Take heart rugby fans.

The seemingly interminable period of time betwixt when the Cronulla Sharks won the 2016 premiership and when the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership gets underway is ticking down to an early February start up.

That is when the pre-season fixtures will get underway and provide some inkling of what the various shifts and machinations of the 16 clubs will be revealed.

At this juncture, before one player has been bagged, or the banana benders can make their condescending presence known, the bookies are tipping the Brisbane Broncos, Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys as tri-favourites to take the premiership, at $8 in the view of Sportsbet.

The Sharks are one spot back at $9. Repeating is not easy. It has not been done since the 1998 debut of the NRL as it operates today. Apparently, the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers have just as good a chance.

Next, come the Sydney Warriors and the New Zealand Roosters at $13.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are alone at $15, followed by at jam at $17 that includes the Manly Sea Eagles, West Coast Titans, Parramatta Eels and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

Wests Tigers are not totally beyond hope at $29, but the St. George Illawarra Dragons at $81 and the Newcastle Knights at $201 will have to pin their hopes on unlikely collapses if they are to move up the ladder at all, let alone contend for a spot in the finals.