Two of the competition heavyweights will kick the season off Thursday night when the defending premiers the Cronulla Sharks take on the Brisbane Broncos at home at South Cross Group Stadium.
We take a look at 6 players that (3 from each side) that could shape the outcome to the game.
How he reacts to his Kangaroo and Churchill Medal snubbing could set the tone for the Sharks season. The Broncos need to stop one of the most damaging forwards in the game if they have any chance of winning in round 1
Maloney kicking game and his ability to break the line could be the difference between the two sides. It will be hard for Maloney to back up his unbelievable debut season at the Sharks, which saw him win a Grand Final, followed up by selection in the Kangaroo squad for the Four Nations Tour of the UK. But, he will get his chance against the Broncos Thursday night.
With Valentine Homes injured and Ben Barba no longer at the club, Beale is Coach Shane Flanagan replacement for the No.1 jersey. Beale impressed in the Sharks World Cup Challenge match against the Wigan Warriors, where he proved he was solid in defence and reliable under the high ball. Now he needs to stand up against the constant attack from Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt and will need all the help he can get from his team mates.
The New Captain of the Brisbane Broncos will need to lead from the front if they have any chance of pulling of a victory against the defending premiers. Boyd will need to be at his brilliant best both in attack and defence. This needs to be a big game for Boyd to help kick the Brisbane Broncos season in the right direction.
All eyes will be on how Ben Hunt responds in what will be his final season at the Broncos. After signing his multi-million dollar contract to join the Dragons in 2018, Wayne Bennett will be hoping he can start his final season at the club with a victory against the Sharks. Hunts kicking game needs to be on point if they want to crack the Sharks solid defence.
The shock selection on Tuesdays team announcement and could be the X-factor for Thursday nights game. The man once touted as the next Israel Folau, has been crippled with injury with 3 knee injuries. But, now he is back and ready to go. He is big, strong and fast and could very well trouble the Cronulla sharks on the edge as he teams up with Corey Oates. Definitely not a player the Sharks should take lightly.