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Coach: Shaun McRae.

Many of Gateshead's names mean little in this country, but this is a thoroughly well-constructed squad. The veteran Kerrod Walters and up-and- coming scrum-half Willie Peters are key men; if they produce the goods, the Thunder could make the top five.

In: A hand-picked and largely Australian squad in which the leading names are: Deon Bird (Adelaide), Brian Carney (Dublin Blues), Steve Collins (Featherstone), Matt Daylight (Adelaide), Luke Felsch (St George), Brett Green (Brisbane), Tony Grimaldi (Canterbury), Ian Herron (Parramatta), Andrew Hick (Adelaide), Danny Lee (Cronulla), Adam Maher (Rochdale), David Maiden (Cairns), Willie Peters (South Sydney), Will Robinson (Illawarra), Ben Sammut (Cronulla), Craig Simon (Illawarra), Kerrod Walters (Adelaide), Craig Wilson (Illawarra).

Prediction: 5th.


Coach: Ellery Hanley (new).

Last season: 4th.

Even after three years with Shaun McRae, freewheeling Saints meeting Mr Thorough - in the shape of new coach Ellery Hanley - represents a clash of cultures. They might be neither as bad nor as good as their fluctuations have made them in the past, but just a lot more consistent.

In: Phil Adamson (Penrith), Kevin Iro (Auckland), Fereti Tuilagi (Halifax).

Out: Brett Goldspink (Wigan), Karle Hammond (London), Ian Pickavance (Huddersfield), Damien Smith (released).

Prediction: 4th.


Coach: Andy Kelly.

Last season: 1st (First Div).

Wakefield Trinity have at least recognised the need to rebuild even if they are to be competitive. They have signed better players, but might be a worse team in the short run. Even in the longer term and with a bright young coach at the helm, it looks an uphill struggle.

In: A virtual new team, including: Adrian Brunker (St George), Kevin Crouthers (Bradford), Andy Hogson (Bradford), Tony Kemp (Leeds), Willie Poching (Hunslet), Ian Talbot (Wigan), Glen Tomlinson (Hull).

Out: Last year's team.

Prediction: 14th.


Coach: John Pendlebury.

Last season: 3rd.

The surprising success of Halifax last season was built on fantastic team spirit, but the departure of the man who typified that, Karl Harrison, was atrociously handled. Even if Gavin Clinch plays just as well as last year, it is hard to imagine them doing it again, but it was hard to imagine it last time as well.

In: Paul Broadbent (Sheffield), Andy Craig (Swinton), Graham Holroyd (Leeds), Nick Pinkney (Sheffield), Craig Randall (Salford).

Out: Simon Baldwin (Sheffield), John Bentley (Huddersfield), Craig Dean (Leigh), Karl Harrison (Hull), Daio Powell (Sheffield), Fereti Tuilagi (St Helens).

Prediction: 8th.


Coach: Matthew Elliott.

Last season: 5th.

After their major disappointment of last season, when they became predictable and all too beatable, Bradford have gone for the high risk strategy of pairing up the Paul brothers in the most naturally gifted midfield in the game. How well it works is the most intriguing question of the season.

Major incomings: David Boyle (Canberra), Scott Naylor (Salford), Henry Paul (Wigan), Lee Radford (Hull), Michael Withers (Balmain), Nick Zisti (Cronulla).

Major outgoings: Graeme Bradley (retired), Matt Calland (Hull), Abi Ekoku (retired), Nathan Graham (Dewsbury), Simon Knox (Workington), Paul Medley (Dewsbury), Tahi Reihana (released).

Prediction: 3rd.


Coach: Darryl Van de Velde.

Last season: 10th.

A couple of quality signings and the galvanising off-field presence of new chief executive, Peter Deakin, promise an interesting season at Warrington. There will be an improvement, but don't expect it to be too dramatic in the first season of the new regime.

In: Simon Gillies (Canterbury), Alan Hunte (Hull), Dean Hanger (Huddersfield).

Out: Adam Doyle (released), Mike Eagar (Castleford), Brendon Tuuta (Featherstone).

Prediction: 9th.


Coach: Stuart Raper.

Last season: 6th.

Cas finished strongly last season and if their newcomers, notably James Pickering and Aaron Raper, stay healthy they could improve on last season's position and make the play-offs. Danny Orr should continue to develop into a top-class stand-off, but they may finally lack the depth.

In: Michael Eagar (Warrington), Dale Fritz (North Queensland), James Pickering (Sydney City), Aaron Raper (Parramatta), Darren Rogers (Salford).

Out: David Chapman (released), Jason Critchley (Widnes), Mike Ford (Bramley), Richard McKell (released), Barrie-Jon Mather (Sale RU), Richard Russell (Bramley), Andrew Schick (Keighley), Michael Smith (Hull).

Prediction: 7th.


Coach: Malcolm Reilly (new).

Last season: 12th and last.

The most significant change is the arrival of Reilly, who will give them the determination they sometimes lacked last year. The word is that Bobbie Goulding is responding well and a fit Nigel Wright would be a huge bonus.

In: John Bentley (Halifax), David Boughton (Adelaide), Jim Lehihan (St George), Ian Pickavance (St Helens), Andrew Tangata-Toa (St George), Nigel Wright (Wigan).

Out: Adrian Belle (Oldham), Jamie Field (Leeds), Dean Hanger (Warrington), Chris Orr (released), Jeff Wittenberg (released).

Prediction: 12th.


Coach: Peter Walsh.

Last season: 9th.

Things just don't seem right at The Boulevard, with some dismal pre-season form already ringing alarm bells. Under the circumstances, the last thing they need is the opening night spotlight at a smarting Wigan. A humiliating defeat could see panic buttons pressed.

In: Steve Barrow (Wigan), Matt Calland (Bradford), Karl Harrison (Halifax), Stephen Holgate (Wigan), Andrew Purcell (Illawarra), Robert Roberts (Keighley).

Out: Brad Hepi (released), Alan Hunte (Warrington), Mark Johnson (Salford), Hitro Okesene (Featherstone), Lee Radford (Bradford), David Stephenson (Rochdale), Jason Temu (Newcastle), Glen Tomlinson (Wakefield),

Prediction: 13th.


Coach: John Monie.

Last season: 1st.

Wigan have already paid the penalty in the Challenge Cup for going into the season with a squad that looks a little thin in crucial areas. They still have more genuinely world-class players than anyone, but there might be rivals on the block with more depth and more hunger this time.

In: Greg Florimo (N Sydney), Brett Goldspink (St Helens), Mark Reber (N Sydney).

Out: Steve Barrow (Hull), Mark Bell (retired), Stephen Holgate (Hull), Robbie McCormack (retired), Henry Paul (Bradford), Nigel Wright (Huddersfield).

Prediction: 2nd.


Coach: Graham Murray.

Last season: 2nd.

So close in 1998, this really should be Leeds' year. They have been the quietest of clubs on the transfer market, but have strengthened judiciously. They also have the best crop of young players in the country, several of whom will make their mark this year. The only real question is whether the impending departure of Murray will affect them, but the early signs are that it won't.

In: Jamie Field (Huddersfield), Lee Jackson (Newcastle), Karl Pratt (Featherstone).

Out: Graham Holroyd (Halifax).

Prediction: 1st.


Coach: Dan Stains (new).

Last season: 7th.

There's a lower key, more businesslike approach at the Broncos this season that could well see them make a more convincing stab at the top five. Look for a big season from new captain Shaun Edwards in a novelty, all- Pom half-back combination with Karle Hammond.

In: Darren Bradstreet (Illawarra), Dean Calloway (Illawarra), Greg Fleming (Canterbury), Karle Hammond (St Helens), Robbie Simpson (St George), Brett Warton (Wests).

Out: Mark Carroll (South Sydney), Damien Chapman, Wes Cotton, Luke Goodwin (all released), Iain Higgins (Hunslet), Nick Mardon (released), Terry Matterson (retired), Matt Salter (West Hartlepool RU).

Prediction: 6th.


Coach: Andy Gregory.

Last season: 11th.

A sweeping clear-out has given Salford a new look and there is undoubtedly a more positive mood about the place. The question is whether Andy Gregory can keep a steady hand on the tiller if they have a bad run.

In: Neil Baynes (Wigan), Darren Brown (Penrith), Paul Carige (Parramatta), Garen Casey (Wakefield), Craig Makin (Widnes), Hudson Smith (Balmain), Bobby Thompson (Penrith).

Out: Cliff Eccles (Swinton), Peter Edwards (York), Paul Forber (Workington), Scott Naylor (Bradford), Andy Platt (Workington), Craig Randall (Halifax), Darren Rogers (Castleford), Lokeni Savelio (Widnes), Josh White (released).

Prediction: 10th


Coach: John Kear.

Last season: 8th.

There's a suspicion that Sheffield still haven't got last year's Wembley triumph out of their system and they could miss Paul Broadbent and Paul Carr more than they expect. The prospect of Kear becoming Leeds' next coach could also prove unsettling.

In: Simon Baldwin (Halifax), Jeff Hardy (St George), Karl Lovell (Parramatta), Martin Pearson (Halifax), Daio Powell (Halifax).

Out: Paul Broadbent (Halifax), Paul Carr (retired), Willie Morganson (released), Nick Pinkney (Halifax), Lynton Stott (Wakefield), Whetu Taewa (Hull KR), Martin Wood (Keighley).

Prediction: 11th.