NRL Round 1 Previews and Betting Tips
Eels v Broncos
Thu 3 Mar, 8:05PM, Pirtek Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos will take on the Parramatta Eels in Sydney on Thursday night in the opening fixture for the 2016 NRL season in what shapes to be a blockbuster start to the year.
Eels fans will look forward to the club debut of talented new recruits of Michael Jennings, Michael Gordon, Beau Scott, Clint Gutherson and on-field captain Kieran Foran as exciting prospect Tepai Moeroa comes into the starting side at lock in place of the injured Anthony Watmough.
The Broncos will field the same team they did for the majority of the 2015 season with Josh McGuire returning to the front row after a ruptured Achilles and James Roberts making his club debut after making the move from the Gold Coast Titans in the off-season. Exciting Super League prospect Greg Eden will also make his NRL debut on the wing. Veteran lock Corey Parker will captain the Brisbane club after the retirement of star centre Justin Hodges at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
With a new look back line, Eels coach Brad Arthur looks to have finally built the roster the club needs to be a finals force, but they face staunch opposition in the 2015 grand finalists as the Broncos will be even hungrier for their premiership loss.
While the Eels will field a phenomenal roster for the NRL opener, their new look back-line will take time to form the combinations that will make the Eels finals contenders. The Broncos, however, will back up after a powerful performance in their World Cup Challenge win over the Wigan Warriors. With largely the same team, the Broncos should continue their scintillating form into the 2016 season to beat the Eels as the Parramatta club look to be building something great.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points over 39.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
Fri 4 Mar, 8:05PM, Brooksvale Oval
The Manly Sea Eagles will take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs this Friday night in what shapes to be an exciting encounter between two of the best forward packs in the competition. Manly will look to put a difficult pre-season behind them as rakes Apisai Koroisau and Matt Parcell both look set to take the field after overcoming injury concerns.
The Bulldogs faced some bad news with fullback and representative veteran Brett Morris ruled out for four months of the season with a knee injury. New recruit Will Hopoate is set to take the custodian role in his club debut with Chase Stanley named at centre. Tony Williams will make a return from a pectoral injury while Adam Elliot will make his NRL debut following David Klemmer’s suspension.
The Sea Eagles come into the season with a powerful forward rotation to complement their already dangerous backline. The pressure will be on the likes of new recruits Nate Myles, Martin Taupau and Lewis Brown, as well as Manly’s new dummy-half rotation Apisai Koroisau and Matt Parcell to produce the goods against one of the most dominant forward packs in the competition in the Bulldogs.
The ‘Dogs will look to get their premiership charge back on track after a few unsuccessful years, but expect the new spine of Hopoate, Mybe, Reynolds and Lichaa to take some time before they form their combinations. Despite the ‘Dogs forward dominance, expect the up and coming Sea Eagles to start their season with a bang with an explosive win.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles -3.5 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Raiders v Panthers
Sat 5 Mar, 3:00PM, GIO Stadium
The Canberra Raiders will play the Penrith Panthers this Saturday afternoon in the Australian capital as the Canberra club look to make GIO stadium a fortress in the 2016 season with a poor home record last year. Ricky Stuart is spoiled for choice with his interchange with 2015 live-wire Blake Austin named on the bench as he makes a return from injury while new recruits Aiden Sezer, Elliot Whitehead and a trim looking Joseph Leilua make the starting 13.
The Panthers will start their season without fullback and newly appointed captain Matt Moylan after the custodian broke down with back injury in a trial against the Bulldogs. New recruit Trent Merrin will start at lock alongside Isaah Yeo to push Tyrone Peachy and Elijah Taylor to the bench.
The Raiders will come into this match keen to start their home-season well, and with the established attacking structures already present at the club, it will be make or break for the Raiders’ defence. The Panthers will miss their captain and most important player in Matt Moylan immensely, particularly in attack. Expect the Panthers to take some time to warm into the season as their spine should take some time to gel together, having not played a great deal of footy together. Raiders to come away with the win on the back of a powerful performance from their bench.
Betting Tip: Raiders -3.5 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Tigers v Warriors
Sat 5 Mar, 5:30PM, Campbelltown Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors will play the Wests Tigers in the latter’s Sydney home-ground of Campbelltown on Saturday night as both clubs look to bounce back after disappointing seasons last year. The Tigers looked to have moved on from their bad-luck last year but injuries to hookers Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin will rule the experienced pair out for the first part of the season with rookie Manaia Cherrington coming into the side.
Tim Grant will make his club debut in the front row, while Jack Littlejohn will start at halfback for the suspended Luke Brooks. Josh Aloiai will also make his NRL debut in place of the suspended Dene Halatau.
The Warriors named a strong side free of injuries with star recruits Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaac Luke set to take the fullback and hooker roles respectively. Jeff Robson is set to take the halfback role as Shaun Johnson moves to five-eighth in an interesting move from coach Andrew McFadden. Blake Ayshford and James Gavet will both make their club debuts, while Nathaniel Roache will make his NRL debut.
Expect the Warriors combinations to take time to form, but with the injury concerns in the Tigers squad in the halves and hooker positions, expect the class of the Warriors’ spine to give them an edge. Warriors to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Warriors -7.5 @ $1.93 (Pinnacle Sports)
Cowboys v Sharks
Sat 5 Mar, 7:30PM, 1300SMILES Stadium
The North Queensland Cowboys will take on the Cronulla Sharks at the premiers’ home ground in Townsville this Saturday night as the Sydney-based club look to turn a leaf with a fantastic recruitment drive in the off-season. James Maloney and Chad Townsend will form a new halves combination as the mercurial Ben Barba looks set to take the fullback role. Boom rookie Jack Bird will also make a positional switch to the centres after playing five-eighth last year.
The Cowboys have been blessed with continuity, naming the same squad that took the field in the 2015 Grand Final.
Expect the Sharks combinations to take time to form as three quarters of their spine are new to either the club or their position. While the Sharks defence should be at the same reliable level as it was last year, the Cronulla club will struggle to keep up with the point scoring capacity of the Cowboys until their spine gels. Expect the Cowboys to carry their momentum from the 2015 Grand Final and the World Cup Challenge through to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: No tip
Roosters v Rabbitohs
Sun 6 Mar, 4:00PM, Allianz Stadium
Traditional rivals the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters will play in Sydney on Sunday afternoon as both clubs look to recover from significant losses in the off-season.
The Rabbitohs will play rookie Cameron McInnes at dummy-half in place of Isaac Luke with new recruit Damien Cook coming onto the bench. Sam Burgess will make his NRL return at prop as the Burgess twins Tom and George are ruled out the suspension and injury respectively. Hymel Hunt beat out Kirisome Auva’a for a starting centre berth, while Cody Walker and Zane Musgrove will make their NRL debuts.
The Roosters will play Blake Ferguson at fullback in place of Roger Tuivasa Sheck, while Dale Copley will make his club debut at centre. Boom rookies Jayden Nikorima and Latrell Mitchell are set to make their NRL debuts with Vincent Leuluai also making his debut from the interchange.
The Roosters come into the match missing a lot of experience in the absence of Mitchel Pearce, Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner and will field and inexperience halves combination and front row rotation. Expect the Rabbitohs to capitalize on the inexperience in the Roosters spine as Adam Reynolds should take control of the match with his superbly accurate kicking game to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -1.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Titans v Knights
Sun 6 Mar, 6:30PM, Cbus Super Stadium
For the Titans David Shillington, Chris McQueen, Tyrone Roberts, Ashley Taylor and Zeb Taia will make their club debuts with Nathan Davis and Leivaha Pulu to make their NRL debuts. Roberts and Taylor will form a new look halves combination after a disappointing season-ending injury to boom rookie Kane Elgey. Nathan Friend and Will Zillman will also play hooker and fullback respectively in a completely new spine for the Gold Coast club.
The match will see the Knights debut five players with rookies Jaelen Feeney, Pat Mata’utia, Jacob Saifiti, David Bhana and Daniel Saifiti all beginning their NRL careers. Trent Hodkinson and Pauli Pauli will also make their club debuts in a new look Knights squad.
Expect the Knights’ debutants to take time to settle in first grade and with the talent the Titans have acquired, the Gold Coast club should come away with the win against an inexperienced Newcastle outfit.
Betting Tip: Titans Head to Head @ $2.10 (Sportsbet)
Storm v Dragons
Mon 7 Mar, 7:00PM, AAMI Park
The Melbourne Storm will play the St George Illawarra Dragons this Monday night in Melbourne as the former look to benefit enormously from an off-season with limited representative football. Super star trio Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will all have benefited immensely from their extended break as the Storm have named Richard Kennar to make his NRL debut in the centres.
For the Dragons, Kurt Mann, Tim Lafai, Russel Packer and Siliva Havili will all make their club debuts as Josh Dugan will make a positional switch to the centres, with Mann coming into the custodian role.
Expect the Storm to return to their clinical best after a strong pre-season will see the big-three refreshed and on song. It remains to be seen how effective Kurt Mann will be at fullback, but expect the Dragons’ new recruits to take time to warm into the club. The Storm should come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Total points under 37.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Raiders -3.5 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Titans Head to Head @ $2.10 (Sportsbet)