The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2022 NRL season. Best bets for the round are also provided.
Panthers v Sea Eagles
Thursday, March 10, 8:05pm AEDT
Round one of the 2022 NRL season will kick off with a blockbuster clash between the reigning premiers in Penrith and a much-hyped Manly squad set for a big season. The Sea Eagles overcame a torrid injury toll early last year to break into the top-four in an impressive result, despite persistent issues against the competition’s elite outfits. Meanwhile, Penrith will be looking to begin their title-defence with a big statement after the departure of a number of key players in Kurt Capewell, Paul Momirovski and Matt Burton.
With Des Hasler’s well-known ability to get the best of NRL journeyman, Manly’s only major signing in former Bronco Ethan Bullemor, who will line up in the second-row with Josh Aloiai and Josh Schuster unavailable with injury. For Penrith, superstar halfback Nathan Cleary will be missing as he makes his comeback from a serious shoulder injury, with new signing Sean O’Sullivan his replacement. Boom rookie Izack Tago will also replace the departed Matt Burton in the centres.
Given the absence of Nathan Cleary, Manly will enter this match as narrow favourites and will be desperate to distance themselves from their poor 2021 form against top-four clubs. While the absence of Aloiai and Schuster is far from ideal for Manly, it is a far cry from the injury crisis of last year. Expect Penrith to be below their best without Nathan Cleary with the Sea Eagles to get the points.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles -1.5 @ $1.90 (Playup)
Raiders v Sharks
Friday, March 11, 6:00pm AEDT
Both the Sharks and Raiders have signed a number of players in key positions and with each club narrowly missing the 2021 finals series on points-differential, their respective coaches will be expecting a finals berth. Cronulla’s new era has gotten off to a rocky start with coach Craig Fitzgibbon set to miss round one due to covid isolation protocols.
Betting Tip: Sharks -1.95 @ $1.97 (Bet365)
Broncos v Rabbitohs
Friday, March 11, 8:05pm AEDT
After coming agonisingly close to securing a premiership, the Rabbitohs are entering a new era with the departure of supercoach Wayne Bennett and a number of experienced players. Highly rated rookie coach Jason Demitriou will face his former club with Brisbane undergoing a massive roster regeneration over the off-season that fans will hope brings on-field success.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -10.5 @ $2.00 (Bluebet)
Roosters v Knights
Saturday, March 12, 3:00pm AEDT
Despite making the finals in consecutive years, Newcastle has failed to go deep into the play-offs and pressure is mounting on coach Adam O’Brien to take his squad to the next level. They face a tough task against a rejuvenated Roosters outfit who missed a top-four berth on points-differential despite a horrific injury toll.
Connor Watson and Mitchell Pearce have departed Newcastle with Adam Clune named at halfback and utility Kurt Mann at lock. New recruit Dane Gagai will also return for his old club at centre to provide some welcome experience in the Knights’ backline. For the Roosters, Luke Keary, Lindsay Collins and Joey Manu will all make their comeback from long-term injuries with rookie Billy Smith drafted into the centres. New signings Connor Watson and Paul Momirovski have also been named on the wing and at hooker respectively.
The quality of this Roosters squad will increase enormously with the return of Keary, Collins and Manu. While Keary’s combination with boom rookie Sam Walker may take time to develop, the Roosters have a potent attacking arsenal. Newcastle will similarly be looking to build their combinations with Kurt Mann and Adam Clune’s performance as supporting playmakers yet to be seen. Roosters to get the points.
Betting Tip: Knights +13.5 @ $1.97 (Winnersbet)
Warriors v Dragons
Saturday, March 12, 5:30pm AEDT
Betting Tip: Dragons -1.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Tigers v Storm
Saturday, March 12, 7:35pm AEDT
After a difficult season last year, the Tigers have made some key signings over the off-season but face the unenviable task of starting their premiership campaign against the Melbourne Storm. Craig Bellamy’s troops will be burning from dropping out of last year’s playoffs one game before the grand-final but with some significant departures from the club the Storm will field a very different squad this season.
For the Tigers, new signings Jackson Hastings and Oliver Gildart will line up at five-eighth and centre respectively with Tyrone Peachey also making his club debut off the bench. Meanwhile, Melbourne have named Xavier Coates and Nick Meaney to make their club debut on the wing and at five-eighth respectively with Jayden Nikorima set to come off the bench.
The Storm will enter this match as firm favourites but with the departure of Josh Addo-Carr, Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes it remains to be seen how quickly they can get back to their best. For Wests, fans will be hoping Jackson Hastings can make a big impact with the joint-venture club struggling to score points last year. Expect Melbourne to get the win.
Betting Tip: Storm -13.5 @ $1.92 (Unibet)
Eels v Titans
Sunday, March 13, 4:05pm AEDT
With a number of players set to depart at the end of this season, the Eels are in a prime position to challenge for the premiership after an injury-disrupted 2021 campaign. They will face a Titans squad looking to take their game to the next level after barely scraping into the top-eight on points-differential last season.
Parramatta have named Bailey Simonsson to make his club debut on the wing in a largely unchanged lineup. For the Titans, veterans Will Smith and Isaac Liu will make their club debut in the front-row and off the bench respectively to inject some experience into Justin Holbrook’s squad.
Parramatta produced a dominant win over the Panthers in their last trial in a warning sign to the competition they are set for a big year. The Titans have made some astute acquisitions but will still be fielding an all-rookie spine. The Gold Coast club has strike across the park but their play-making combinations will take time to gel. Eels to get the win.
Betting Tip: Eels -8.5 @ $1.90 (Bluebet)
Cowboys v Bulldogs
Sunday, March 13, 6:15pm AEDT
Both the Cowboys and Bulldogs endured horrific 2021 seasons with misshapen salary-caps hampering their ability to compete. With some key signings and another off-season under their relatively junior coaches, fans will be hoping for a big turnaround and a return to the finals.
North Queensland have named Chad Townsend, Peta Hiku and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown to make their club debuts at halfback, centre and prop respectively in a massive injection of experience to their team. Rookies Heilum Luki and Jeremiah Nanai will both start in the second-row with Valentine Holmes also moved to the centres. The Bulldogs will similarly be naming an all-new second-row in Jack Hetherington and club debutant Tevita Pangai Junior alongside a number of other key signings. Paul Vaughan, Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr, Brent Naden, Braidon Burns and Matt Dufty will all make their club debut in a massive roster turnover for the Canterbury club.
With Jayden Okunbor the only remaining member from last year’s back-line, Canterbury will need to form new defensive combinations quickly but they will be well supported by a dangerous looking forward rotation. This match could go either way but expect the experience and relative cohesion of this Cowboys team to get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Cowboys H2H @ $1.90 (Unibet)
Knights +13.5 @ $1.97 (Winnersbet)