The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2017 NRL season.
Sharks v Broncos
Thu March 2, 8:05 pm, Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos will take on the Cronulla Sharks this Thursday night at the shire clubs’ home-ground of Shark park in a monumental match to kick off the 2017 season. Both teams will be out to prove their critics wrong with star players Ben Barba and Michael Ennis headlining the departures for the Sharks, while the Broncos deal with the loss of Corey Parker and Jarrod Wallace.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has named Gerard Beale at fullback with Barba’s replacement Valentine Holmes injured. Youngster Jayden Brailey will make his NRL debut starting at hooker with Raiders import Edrick Lee on the wing. Fa’amanu Brown has also been included as a bench utility and will likely share the hooking role with Brailey.
The Broncos’ selections have raised a few eyebrows with coach Wayne Bennett persisting with Queensland forward Josh McGuire at lock. Korbin Sims will make his club debut at prop and new-signing Tautau Moga has forced his way into the side at centre and relegated the highly-rated Jordan Kahu to the wing at the expense of David Mead.
Both teams travelled to England to play in the world cup challenge and with both clubs producing poor showings against their super-league counterparts there may be some lingering fatigue for each squad. While they will claim otherwise, there is no doubt the Sharks are significantly diminished without Barba and Ennis, and their replacements – particularly Jayden Brailey at hooker – will take some time to gel in key positions. The Sharks will hope to turn the match into a dour, physical contest and challenge the Broncos’ young pack. If Brisbane’s forwards can give as good as they get, the Broncos backline should ensure their victory.
Betting Tip: Broncos Head to Head @ $1.80 (Sportsbet)
Bulldogs v Storm
Fri March 3, 6:00 pm, Belmore Stadium
The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs will take on the 2016 grand finalists Melbourne Storm this Friday evening to continue the round one action in the NRL. The Storm should go into the match as heavy favourites after a fantastic 2016 campaign, while the Bulldogs will be out to prove their critics wrong with a disappointing season last year.
The Storm will play Young Tonumaipea at fullback with Cameron Munster making a switch to the halves. Tigers recruit Josh Addo-Carr will replace Rugby-bound Marika Koroibete on the wing while Brodie Croft will make his NRL debut off the bench. Felise Kaufusi will also replace an injured Tohu Harris in the back-row.
The ‘Dogs will field largely the same outfit as last year with signing Brenko Lee coming into the centres.
While the Storm should be heavy favourites, they will be testing a new halves combination and a rookie fullback, so there should be plenty of opportunity for the Bulldogs to upset their more clinical opposition. While the Bulldogs should be competitive across their field the lack of attacking structure – the subject of much criticism of their 2016 form – will take some time for coach Des Hasler to work out. Expect the Storm to get the points.
Betting Tip: Storm Head to Head @ $1.83 (Sportsbet)
Rabbitohs v Tigers
Fri March 3, 8:05 pm, ANZ Stadium
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the Wests Tigers this Friday night with both clubs looking to start their season off with a victory after disappointing 2016 campaigns.
For the Rabbitohs, an injury to Adam Reynolds will mean Eels signing Luke Kelly will make his club debut at halfback alongside Robbie Farah at hooker. Siosifa Talakai also makes his NRL debut in the centres.
The Tigers will name a largely familiar side with club debutant Jamal Idris named in the centres and Matt McIlwrick to start at hooker for the injured Matt Ballin.
Expect Souths to go into the match as favourites with Robbie Farah to bring a new sense of direction for the Rabbitohs’ forwards. While the Tigers should be improved this season the Rabbitohs’ performances in the latter stages of 2016 already indicate they are on the right track. Rabbitohs to get the win.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -2.5 @ $1.95 (Bet365)
Dragons v Panthers
Sat March 4, 4:30 pm, Jubilee Oval
The St George Illawarra Dragons will take on the Penrith Panthers this Saturday afternoon as both teams will look to make an early mark on the competition. The Dragons will be out to prove their critics wrong after a poor 2016 season has them written off from finals football by many. The Panthers will look to continue their development last year and evolve into a genuine top-four outfit, which will mean bringing consistency to their unruly team.
Dean Whare and Peta Hiku will make their long-awaited return from injury on the wings for the Panthers. Te Maire Martin will also return in the halves alongside Nathan Cleary as Cowboys recruit James Tamou starts in the front row.
For the Dragons, Josh McCrone will start at halfback in place of the injured Drew Hutchinson with rookie half Jai Field to make his NRL debut off the bench. Raiders import Paul Vaughan will also make his club debut in the front row.
The Panthers will go into this match as heavy favourites and with a scintillating attacking game, expect them to easily overcome the Dragons. While the Dragons’ solid forward pack will allow them to compete through the middle of the field, expect the class of the Panthers’ spine to be too much for the Red ‘V’. Panthers to get the points.
Betting Tip: Panthers -7.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Cowboys v Raiders
Sat March 4, 7:00 pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
The North Queensland Cowboys will take on the Canberra Raiders in Townsville this Saturday night in another blockbuster round one clash. Both clubs will look to start their season with a bang with the Cowboys looking to regain their standing as premiership heavyweights after a disappointing 2016 campaign as the Raiders look to go one better after being knocked out in the preliminary finals last year.
For Canberra Nick Cotric will make his NRL debut on the wing with back-rower Elliot Whitehead filling in at centre for the injured Jarrod Croker. The Cowboys will name a familiar squad with Storm recruit Ben Hampton set to make his club debut off the bench. Despite being named, an injury to Antonio Winterstein may force the inclusion of Gideon Mosby-Gela, Javid Bowen or Kayln Ponga – all of whom were named on an extended bench.
While the Cowboys will go into the match as favourites, expect a close contest between two teams with very high standards. The Cowboys will draw heavily on their home-ground advantage at the latter stage of each half, but this one really could go either way. It will be close but expect the Cowboys to get the points.
Betting Tip: Raiders +8.5 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Titans v Roosters
Sat March 4, 9:00 pm, CBus Super Stadium
The Gold Coast Titans will take on the Sydney Roosters this Saturday night as these two rejuvenated clubs look to make their mark on the 2017 season. After a woeful 2016 campaign riddled by injuries and departed superstars, the Roosters squad is fit and firing after their victory at the Auckland Nines and with new faces to plug the holes in their roster, expect the Sydney club to produce the goods.
The Titans will also go into 2017 with high standards with star rookie Kane Elgey returning in the halves as recruits Dan Sarginson, Kevin Proctor and Joe Greenwood are set to make their club debuts. An injury to star hooker Nathan Peats will mean regular-half Tyrone Roberts will start at hooker.
The Roosters will name a very familiar team with the exceptions of Luke Keary and Michael Gordon making their club debuts at five-eighth and fullback respectively.
With the Roosters going into the match as favourites, the absence of Nathan Peats should prove a key factor in the outcome of the game. The performance of the Roosters at the back end of last year is a true reflection of the potential in their squad. Expect the Roosters to start the season well with a win.
Betting Tip: Titans +3.5 @ $2.00 (Bet365)
Warriors v Knights
Sun March 5, 2:00 pm, Mt Smart Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors will take on the Newcastle Knights this Sunday afternoon as both clubs look for a big improvement going into the 2017 season. The Warriors’ new head coach Stephen Kearney has been busy in the off-season, naming Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as captain and working towards tightening the Kiwi club’s defense.
Equally busy in the off-season, the Knights have named several new faces with rookie Dylan Phythian at fullback and Ken Sio, Josh Starling and Jamie Buhrer making the club debut in the starting lineup. Luke Yates and Sam Stone will also make their NRL debut from the bench.
The Warriors will name a familiar squad with Bunty Afoa covering for the injured Bodene Thompson and Ata Hingano playing five-eighth until Kieran Foran’s round three return.
While the Warriors will go into the match as heavy favourites, the Kiwi club has been guilty of round-one complacency in the past and a much-improved Knights outfit will hope to upset their New Zealand opposition. Expect the leadership of new coach Stephen Kearney to inspire his players to a win as they look to impress their new mentor. Warriors to get the points.
Betting Tip: Warriors -13.5 @ $1.84 (Sportsbet)
Sea Eagles v Eels
Sun March 5, 4:00 pm, Brookvale Oval
The Manly Sea Eagles will take on the Parramatta Eels this Sunday afternoon with both clubs looking for big improvements on their 2016 campaigns. After a season burdened by injury and off-field controversy, the Eels will look to turn a new leaf this year and reach their true potential, while Manly will hope their new signings will help them reassert themselves as the competitions best.
For the Eels, rookies Bevan French and Kaysa Pritchard have been handed the fullback and hooker positions, while Josh Hoffman and Suaia Matagi will make their club debut on the wing and front-row respectively.
For the Sea Eagles, new recruits Brian Kelly, Akuila Uate, Curtis Sironen and Blake Green will start with Lloyd Perrett coming off the bench.
The Sea Eagles will go into the match as narrow favourites, but with so many fresh faces at the club expect the squad to take some time to gel. The Eels will face a similar challenge with a number of new players but benefit from having the same spine as they did at the end of last year. It should be a close contest but expect the Eels to get the win.
Betting Tip: Eels +1.5 @ $2.01 (Sportsbet)
Storm Head to Head @ $1.83 (Sportsbet)