Burning questions: NRL's hot topics discussed
BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett will be in the spotlight when the Broncos take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL season opener on Thursday night.
Bennett is widely regarded as one of the game's great coaches but the Bronocs have endured a premiership drought extending beyond a decade and Bennett's methods and tactics are coming under increased scrutiny.
His performance this season is among the burning questions posed by Michael Carayannis and Phil Dillon as we count down to the start of the season.
Will Bennett live up to billing?
It's been 12 years since the last Brisbane Broncos premiership and fans are getting a bit restless, especially after the Cowboys won their first NRL title in 2015.
The Broncos have flattered to deceive over the past couple of years since just losing out to their northern neighbours but now is the time for Wayne Bennett to live up to his super-coach billing and deliver.
While he's lost Ben Hunt to the Dragons, Bennett has gone out on a limb to sign the controversial Matt Lodge. Will it backfire?
Can Cowboys live up to the hype?
They made it to the 2017 grand final without Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
With that veteran pair back, the addition of Jordan McLean from the Melbourne Storm to their roster and the continued rise of Jason Taumalolo into superstardom, the Cowboys are deserved premiership favourites.
Now it's just a matter of getting the job done.
Is Hayne Plane a drain?
Jarryd Hayne is back where he belongs at the Eels - and he returns having run out of all excuses.
His stint at the Gold Coast was turbulent at best and he looked miles off the player who set the competition alight with two Dally M medals.
Hayne, 30, is no longer the marquee man at the Eels and has taken a pay cut to rejoin the club where it all began.
Having only inked a one-year deal, Hayne will have a point to prove to show that he is not a spent force.
Is this the final countdown?
There are a host of players who could call it quits at the end of this season. The likes of Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston and Paul Gallen could make 2018 their final season.
While Cameron Smith shows no signs of slowing down, he, too, is in the twilight of a decorated career.
Others, including Sam Thaiday, Luke Lewis, Robbie Farah and Ryan Hoffman are also in the final year of their contracts after long stints in the top grade.
Does new Bulldog have old tricks?
Plagued by injuries and a raft of off-field issues, 27-year-old Kieran Foran has been a shadow of the player who led Manly to glory in 2011 on his way to becoming the game's most potent five-eighth.
Two less-than-stellar seasons with the Eels and the Warriors have made Canterbury fans nervous, given the $1million price tag he joins the club with.
Much of the Bulldogs' finals hopes will rest on Foran's expensive shoulders.
Can Knights finally avoid the spoon?
Newcastle fans have been patient with their side despite enduring three consecutive wooden spoons, and that includes in the dire 2016 season, when they won just once.
The Knights may have increased their number of match wins to five last year but they need to at least double that to push for a finals spot this year.
They have recruited better than anyone else, adding the likes of Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Aidan Guerra and Tautau Moga.