The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2020 NRL season.
Eels v Bulldogs
Thursday, Mar 12, 8:05pm AEDT
With the Eels looking primed for a run at the premiership trophy, an improved Bulldogs outfit face a massive task in round one of the 2020 season this Thursday night. Parramatta will be extremely confident heading into this match with a potent home-ground advantage and some astute off-season recruitment, but should be wary of a Canterbury team accustomed to being the underdog.
The addition of new recruit Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson at will give the Eels some welcome class at prop and in the second row respectively with star winger Maika Sivo also cleared to make his NRL return after an off-season controversy. Meanwhile, live-wire playmaker Brandon Wakeham has won the race for the injured Kieran Foran’s five-eighth jersey as new signings Joe Stimson and Dean Britt will make their club debuts in the second row and bench respectively.
Parramatta will enter this contest as heavy favourites but should beware a Bulldogs team who produced a stunning form resurgence toward the back-end of 2019. Canterbury certainly won’t make it easy for their opposition, but expect the Eels’ class to get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Bulldogs +10.5 @ $1.90 (Pointsbet)
Raiders v Titans
Friday, Mar 13, 6:00pm AEDT
The Titans have the unenviable task of facing Canberra after their crushing Grand-Final loss to the Roosters last year. The Raiders have wasted no time injecting new character into their squad and will be looking to start their season strong against a Titans outfit whose form under new coach Justin Holbrook remains a mystery.
Bailey Simonsson has nabbed a starting berth on the wing while new recruits Curtis Scott and George Williams join the starting squad at centre and halfback respectively. Further, boom forward Corey Horsburgh has been named in the second-row to cover the injured John Bateman. For the Titans, star rookies AJ Brimson and Moeaki Fotuaika are under an injury cloud having been named on an extended bench, while Phillip Sami shifts to fullback with Jaimin Joliffe and Sam Lisone set to make their NRL and club debut off the interchange and at prop respectively.
Both teams will start the season under-strength, missing a number of key players to injury and suspension. Canberra will still enter this game as clear favourites given the lofty heights of their 2019 season. The 2020 squad will have a lot to prove early after with the departure of key members of their grand-final outfit, but expect the class of the Raiders to get them the points.
Betting Tip: Titans +10.0 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Cowboys v Broncos
Friday, Mar 13, 8:05pm AEDT
The Broncos will be looking to put their horrendous finals exit in 2019 behind them in coach Anthony Seibold’s second year at the club. Brisbane face a tough assignment against a Cowboys club who have made some wonderful additions to their roster in key positions over the off-season and look set to field a much more balanced team.
Brisbane’s 2020 campaign has started with an injury cloud after star utility back Jack Bird suffered a re-occurrence of the season-ending knee injury he suffered in 2019 just two days out from the season opener. Captain Alex Glenn, Matt Lodge and Joe Ofahengaue will also be absent due to both injury and suspension. New signings Jesse Arthars and Brodie Croft will make their club debut on the wing and at halfback respectively, while Jamil Hopoate will play his first NRL game off the bench. For the Cowboys, new recruits Valentine Holmes and Esan Marsters will line up at fullback and centre respectively, with Josh Drinkwater winning the five-eighth jersey with strong trial form.
Expect the Cowboys to dominate the ruck after Brisbane named only two forwards on their interchange. The inexperience missing in the Broncos’ forwards, particularly in the front-row will hurt them immensely with Anthony Seibold naming the youngest team in the competition. The addition of Valentine Holmes and Esan Marsters looks to be a masterstroke by Cowboys coach Paul Green, while Josh Drinkwater’s shift to five-eighth also looks to be bringing out the best in the young playmaker. Expect a tough competition but the North Queenslanders should get the points.
Betting Tip: Cowboys in the head-to-head @ $1.62 (BetEasy)
Knights v Warriors
Saturday, Mar 14, 3:00pm AEDT
New Knights coach Adam O’Brien’s coaching methods will be on show for the first time this Saturday afternoon against the Warriors as the Kiwi outfit look to bounce back from another disappointing season last year. The Knights similarly performed well below expectations in 2019, but former Storm and Roosters assistant O’Brien should bring a tougher edge to a Newcastle roster already bursting with talent.
New recruits Enari Tuala and Gehamat Shibasaki will form a new centre combination for the Knights with boom hooker Jayden Brailey also set for his club debut. Utility-back Kurt Mann has won the competition for the five-eighth jersey to form a radically different spine combination. For the Warriors, Chanel Harris-Tavita has been included in the starting line-up at five-eighth, relegating Kodi Nikorima to a bench utility role. New signing Wayde Egan will make his club debut at hooker with Eliesa Katoa also set to make his NRL debut off the bench.
Having released prop Sam Lisone to the Titans and missing a number of other middle-forwards to injury, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney’s primary concern should be his squads’ ability to win the ruck. Expect former Cronulla rake Jayden Brailey to impress off the back of Newcastle’s classy forward rotation with the Novacastrians to get the win.
Betting Tip: Knights in the head-to-head @ 1.50 (BlueBet)
Rabbitohs v Sharks
Saturday, Mar 14, 5:30pm AEDT
After an off-season laden with unwelcome media attention centering around the recruitment of superstar Latrell Mitchell, Souths’ 2020 campaign will be a fascinating examination into coach Wayne Bennett’s form as an NRL coach after an exodus of leaders from the club in Greg Inglis, John Sutton and Sam Burgess. They will face a Sharks club dogged by their own dramas with a backline injury crisis, salary cap pressure and contract controversy surrounding veteran centre Josh Morris sure to prove a significant distraction heading into the season.
Mitchell’s performance will be under the microscope lining up in his new position of fullback. Hame Sele is set to make his club debut with Wayne Bennett also making the huge call to shift boom forward Cameron Murray to the second-row. For the Sharks, rookie Will Kennedy will line-up at fullback to cover the injured Matt Moylan while Josh Dugan and Bronson Xerri will also be absent with injuries. Rookie Toby Rudolf has also been awarded his NRL debut and will come off the interchange.
Both clubs in this match face a lack of depth in key positions, with Souths short in the middle and Cronulla lacking out wide. The Sharks will be looking to win the match by dominating the ruck with their exciting young forward-rotation, but expect the experience and class of the Rabbitohs spine to turn the result in their favour with settled combinations to bring out the best in superstar Latrell Mitchell.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs in the head-to-head @ $1.56 (bet365)
Panthers v Roosters
Saturday, Mar 14, 7:35pm AEDT
Penrith face the unenviable task of taking on the reigning premiers in the Sydney Roosters, whose phenomenal achievement of consecutive premiership victories sent shock-waves through the rugby league world. Chooks’ coach Trent Robinson faces new challenges however, with the retirement of Cooper Cronk and departure of star centre Latrell Mitchell leaving a massive hole in the premiers’ back-line. Penrith faithful will be hoping important off-season signings will bring out the best in their line-up as Ivan Cleary looks to be working with a more balanced football roster this year.
Caleb Aekins has been named at fullback for Penrith to cover the injured Dylan Edwards while Zane Tetavano will make his club debut at prop and Api Koroisau returns for his junior club at hooker. For the Roosters, Angus Crichton will line-up at centre to cover the departed Latrell Mitchell after a disappointing season-ending injury to talented rookie Billy Smith. The highly rated rookie Kyle Flanagan will take over the halfback jersey as captain Boyd Cordner has been rested after a busy off-season.
The Roosters will enter into this match as firm favourites, despite the disruption to their grand-final squad. It has been reported that veteran centre Josh Morris will soon be released from Cronulla to partner his brother Brett in the backline, but Angus Crichton’s defensive prowess should hold Trent Robinson’s right edge together in the interim. Expect a much faster ruck from the Panthers with the welcome addition of Api Koroisau, but the star-power in this Roosters line-up should get them the points.
Betting Tip: Roosters -6.5 @ $1.95 (BlueBet)
Sea Eagles v Storm
Sunday, Mar 15, 4:05pm AEDT
After some brutal contests last year, the rivalry between Manly and the Storm is well and truly alive with the next chapter set to take place this Sunday afternoon. Despite a stunning form resurgence last year, Manly will be without Api Koroisau and Manase Fainu this season, both of whom were key to the Sea Eagles’ surge in 2019. Meanwhile, Melbourne will be looking to bounce back from their early finals exit last year, a particularly disappointing result given their consistency throughout the year led them to yet another minor premiership.
The Sea Eagles have placed their faith in unwanted hooker Danny Levi for this season, although Des Hasler’s knack for getting the best from his players should see the former Knights rake perform at his best. For Melbourne, Justin Olam and Marion Seve will form a new centre pairing after the departure of Curtis Scott and Will Chambers, while promising rookie Harry Grant has been included on the bench.
With a settled forward pack full of internationals, the primary concern for Melbourne in 2020 is fielding the inexperienced pair of Justin Olam and Marion Seve in the defensively crucial position of centre. While coach Craig Bellamy certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt, there are still question marks over the club’s decision to allow Curtis Scott’s move to Canberra. For Manly, coach Des Hasler will simply be glad to field a relatively full-strength squad after their injury crisis last year. Expect a tough contest between these two well drilled teams and while the outcome will be difficult to predict, it is hard to tip against Melbourne for this match, particularly in round one.
Dragons v Tigers
Sunday, Mar 15, 6:15pm AEDT
After a woeful 2019 campaign, pressure is mounting on the Dragons to find some success with an immensely talented roster. St George will take on the Tigers on Sunday afternoon to finish the first round of the 2020 NRL season, with Wests set to field a number of new signings as second-year coach Michael Maguire looks to be making the team his own.
New signings Issac Luke and Trent Merrin have been named for St George at hooker and on the bench respectively, while Billy Brittain and Brayden Williame are also set for their club debut as bench utility and at centre. For the Tigers, new recruits Adam Doueihi and Joey Leilua will form a new centre pairing with former Storm utility Billy Walters will play hooker. Luciano Leilua has also been named against his former club in the second-row.
St George will enter the season with a number of injury headaches with captain Cameron McInnes and Korbin Sims both unavailable. While coach Paul McGregor will be hoping veteran Issaac Luke can cover his injured skipper, the addition of premiership winning coach Shane Flanagan to the club’s coaching staff should give the players confidence in their systems after a difficult 2019 season. This should be a close contest but expect the class within this St George squad, particularly in their halves and forward-rotation, to get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Dragons in the head-to-head @ $1.84 (Unibet)