The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2019 NRL season.
Storm v Broncos
Thu, Mar 14, 7.50pm
Season 2019 of the NRL competition will start with a bang this Thursday night as new Broncos coach Anthony Seibold begins his Brisbane career with a baptism of fire against the Storm in Melbourne. The coaching swap between Brisbane and South Sydney dominated headlines during the off-season and now Broncos faithful have a chance to see their re-vamped club in action. For the Storm, the on-field impact of Billy Slater’s retirement has yet to be seen with a number of talented rookies vying for the vacant custodian role. Expect their senior players to fill the leadership gap but few can organise a defensive line like Billy the Kid.
Craig Bellamy has named utility-back Jahrome Hughes at fullback in an otherwise unchanged back-line from last year. Rookies Patrick Kaufusi and Tui Kamikamica have been included on the bench alongside Brandon Smith and Christian Welch. For Brisbane, Matt Gillett has been drafted back into the Broncos’ 13 in the unfamiliar position of lock. His inclusion will be a big boost for a club short of experience in the middle of the field following the departure of Josh McGuire to the Cowboys. A fit-again Jack Bird will also make his return from injury in the centres as Thomas Flegler makes his NRL debut from the bench.
Having won all their round-one games since the early 2000s, Melbourne will enter the match as favourites. There are many unknowns heading into this match, but if the Broncos respond well to Seibold’s new coaching-style – the Storm could be in trouble in the absence of Billy Slater. It should be a tight game but the visitors should come away with a narrow victory.
Knights v Sharks
Fri, Mar 15, 6.00pm
After a superb recruitment drive saw the Knights add massive talent to their roster, Newcastle will be keen to set the standard high for round one against an embattled Cronulla outfit as they look to break into the top eight. Their opposition in the Sharks endured a horror off-season that saw veteran coach Shane Flanagan resign amid revelations of salary cap cheating in previous years and a vital player in Valentine Holmes defect to the NFL. It will be a baptism of fire for new head-coach John Morris, but as a former Cronulla player and assistant coach, he will look to build the siege-mentality that has allowed the Sharks to dominate over the last few seasons.
Marquee recruits David Klemmer, Tim Glasby and Jesse Ramien have all been included in the Knights’ round one side, alongside Edrick Lee, Hymel Hunt, James Gavet and Kurt Mann. Meanwhile, the Sharks will welcome star signing in Shaun Johnson at halfback as Briton Nikora and Blayke Brailey make their debut in the second-row and off the bench respectively.
Expect a fiery clash between two sides determined to prove their worth. The Sharks will be eager to show they’re not a spent force in the NRL following the departure of Shane Flanagan and Valentine Holmes, while the Knights have seven new faces in their squad and will be desperate to make the finals for the first time under Nathan Brown. Newcastle to get the win.
Betting Tip: Knights to win at $1.91 (bet365)
Roosters v Rabbitohs
Fri, Mar 15, 7.55pm
Arch-rivals in the Rabbitohs and Roosters will face-off in round one this Friday night, with Rabbitohs faithful set to get their first taste of life under Wayne Bennett against the reigning premiers. Bennett will provide a steady hand for the Bunnies in 2019 and with a roster stacked with talent fans will be hoping for premiership success. Their opposition in the Roosters have done well to keep a majority of their premiership winning squad together alongside a number of astute signings. They looked slick in the world cup challenge but will face stiff opposition from a Souths squad motivated to impress Wayne Bennett.
Despite being named, Rabbitohs’ captain Greg Inglis is in serious doubt with a persistent knee injury. Braidon Burns will start in the centres with new recruits Ethan Lowe and Corey Allan to come off the bench. Tevita Tatola will cover the suspended George Burgess at prop with Sam Burgess also named in the second-row.
For the Roosters, key signings in Brett Morris and Angus Crichton will make their club debuts on the wing and interchange respectively. Lindsay Collins has also been named on the bench with the Roosters fielding only three players who didn’t play last year’s grand-final.
Against virtually the same team that won the grand-final, Wayne Bennett’s Rabbitohs will have their work cut out for them – particularly with question marks over the fitness of Greg Inglis. With a number of new combinations for the Rabbitohs to test and their opposition working from almost identical defensive structures, expect the Roosters to get the points.
Betting Tip: Roosters to win at $1.62 (Betfair)
Warriors v Bulldogs
Sat, Mar 16, 3.00pm
After underwhelming 2018 premiership campaigns, both the Bulldogs and Warriors head into this season with a lot to prove. Canterbury showed some promising form under Dean Pay at the back-end of last season but the pressure is on to break into the top eight. Similarly, the Warriors showed wonderful signs throughout 2018 and clinched a finals berth but rarely looked a serious threat to take the competition.
Both clubs have overseen a number of solid additions to their roster over the off-season. Dylan Napa will replace the departed David Klemmer in the ‘Dogs front-row with new signings Christian Crichton and Corey Harawira-Naera named on the wing and bench respectively. The Warriors have backed rookie Adam Keighran to make his NRL debut at halfback as Lachlan Burr and Leeson Ah Mau have been drafted into the middle-rotation at lock and on the bench.
The Kiwis will head into this match as clear favourites but there are still huge question marks over Adam Keighran at halfback. Blake Green should provide a solid platform for the Warriors to try to win the contest in the middle against a Bulldogs pack sans David Klemmer. Much of Canterbury’s season will rest on star five-eighth Kieran Foran and his ability to reach peak form but expect the Warriors’ quality in key positions to get them over the line for the win.
Betting Tip: Warriors to win at $1.67 (Betfair)
Tigers v Sea Eagles
Sat, Mar 16, 5.30pm
With Ivan Cleary departing mid-way through his rebuilding process, the Tigers opted for the experienced Michael Maguire as head-coach, who should continue the massive strides made by Cleary to drag Wests back into finals contention. Manly have similarly given the reigns to another veteran coach in Des Hasler as they look for stability, particularly while they face salary-cap restrictions over the next few seasons. Hasler’s ability to get the best from his roster will be the key in restoring the northern-beaches club to its former glory.
Corey Thompson and Mahe Fonua will cover the injured Moses Mbye and David Nofoaluma in Wests’ back-line. New recruits Robert Jennings, Paul Momirovski and Ryan Matterson have all been named to start at wing, centre and second-row, while Luke Garner has also been brought into the second-row to cover the injured Chris Lawrence as Thomas Mikaele makes his NRL debut from the interchange. Meanwhile, Manly’s new recruit Brendan Elliot will cover the injured Tom Trbojevic at fullback with Kane Elgey and Reuben Garrick also set to make their club and NRL debuts at five-eighth and wing respectively.
The suspension of Dylan Walker and salary cap constraints have put a low ceiling on the star-power Manly can field in their back-line. The form of Kane Elgey will be a key factor in compensating for their lack of strike out wide and expect defense to be an issue while new combinations are forming. The Tigers are facing similar issues in 2019 but expect Maguire to continue to develop their hard-nosed defensive form that almost saw them clinch a finals berth. Tigers to get the win.
Betting Tip: total score under 38.5 at $1.91 (bet365)
Cowboys v Dragons
Sat, Mar 16, 7.35pm
After a woeful season in which they battled to avoid the wooden-spoon, the Cowboys will be hoping to turn a new leaf in life after Johnathan Thurston with a new captain and a number of new signings to even out their depth issues that plagued them last year. They will face a re-vamped Dragons outfit embroiled in controversy after star-forward Jack De Belin was stood down indefinitely due to sexual assault charges. St George have a new-look spine and will be hoping the off-field distractions don’t detract from their form as they hunt for a premiership after being bundled out of the finals by the Rabbitohs last year.
Smart signings have given Cowboys depth in key positions. Jordan Kahu has been named at full-back after Ben Barba’s much publicized de-registration with Nene Macdonald, Josh McGuire and Tom Opacic also set to make their club debuts on the wing, interchange and centre respectively. Meanwhile, the Dragons will welcome Corey Norman to their club at five-eighth as captain Gareth Widdop shifts to fullback and Mikaele Ravalawa makes his NRL debut on the wing.
While St George have been forced to shift Tyson Frizell to lock to cover Jack De Belin, the addition of Corey Norman will add a lot of attacking potency to their spine, particularly with Widdop taking on the custodian role. The Cowboys’ acquisition of incumbent Australian lock in Josh McGuire has elevated their forward rotation to the best on paper in the competition, while their back-line signings give them much needed depth out wide after they suffered an injury crisis last year. St George should struggle to match it with their opposition in the middle and expect a big response from the Queenslanders after a disappointing 2018 campaign and new captain Michael Morgan to stamp his authority on his team with a win.
Betting Tip: Cowboys to win at $1.90 (Betfair)
Panthers v Eels
Sun, Mar 17, 4.05pm
After a sex-tape controversy resulted in Tyrone May being stood-down indefinitely by the NRL, both Penrith and their fans will be desperate to reset the narrative with some good football with the Panthers one of the most hyped teams in the off-season. The return of coach Ivan Cleary and continued development of Penrith’s strong juniors has the club in good stead, and they will be looking to take down an Eels’ squad looking desperate to get back into finals contention after yet another wooden-spoon last season.
The Panthers will welcome new recruits Tyrell Fuimaono and Hame Sele off the bench with Jack Hetherington replacing the injured Viliame Kikau in the back-row. Dylan Edwards has won the custodian role as Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is relegated to the wing. Much of the Eels’ hopes rest on rookie Dylan Brown, who will make his NRL debut at five-eighth alongside Maika Sivo on the wing. Star recruit Blake Ferguson will take a wing berth to add some much-needed firepower to Parramatta’s back-line, while a hamstring injury means new signing Junior Paulo has been named in the reserves.
Boasting a roster brimming with talent and one of the most highly-rated coaches in the competition, the expectations for Penrith’s season could not be higher in 2019. Conversely, Eels’ coach Brad Arthur will be desperate for on-field success with the club sure to be running out of patience after a number of last-place finishes in recent years. If Ivan Cleary can bring the same defensive steel he instilled into the Tigers last year, Penrith should get the win and have a red hot chance at the premiership.
Betting Tip: Panthers to win at $1.56 (Palmerbet)
Titans v Raiders
Sun, Mar 17, 6.10pm
The Gold Coast Titans will face the Raiders this Sunday evening in the best position the the Queensland club has been in for a number of seasons. After years of injury crises and depth issues, coach Garth Brennan has deep stocks in both his forwards and backs and looks to have developed a squad who can make the finals. Their opposition in the Raiders had a disappointing 2018 but coach Ricky Stuart looks to be shifting away from the power-game of years past with a smaller, more mobile forward pack. The Canberra club boasts plenty of talent but has struggled to close out tight games in recent seasons, and with no high-profile recruits for 2019, the jury is still out on the Raiders’ chances this year.
NRL veteran Michael Gordon has won the race for the custodian role, with boom rookie AJ Brimson named on the bench. New recruits Tyrone Roberts and Shannon Boyd will start at five-eighth and prop respectively with Tyrone Peachey also included in the centres. The Raiders have handed rookie Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad the fullback jersey with Jack Wighton shifting to the halves. New signings John Bateman and Bailey Simonsson will start at lock and on the wing respectively, with Ryan Sutton and Corey Horsburgh also included on the bench.
Much of the Raiders’ season rests on their English super-league recruits after they struggled for consistency last year. Expect a Titans squad bolstered with talent to showcase their attacking mojo while the Raiders struggle to keep pace. Gold Coast to get the win.
Betting Tip: Titans to win at $1.94 (Betfair)
Manly v Tigers total score under 38.5 at $1.91 (bet365)