Winterstein, Jack Gosiewski, Joel Thompson, Kelepi Tanginoa, Taniela Paseka, Toafofoa Sipley, Brad Parker, Lachlan Croker, Tevita Funa, Kane Elgey, Manase Fainu, Mosese Suli, Reuben Garrick, Semisi Kioa, Trent Hodkinson.
Coach: Des Hasler
Last year's finish: 15
2019 prediction: 15th
Mercury says: Manly conceded 622 points last year, the most of any team. Des Hasler will get more out of them, but the squad is heavily reliant on the Trbojevic brothers and Cherry-Evans. Will be tracking the progress of talented Gerringong junior Reuben Garrick.
Squad: Billy Walters, Brodie Croft, Cameron Munster, Cheyse Blair, Curtis Scott, Jahrome Hughes, Josh Addo-Carr, Justin Olam, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Sandor Earl, Scott Drinkwater, Suliasi Vunivalu, Will Chambers, Brandon Smith, Cameron Smith, Christian Welch, Dale Finucane, Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich, Joe Stimson, Kenneath Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Patrick Kaufusi, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Albert Vete, Tui Kamikamica, Marion Seve, Thomas Eisenhuth.
Coach: Craig Bellamy.
Last year's finish: 2nd
2019 prediction: Fourth
Mercury says: The biggest test of Craig Bellamy's decorated coaching career. A vintage Cameron Smith season could see them scrape into the top four. They could easily slide significantly. Taking on trust.
Squad: Sione Mata'utia, Danny Levi, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Nathan Ross, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Josh King, Mitchell Barnett, Jamie Buhrer, Sam Stone, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Herman Ese'ese, Slade Griffin, Aidan Guerra, Tautau Moga, Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson, Pasami Saulo, James Gavet, Tim Glasby, Hymel Hunt, Brodie Jones, David Klemmer, Edrick Lee, Mason Lino, Kurt Mann, Jesse Ramien, Zac Woolford.
Coach: Nathan Brown
Last year's finish: 11th
2019 prediction: Seventh
Mercury says: So, so much hype around the Knights. Klemmer a great signing. And if Pearce can stay fit and Ponga firing, then look out. Might need another year to be real contenders.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Squad: Bunty Afoa, Adam Keighran, Blake Ayshford, David Fusitu'a, Solomone Kata, Sam Lisone, Issac Luke, Ken Maumalo, Nathaniel Roache, Ligi Sao, Jazz Tevaga, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Adam Blair, Agnatius Paasi, Isaiah Papalii, Leivaha Pulu, Tohu Harris, Blake Green, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Gerard Beale, Hayze Perham, Peta Hiku, Jackson Frei, Karl Lawton, Lachlan Burr, Leeson Ah Mau, Patrick Herbert, Taane Milne, Tevita Satae.
Coach: Stephen Kearney
Last year's finish: 8th
2019 prediction: 13th
Mercury says: Life is like a box of chocolates… with apologies to Tom Hanks. Without Shaun Johnson do the Warriors have what it takes to improve on an eighth-placed finish? You never know what you're going to get with the Warriors, but probably not.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Squad: John Asiata, Kurt Baptiste, Scott Bolton, Javid Bowen, Jake Clifford, Gavin Cooper, Mitchell Dunn, Kyle Feldt, Gideon Gela-Mosby , Jake Granville, Ben Hampton, Coen Hess, Peter Hola, Corey Jensen, Jordan Kahu, Nene Macdonald, Te Maire Martin, Josh McGuire, Jordan McLean, Francis Molo, Michael Morgan, Justin O'Neill, Tom Opacic, Emry Pere, Matthew Scott, Jason Taumalolo, Murray Taulagi, Enari Tuala, Shane Wright.
Coach: Paul Green
Last year's finish: 13th
2019 prediction: 12th
Mercury says: They'll need Michael Morgan's shoulders to be as broad as Johnathan Thurston's have been at times and carry them. Great forward pack, but they'll need to lay a big platform without the attacking strike to go with it.
Squad: Daniel Alvaro, Dylan Brown, Nathan Brown, Andrew Davey, Kane Evans, Blake Ferguson, Bevan French, David Gower, Clinton Gutherson, Josh Hoffman, George Jennings, Michael Jennings, Oregon Kaufusi, Shaun Lane, Greg Leleisiuao, Reed Mahoney, Tim Mannah, Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa, Mitchell Moses, Marata Niukore, Junior Paulo, Kaysa Pritchard, Jaeman Salmon, Maika Sivo, Will Smith, Ray Stone, Brad Takairangi, Peni Terepo.
Coach: Brad Arthur
Last year's finish: Last
2019 prediction: 16th
Mercury says: Not likely.
Squad: Caleb Aekins, Waka Blake, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Jed Cartwright, Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards, Wayde Egan, Kaide Ellis, James Fisher-Harris, Tyrell Fuimaono, Tim Grant, Jack Hetherington, Sione Katoa, Viliame Kikau, Moses Leota, Jarome Luai, Nick Lui-Toso, James Maloney, Josh Mansour, Liam Martin, Tyrone May, Tyrone Phillips, Paea Pua, Hame Sele, James Tamou, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare, Isaah Yeo.
Coach: Ivan Cleary
Last year's finish: Fifth (semi-final)
2019 prediction: 11th
Mercury says: What's happened off the field this summer could dictate their on-field fortunes. Even general manager Phil Gould has been rocked by the player sex tapes scandal. They were almost in a preliminary final last year, but like the Young and Restless, all too much drama for our liking.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Squad: Corey Allan, Dean Britt, Billy Brittain, George Burgess, Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Braidon Burns, Damien Cook, Cory Denniss, Kurt Dillon, Adam Doueihi, Dane Gagai, Jacob Gagan, Campbell Graham, Mawene Hiroti, Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Rhys Kennedy, Liam Knight, Ethan Lowe, Matt McIlwrick, Cameron Murray, Mark Nicholls, Adam Reynolds, Bayley Sironen, John Sutton, Tevita Tatola, Connor Tracey, Kyle Turner, Cody Walker.
Coach: Wayne Bennett
Last year's finish: Third (preliminary final)
2019 prediction: Sixth
Mercury says: Can Bennett discover some of the old magic? A premiership with the Dragons in 2010, a torrid tenure at Newcastle and a grand final in 2015 when he returned to the Broncos. They'll be in the top-four fight.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Squad: Euan Aitken, Mitchell Allgood, Jack de Belin, Matthew Dufty, Jai Field, Tyson Frizell, James Graham, Jacob Host, Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr, Tim Lafai, Jeremy Latimore, Blake Lawrie, Luciano Leilua, Zac Lomax, Lachlan Maranta, Cameron McInnes, Darren Nicholls, Corey Norman, Jonus Pearson, Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa, Reece Robson, Tristan Sailor, Korbin Sims, Tariq Sims, Lachlan Timm, Paul Vaughan, Gareth Widdop.
Coach: Paul McGregor
Premierships: 1 (St George 15 pre-joint venture)
Last year's finish: Seventh (semi-final)
2019 prediction: Third
Mercury says: Can they win the premiership? Absolutely. There should be an edge about the Dragons this year in Gareth Widdop's swansong, but he'll need to make his shift to fullback a success. We will see in the opening rounds whether the Jack de Belin court case has rattled them.
Squad: Angus Crichton, Asu Kepaoa, Bernard Lewis, Brett Morris, Brock Lamb, Cooper Cronk, Craig Garvey, Daniel Tupou, Egan Butcher, James Tedesco, Joseph Manu, Lachlan Lam, Latrell Mitchell, Luke Keary, Boyd Cordner, Isaac Liu, Jake Friend, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Joshua Curran, Lindsay Collins, Matthew Ikuvalu, Mitchell Aubusson, Nat Butcher, Poasa Faamausili, Ryan Hall, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Sitili Tupouniua, Victor Radley, Zane Tetevano.
Coach: Trent Robinson
Last year's finish: 1st (Premiers)
2019 prediction: Premiers
Mercury says: History and their home ground being redeveloped (state election pending) are the only reasons they can't go back-to-back. If Cooper Cronk can win a premiership with one arm, he can win two with two.
Squad: Josh Aloiai, Luke Brooks, Luke Garner, Michael Chee Kam, Moses Mbye, Oliver Clark, Paul Momirovski, Robbie Farah, Robert Jennings, Ryan Matterson, Samuel McIntyre, Thomas Mikaele, Chris Lawrence, Jacob Liddle, David Nofoaluma, Dylan Smith, Elijah Taylor, Alex Twal, Ben Matulino, Chris McQueen, Matthew Eisenhuth, Robbie Rochow, Russell Packer, Benji Marshall, Corey Thompson, Esan Marsters, Josh Reynolds, Mahe Fonua, Tyson Gamble.
Coach: Michael Maguire
Last year's finish: 9th
2019 prediction: Ninth
Mercury says: Michael Maguire takes charge in the fallout of Ivan Cleary's exit to Penrith. Just feel like there's not a lot of improvement in them and they'll be in the frantic race for playoffs spots in the last month of games.