A strong forward pack has never been more important in rugby league.
The competition’s elite boast a top-tier hooker and several powerhouse players ready to break down their opponent’s defence.
NRL clubs are willing to splash the cash to secure the best big men on the market.
Gun backrower David Fifita, Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo and Broncos superstar Payne Haas have all been handed multi-million dollar deals.
Meanwhile, young gun Jeremiah Nanai is set to join the million dollar club with huge offers being tabled for the 19-year-old star.
High-profile names including Viliame Kikau and Kenny Bromwich will also join their new clubs and the NRL’s newest franchise enters the fold.
Foxsports.com.au has analysed every team’s forward pack coming into the 2023 season and ranked them from first to last.
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‘The biggest soft c*** I’ve ever seen’ | 01:51
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Zane Musgrove 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Jack de Belin 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Jack Bird
Full pack: Jack Bird, Billy Burns, Jack de Belin, Tyrell Fuimaono, Jaiyden Hunt, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Andrew McCullough, Francis Molo, Michael Molo, Zane Musgrove, Jaydn Su’A, Aaron Woods, Nick Lui-Toso, Jacob Liddle, Jayden Sullivan
Ins: Zane Musgrove (Wests Tigers), Nick Lui-Toso (Northen Pride)
Outs: Jackson Ford (Warriors), George Burgess (released), Poasa Faamausili (Dolphins), Jack Gosiewski (Cowboys)
Analysis: The Dragons have lost a significant amount of depth due to the departures of Jackson Ford, George Burgess, Poasa Faamausili and Jack Gosiewski.
Following Andrew McCullough’s retirement, the Red V went about signing a hooker and were able to secure Jacob Liddle.
The 26-year-old was solid in patches for the Tigers but will be desperate to secure the No.9 jersey under Anthony Griffin, but could fight it out with young gun Jayden Sullivan.
Meanwhile, the ever-present Blake Lawrie, Jack de Belin and Jaydn Su’A will be heavily relied upon.
Francis Molo will miss the first two games of the 2022 season for an ugly clothesline tackle, giving new signing Zane Musgrove a chance to stake his claim on the prop slot from Round 1.
Gun utility Jack Bird was shifted around the team in 2022, plugging holes that arose due to injuries, but the dynamic forward will be hoping to find a consistent position next season.
The Dragons recorded the most sin bins of any team last season and also topped the league for missed tackles.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Tom Gilbert
Full pack: Euan Aitken, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, JJ Collins, Herman Ese’ese, Poasa Faamausili, Tom Gilbert, Felise Kaufusi, Connelly Lemuelu, Jeremy Marshall-King, Mark Nicholls, Ray Stone, Jarrod Wallace
Analysis: Wayne Bennett has made some savvy business decisions in his forward pack, signing experienced players across the board.
Storm trio Kenny Bromwich, Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi have a combined 684 games of NRL experience.
Throw in the mix Mark Nicholls, young gun Tom Gilbert, Euan Aitken, Ray Stone, Jarrod Wallace and the Dolphins have the makings of a solid pack.
Former Bulldog Jeremy Marshall-King had a career-best season in 2022 and scored five tries to go with four try assists.
Rising star Connelly Lemuelu also looks to be a solid NRL prospect, playing 24 games across three seasons with the Cowboys.
While Bennett is yet to secure a marquee man, his forward pack should provide his outside backs with the room to move.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Tohu Harris 11. Marata Niukore 12. Josh Curran 13. Mitch Barnett
Full pack: Bunty Afoa, Tom Ale, Mitchell Barnett, Josh Curran, Wayde Egan, Addin Fonua-Blake, Jackson Ford, Tohu Harris, Otukinekina Kepu, Valingi Kepu, Freddy Lussick, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Marata Niukore, Taniela Otukolo, Bayley Sironen, Brayden Wiliame, Dylan Walker, Jazz Tevaga
Ins: Marata Niukore (Eels), Mitchell Barnett (Knights), Jackson Ford (Dragons), Dylan Walker (Sea Eagles), Brayden Wiliame (Perpignan)
Outs: Euan Aitken (Dolphins), Eliesa Katoa (Storm), Aaron Pene (Storm), Jack Murchie (Eels)
Analysis: The Warriors have made vast improvements to their forward pack with two key signings for the 2023 season.
Marata Niukore and Mitchell Barnett will be important signings for incoming coach Andrew Webster.
Niukore will likely take a place on an edge, while Barnett can make the lock position his own as Tohu Harris played at prop for the majority of his 2022 campaign.
One of the competition’s premier front rowers, Addin Fonua-Blake, remains in the scrum with Josh Curran and Wayde Egan completing the pack.
In 2022, the Warriors conceded the most tries of any team to go with the most points and Webster will be desperate to improve New Zealand’s weak defence.
The former Panthers assistant also has a headache surrounding the make-up of his bench, with Bunty Afoa, Tom Ale, the Kepu twins, Freddy Lussick, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Taniela Otuokolo, Brayden Wiliame, and Bayley Sironen fighting it out for three spots as Dylan Walker slots into the utility role.
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What are Broncos working on for 2023? | 00:55
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Sam Verrills 10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 12. Beau Fermor 13. Erin Clark
Full pack: Jacob Alick, Tanah Boyd, Erin Clark, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Beau Fermor, David Fifita, Moeaki Fotuaika, Klese Haas, Jaimin Jolliffe, Isaac Liu, Sam McIntyre, Joe Stimson, Sam Verrills, Joseph Vuna
Ins: Sam Verrills (Roosters), Joe Stimson (Bulldogs)
Outs: Jarrod Wallace (Dolphins), Herman Ese’ese (Dolphins), Sam Lisone (released)
Analysis: The Titans struggled as a team in 2022 but have made one important signing in Roosters dummy-half Sam Verrills.
Erin Clark started the year as the club’s hooker but soon found a home at lock as Justin Holbrook swapped between ruckmen.
Verrills, 23, is already a premiership winner with 48 games under his belt and will be tasked with steering a talented pack around the ground.
David Fifita struggled for form in 2022 and Gold Coast’s success is heavily influenced by his form in the backrow.
Moeaki Fotuaika was also below his usual standards, but isn’t all doom and gloom at the Titans.
In his first season as skipper, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui showed heart and determination while Beau Fermor was awarded for an impressive year with a call-up to Billy Slater’s Maroons squad.
The Titans clearly have all the building blocks, but Holbrook’s men just need to put it together.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Alex Twal 9. Api Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Shawn Blore 13. Joe Ofahengaue
Full pack: Shawn Blore, Sione Fainu, Apisai Koroisau, Justin Matamua, Rua Ngatikaura, Joe Ofahengaue, Isaiah Papali’I, Fonua Pole, Alex Seyfarth, Tuki Simpkins, Brandon Tumeth, Alex Twal, Stefano Utoikamanu, Jake Simpkin, David Klemmer
Ins: Apisai Koroisau (Panthers), Isaiah Papali’i (Eels), David Klemmer (Knights)
Outs: Luke Garner (Panthers), Kelma Tuilagi (Sea Eagles), Zane Musgrove (Dragons), James Tamou (Cowboys), Jackson Hastings (Knights)
Analysis: Coach Tim Sheens, alongside Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, have a much improved forward pack for the 2023 season.
The Tigers have recruited one of the NRL’s elite hookers in Apisai Koroisau and gun backrower Isaiah Papali’i.
However, it remains to be seen if those two stars can spark the misfiring merger club’s pack who have been disappointing in seasons gone by.
Alex Twal is set to return at prop after suffering two concussions within three games which saw him sidelined since Round 15.
Joe Ofahengaue played lock for majority of the season and after Jackson Hastings’ departure will likely wear the No.13 jersey once again.
Meanwhile, young gun Shawn Blore, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in pre-season, could line-up in the backrow if the Tigers miss out on former Raiders gun John Bateman.
Bateman has been heavily linked to a move back to Australia, while Eels outcast Nathan Brown could also return to Leichhardt.
Add in rising stars Fonua Pole and Stefano Utoikamanu off the bench and the Tigers will likely improve in 2023.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Jacob Saifiti, 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Jack Hetherington 13. Adam Elliott
Full pack: Jayden Brailey, Mat Croker, Adam Elliott, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Tyson Frizell, Jack Hetherington, Bailey Hodgson, Brodie Jones, Jack Johns, Kurt Mann, Chris Randall, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Leo Thompson
Ins: Adam Elliott (Raiders), Jack Hetherington (Bulldogs)
Outs: Mitchell Barnett (Warriors), Jirah Momoisea (Eels), Sauaso Sue (Hull KR), Pasami Saulo (Raiders), David Klemmer (Wests Tigers)
Analysis: The Knights have made two impressive signings to compliment what was already a solid pack.
Once again in 2022, a strong Newcastle pack on paper failed to deliver and give their outside backs the space they desperately need.
The Saifiti twins, Tyson Frizell and Jayden Brailey will be joined by Adam Elliott and Jack Hetherington – who will both likely start.
Elliott enjoyed a career-best season under Ricky Stuart at the Raiders, and the Canberra club were desperate to keep him.
Meanwhile, Hetherington suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in March but is one of the NRL’s most imposing defenders.
Brailey’s experience was also sorely missed for half the season, but with their gun hooker healthy from Round 1, expect Adam O’Brien’s side to improve.
However, the loss of experienced front-rower David Klemmer could leave a hole in the middle of the park and O’Brien will look to Mat Croker or Leo Thompson to take up his workload.
Walsh fighting for Broncos fullback role | 01:12
11. SEA EAGLES
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Sean Keppie 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Josh Aloiai 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Jake Trbojevic
Full pack: Josh Aloiai, Ethan Bullemor, Ben Condon, Viliame Fifita, Sean Keppie, Karl Lawton, Lachlan Croker, Haumola Olakau’atu, Taniela Paseka, Josh Schuster, Toafofoa Sipley, Ben Trbojevic, Jake Trbojevic, Kelma Tuilagi, Alec Tu’itavake, Morgan Boyle, Zac Fulton, Nathaniel Roache
Ins: Kelma Tuilagi (Wests Tigers), Ben Condon (Cowboys), Nathaniel Roache (Eels)
Outs: Martin Taupau (unsigned), Andrew Davey (unsigned), Dylan Walker (Warriors)
Analysis: The Sea Eagles forward pack will be mentored by a new coach this season after Anthony Seibold was hired following Des Hasler’s sacking.
Manly’s pack fell victim to a late-season slide following the pride jersey saga and key players were out of form and struggling including Josh Aloiai and Haumole Olakau’atu.
But in 2023 the Sea Eagles pack will be desperate to start fresh and two new faces are set to make their debut – Kelma Tuilagi and Ben Condon.
Tuilagi is a straight replacement for Andrew Davey on the left edge, while Condon will likely take Marty Taupau’s bench spot, who remains unsigned.
Lachlan Croker will only improve after a career-best season, winning the club’s Player of the Year award in 2022.
Meanwhile, club stalwart Jake Trbojevic will also remain at lock alongside Olakau’atu and Aloiai who will be desperate to fire.
In positive signs, Manly had the least missed tackles of any team in 2023 and will be hoping to continue that trend.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Luke Thompson 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Tevita Pangai-Junior 13. Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Full pack: Andrew Davey, Brandon Clarke, Franklin Pele, Jackson Topine, Jacob Preston, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Max King, Tevita Pangai Junior, Chris Patolo, Luke Thompson, Corey Waddell, Viliame Kikau, Reed Mahoney, Ryan Sutton
Ins: Viliame Kikau (Panthers), Reed Mahoney (Eels), Ryan Sutton (Raiders), Franklin Pele (Sharks), Andrew Davey (Sea Eagles)
Outs: Jack Hetherington (Knights), Jeremy Marshall-King (Dolphins), Paul Vaughan (Warrington), Joe Stimson (Titans), Josh Jackson (retired), Ava Seumanufagai (released)
Analysis: The Bulldogs forward pack was already solid, but Phil Gould has added two huge players in Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney.
While Jeremy Marshall-King was arguably Canterbury’s best player in 2022, Mahoney is one of the NRL’s elite dummy-halves and is an impressive signing.
Kikau is also among the best backrowers in the NRL and he will provide a focal point for gun half Matt Burton.
The 27-year-old’s ball running and defensive skills will be sorely missed by the Panthers, but incoming coach Cameron Ciraldo already knows how to get the best out of him.
Veteran lock Josh Jackson’s retirement also opens the door for Raymond Faitala-Mariner to make the No.13 jersey his own.
Last season’s marquee recruit Tevita Pangai Junior struggled in his first season at the Dogs and was even dropped to NSW Cup late in the year.
But the 26-year-old has made a huge promise to Ciraldo and even skipped the World Cup to focus on pre-season.
Gould has also added backrower Andrew Davey and steam-rolling prop Franklin Pele to the Bulldogs’ pack — and both could be integral players off the bench for Ciraldo.
Crichton BINNED after stiff forearm | 00:41
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Toby Rudolph 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Royce Hunt 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Dale Finucane
Full pack: Blayke Brailey, Jesse Colquhoun, Dale Finucane, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Tom Hazelton, Royce Hunt, Oregon Kaufusi, Cameron McInnes, Briton Nikora, Toby Rudolf, Siosifa Talakai, Jack Williams, Teig Wilton, Jayden Berrell, Wade Graham
Ins: Oregon Kaufusi (Eels)
Analysis: Cronulla’s forward pack remains largely the same, with one big change coming in the form of Eels recruit Oregon Kaufusi.
The 23-year-old will likely ply his trade off the bench and the front rower will benefit from playing alongside Dale Finucane and Toby Rudolph.
Craig Fitzgibbon’s forward pack will once again be led by gun hooker Blayke Brailey, who was impressive in 2022.
The 24-year-old is one of the Sharks most important players and has continually improved in his four seasons in the NRL.
Meanwhile, Briton Nikora’s devastating running game will once again be showcased off the back of Nicho Hynes after a solid campaign for the Kiwis at the World Cup.
With Braden Hamlin-Uele, Cameron McInnes, Teig Wilton and Jack Williams at his disposal, Fitzgibbon once again has a strong pack.
Cronulla conceded the third least points in 2022 and allowed their opponents to cross for the second least amount of tries, being bestedonly by the solid Panthers defensive line.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Jack Murchie 13. J’maine Hopgood
Full pack: Nathan Brown, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Bryce Cartwright, Wiremu Greig, Josh Hodgson, J’maine Hopgood, Shaun Lane, Makahesi Makatoa, Ryan Matterson, Jirah Momoisea, Jack Murchie, Ofahiki Ogden, Junior Paulo, Mitch Rein, Ky Rodwell, Matt Doorey
Ins: Josh Hodgson (Raiders), J’maine Hopgood (Panthers), Jirah Momoisea (Knights), Jack Murchie (Warriors), Matt Doorey (Bulldogs)
Outs: Marata Niukore (Warriors), Isaiah Papali’i (Wests Tigers), Oregon Kaufusi (Sharks), Reed Mahoney (Bulldogs), Ray Stone (Dolphins)
Analysis: Brad Arthur has a completely new-look pack at his disposal for the 2023 season, following five key players leaving the club.
Niukore, Papali’I, Kaufusi, Mahoney and Stone have all left the Eels and Parramatta powerbrokers have done their best to replace them.
Highly-rated Panthers young gun J’maine Hopgood makes the cross-town switch fresh off a premiership in NSW Cup, being awarded NSW Cup Player of the Year.
Former Warrior Jack Murchie joins after a patchy start to his NRL career, while 24-year-old Jirah Momoisea played only eight games for the Knights over the last two seasons.
But Arthur’s marquee recruit is clearly Josh Hodgson, who boasts 138 games of NRL experience and will replace Reed Mahoney.
The 33-year-old is set to be a strong voice in the Eels pack this season and could be a hit in Parramatta.
The front row pairing of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard remains, while Shaun Lane and Ryan Matterson will also star.
Matterson will miss the first three games of the 2023 season for a grand final crusher tackle, likely giving J’maine Hopgood a chance to shine in the No.13 jersey.
Depth is the major issue for the Eels and Arthur will be relying on a number of young forwards to stand tall next season.
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Tamou returns to Cowboys after 7-years | 01:04
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 9. Harry Grant 10. Christian Welch 11. Tui Kamikamica 12. Eliesa Katoa 13. Josh King
Full pack: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Joe Chan, Tom Eisenhuth, Harry Grant, Jordan Grant, Jack Howarth, Tui Kamikamica, Eliesa Katoa, Josh King, Trent Loiero, Alec MacDonald, Tepai Moeroa, Tariq Sims, Aaron Pene, Christian Welch, Tyran Wishart, Jack Howarth
Ins: Eliesa Katoa (Warriors), Tariq Sims (Dragons), Joe Chan (Catalans), Aaron Pene (Warriors)
Outs: Felise Kaufusi (Dolphins), Brandon Smith (Roosters), Jesse Bromwich (Dolphins), Kenny Bromwich (Dolphins)
Analysis: The Storm forward pack has been the victim of a mass exodus ahead of the 2023 season which has impacted Melbourne’s depth.
Veterans Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich alongside Brandon Smith have played a collective 791 NRL games and their experience will be sorely missed.
Christian Welch’s return is a timely boost for Craig Bellamy following an ACL rupture suffered in March.
Meanwhile, the Storm have signed Dragons veteran Tariq Sims to fill the void alongside Eliesa Katoa, Aaron Pene and Joe Chan, the son of Alex Chan who played 32 games for Melbourne in 2004 and 2005.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Tui Kamikamica and Josh King remain ominous forces while Harry Grant is one of the competition’s premier dummy-halves.
While Melbourne’s pack has been weakened, they will still be going toe-to-toe with the best in the NRL.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Luke Garner 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo
Full pack: Eddie Blacker, James Fisher-Harris, Luke Garner, Zac Hosking, Thomas Jenkins, Mitch Kenny, Spencer Leniu, Moses Leota, Soni Luke, Liam Martin, Tyrone Peachey, Lindsay Smith, Chris Smith, Scott Sorensen, Izack Tago, Isaah Yeo, Matt Eisenhuth
Ins: Luke Garner (Wests Tigers), Tyrone Peachey (Wests Tigers), Zac Hosking (Broncos)
Outs: Api Koroisau (Wests Tigers), Viliame Kikau (Bulldogs), J’maine Hopgood (Eels)
Analysis: The Panthers have lost some key figures for the 2023 season in Apisai Koroisau and Viliame Kikau.
Koroisau was an integral player for Ivan Cleary’s side and Mitch Kenny and Soni Luke have been tasked with filling his big shoes.
Meanwhile, Kikau won Dally M backrower of the Year and his contribution on the attacking end will be sorely missed.
The Panthers have signed Luke Garner and Zac Hosking as his replacement, with the pair set to fight it out for the starting spot.
Cleary handed Garner his first grade debut at the Tigers in 2018, while Hosking has only played four first grade games in his NRL career thus far.
The representative duo of Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris remain in the front row alongside arguably the competition’s best lock, Isaah Yeo.
Tyrone Peachey also returns to the foot of the mountain and will fight for a spot on the bench to add to his 109 appearances for the Panthers.
While Penrith have lost some troops, doubt them at your own peril as the mountain men look to win three premierships in a row.
Terrific Tedesco torches Samoa | 01:00
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Pat Carrigan
Full pack: Kurt Capewell, Patrick Carrigan, Thomas Flegler, Payne Haas, Kobe Hetherington, Corey Jensen, Cory Paix, Keenan Palasia, Brendan Piakura, Jordan Riki, TC Robati, Billy Walters, Xavier Willison, Blake Mozer, Logan Bayliss
Outs: Ryan James (retired), Jake Turpin (Roosters), Zac Hosking (Panthers)
Analysis: In 2022, the raw and talented youngsters who struggled in years gone by were able to deliver.
Despite the Broncos ugly end-of-season fade, Kevin Walters’ forward pack clearly improved on their 2021 campaign and were able to match it with the best.
Patrick Carrigan had a career-best season and was awarded the Wally Lewis medal for the Player of the Series in Queensland’s Origin victory.
Payne Haas won Dally M Prop of the Year, while Kurt Capewell and Thomas Flegler were consistent performers.
Kobe Hetherington made his mark off the bench and is one for the future, while the combination of Cory Paix and Billy Walters at dummy-half provided Adam Reynolds with the space needed to steer the ship.
Despite a solid season, the Broncos defence remains an issue, sitting fourth for most missed tackles and first for total offloads conceded.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Josh Papalii 9. Tom Starling 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Harawira-Naera
Full pack: Emre Guler, Corey Harawira-Naera, Peter Hola, Corey Horsburgh, Ata Mariota, Trey Mooney, Josh Papalii, Pasami Saulo, Tom Starling, Joseph Tapine, Adrian Trevilyan, Clay Webb, Elliott Whitehead, Zac Woolford, Hudson Young, Matthew Frawley
Ins: Pasami Saulo (Knights)
Outs: Josh Hodgson (Eels), Adam Elliott (Knights), Ryan Sutton (Bulldogs)
Analysis: Ricky Stuart’s forward pack peaked late in the season and two players stamped their mark on the competition – Joseph Tapine and Hudson Young.
Tapine earned a huge payday, signing a four-year $3.4 million extension.
The 28-year-old won Dally M Prop of the Year and led the Canberra side forward week-in week-out, before being one of Michael Maguire’s most important players during New Zealand’s World Cup campaign.
Meanwhile, Hudson Young was so impressive many pundits called for the 24-year-old backrower to earn a Kangaroos call-up.
Add in Maroons veteran Josh Papalii, experienced edge forward Elliott Whitehead and the hard-running Corey Harawira-Naera and the Raiders are looking lethal ahead of the 2023 season.
Cleary expects more from himself | 03:40
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray
Full pack: Jai Arrow, Thomas Burgess, Jed Cartwright, Michael Chee Kam, Damien Cook, Siliva Havili, Jacob Host, Liam Knight, Keaon Koloamatangi, Peter Mamouzelos, Shaquai Mitchell, Davvy Moale, Cameron Murray, Hame Sele, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Tevita Tatola, Ben Lovett
Outs: Mark Nicholls (Dolphins)
Analysis: Tevita Tatola emerged as one of the competition’s best props in 2022 and became an ever-present force in the middle for the Rabbitohs.
Souths’ forward pack is one of the most consistent in the competition and boasts State of Origin regulars Cameron Murray, Jai Arrow and Damien Cook.
Meanwhile, Keaon Koloamatangi stamped his claim among the NRL’s best attacking backrower and scored seven tries to go with 53 tackle breaks and seven line breaks.
Thomas Burgess is an impressive bench option alongside Daniel Suluka-Fifita, while Siliva Havili’s utility value cannot be understated, providing the perfect foil to Cook’s running game.
Jason Demetriou’s rookie campaign was a success, being one game away from a grand final appearance, and with this forward pack, Souths will be hoping to go all the way next year.
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The Rock’s inspiring message for Samoa | 04:11
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Nat Butcher 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Victor Radley
Full pack: Renouf Atoni, Fletcher Baker, Egan Butcher, Nat Butcher, Lindsay Collins, Angus Crichton, Terrell May, Victor Radley, Brandon Smith, Sitili Tupouniua, Jake Turpin, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Connor Watson, Naufahu Whyte, Drew Hutchison, Joshua Wong, Matt Lodge (train-and-trial)
Ins: Brandon Smith (Storm), Jake Turpin (Broncos)
Outs: Siosiua Taukeiaho (Catalans Dragons), Daniel Suluka-Fifita (Rabbitohs), Sam Verrills (Titans)
Analysis: With Brandon Smith’s arrival, the Roosters forward pack becomes even more stacked, despite Sam Verrills departing for the Titans.
The Tricolours have also signed Jake Turpin for extra cover at dummy-half, while front row enforcer Matt Lodge is yet to be re-signed to remain in Bondi.
The former Warriors and Broncos big man has been retained on a train-and-trial deal as salary cap for the 2023 season is yet to be finalised.
Coach Trent Robinson has an impressive starting pack which includes a full representative front row of Lindsay Collins and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, to go with Angus Crichton and English international Victor Radley.
Crichton will be missing for Round 1 after he was hit with a suspension during the World Cup final.
Meanwhile, Sitili Tupouniua is set to return from an ACL injury suffered in July, shifting Nat Butcher back to the bench come Round 2.
Butcher, alongside his brother Egan and Fletcher Baker are set to stamp their mark this season off the bench.
Injuries have plagued the Roosters over the last two seasons, and the Tricolours will be desperate to keep their starting forward pack fit in 2023.
Round 1 predicted starting pack: 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Heilum Luki 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo
Full pack: Reuben Cotter, Mitchell Dunn, Jack Gosiewski, Jake Granville, Coen Hess, Luciano Leilua, Heilum Luki, Jordan McLean, Jeremiah Nanai, Griffin Neame, Reece Robson, James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Jake Granville, Mitch Dunn, Riley Price
Ins: Jack Gosiewski (Dragons), James Tamou (Wests Tigers)
Outs: Connelly Lemuelu (Dolphins), Tom Gilbert (Dolphins), Ben Condon (Sea Eagles)
Analysis: The Cowboys were the surprise package of the 2022 season and their forward pack was one of the most damaging in the NRL.
Veteran lock Jason Taumalolo clearly had a point to prove and was a consistent figure for coach Todd Payten, returning to his brutal best.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah Nanai, Heilum Luki, Reece Robson and Reuben Cotter all emerged from the shadows to become some of the best players in their respective positions.
Nanai, at only 19, won the Dally M Rookie of the Year and scored a staggering 17 tries.
Robson, alongside veteran prop Jordan McLean, both earned call-ups into the Blues squad and the veteran prop came desperately close to making his debut before a hamstring injury struck him down.
Cotter was also a mainstay in Billy Slater’s winning Maroons team and made his Test debut at the World Cup, lifting the trophy under Mal Meninga.
Add veteran prop James Tamou and Dragons utility Jack Gosiewski into the mix, and Payten’s forward pack is looking scary.
The Cowboys also sat third for total running metres in 2022 while also conceding the fourth least running metres.
Mal talks fairytale Old Trafford final | 04:17