- Round 1 Experts’ Tips
Eels v Storm
Thursday, 8pm, CommBank Stadium
The Storm have an unbelievable record in round one, but they are missing some serious troops, and Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown should be good enough to get the win at home for Parramatta. Both teams have a shocking number of injuries. The Storm basically had half their forward pack snapped up by Wayne Bennett, while Ryan Papenhuyzen will not be sighted until at least the second half of the year. For all the Eels’ war wounds, at least their key players have remained on the park, and even featured in the trials.
Eels by 4
Warriors v Knights
Friday, 6pm, Sky Stadium (Wellington)
All eyes on Newcastle and million-dollar man Kalyn Ponga as he steps out in the halves for the first time since March 2019. Plain and simple, Ponga is key to the Knights’ fortunes and Adam O’Brien seeing out the season. Jackson Hasting’s arrival will undoubtedly help, but it will take time. So too Lachlan Miller at the back, while David Klemmer’s absence has been underestimated over the summer. The Warriors have had plenty of upheaval too and the usual new-coach optimism has been in strong supply with Andrew Webster now at the helm. Te Maire Martin has looked sound in the halves while Tohu Harris and Addin Fonua-Blake are still among the strongest middle forwards in the game.
Warriors by 6
Panthers v Broncos
Friday, 8.05pm, BlueBet Stadium
They’ve done it once, then twice, but is it really possible for the Panthers to win three straight titles? Ivan Cleary’s men will start their premiership defence without Api Koroisau, Viliame Kikau and assistant coaches Cameron Ciraldo and Andrew Webster against the Broncos at the foot of the mountains. Penrith suffered a shock World Club Challenge loss to St Helens and have already resigned themselves to Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu leaving at the end of this year, but expect them to have too much for Kevin Walters’ Broncos, who will be desperate to atone for last year’s late-season collapse that cost them a finals berth.
Panthers by 13
Key man … Daly Cherry-EvansCredit:Getty Images
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
Saturday, 4pm, 4 Pines Park
Plenty of interest in this one with new coaches Anthony Seibold and Cameron Ciraldo in the hot seat for Manly and Canterbury. The Sea Eagles have looked good in the trials, played with plenty of speed and were not afraid to throw the ball around. Tom Trbojevic is a huge in, as is the return of Daly Cherry-Evans, after both were not sighted in the trials. There were whispers Kaeo Weekes could start at five-eighth, but watch for him try to cut up tiring Dogs defenders up the middle when injected off the bench. Ciraldo will have the Dogs aim up in defence, but so many new faces will take time to gel.
Sea Eagles by 10
Cowboys v Raiders
Saturday, 5.30pm, QCB Stadium
Sneaky-good game this with both teams finishing 2022 in compelling fashion. Canberra’s trial form was anything but, but it’s also trial form. Any team with Josh Papalii, Joe Tapine and Jack Wighton should give as good as it gets, though the Raiders aren’t the fastest starters in the NRL. The Cowboys have had one of the most settled pre-seasons in the game and aside from Luciano Leilua (no-fault stand down policy) and fellow back-rowers Heilum Luki and Mitch Dunn, have a full head of cattle to choose from. Hard to see the Cowboys stumbling given the strides taken by youngsters Reuben Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Dearden last year, and the improvement still left in them.
Cowboys by 8
Sharks half Braydon Trindall.Credit:NRL Photos
Sharks v Rabbitohs
Saturday, 7.35pm, PointsBet Stadium
Arguable the match of the round. Based on what they did last season, both teams will have every confidence they can go all the way this year. The decisive factor is likely to be the absence of Nicho Hynes; Cronulla opted to rest the Dally M medallist, who was struggling with a calf complaint. Braydon Trindall has a big job filling the void against a star-studded Rabbitohs side. This is a chance for the Sharks to earn revenge after South Sydney knocked them out of last year’s finals series. Everyone raves about the Storm’s incredible round-one record, but it’s not so good for the Shire outfit; they’ve lost eight of their past nine opening-season games. They have a good record at home, but this is a tough assignment first-up. Rabbitohs by 4
Dolphins v Roosters
Sunday, 4.05pm. Suncorp Stadium
While there will be plenty of emotion around the Dolphins’ first game in the NRL, head office hasn’t done them any favours with the draw. The Roosters are without Joey Manu, Angus Crichton and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, but they’re blessed with one of the most talented rosters in the competition. The Dolphins won’t be as bad as they were in the trials but it’ll take time for them to strike up the combinations and rhythm to compete with the top sides. It’ll be interesting to see how Dolphins debutant Isaiya Katoa handles himself. He’s regarded as a future superstar of the game. Unfortunately it’s hard to see how his debut ends in a win. The Roosters have too much class at their disposal.
Roosters by 18
Tigers v Titans
Sunday, 6.15pm, Leichhardt Oval
Two teams which have undergone massive overhauls since last season with the Tigers winding the clock back to 2005 to break their finals duck. Tim Sheens and assistants Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah have promised an expansive brand of rugby league, but have kept English recruit John Bateman on ice after his delayed arrival in Australia due to visa issues. Shawn Blore will start in the back row. The Titans will roll out recruits Kieran Foran and Sam Verrills as they try to make a winning start to ease any early season pressure on coach Justin Holbrook. The Titans have had a stranglehold over the Tigers winning eight of their last 10 back to 2015.
Titans by 6
Bye: St George Illawarra
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