The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2023 NRL season. Best bets for the round are also provided.
Eels v Storm
Thursday, March 2, 7:50pm AEDT
The 2023 NRL premiership will kick off with a blockbuster clash between Parramatta and the Storm on Thursday night after both clubs endured disappointing finals campaigns last season with Melbourne dropping out uncharacteristically after week one and the Eels suffering a devastating grand-final loss to Penrith.
Both clubs have gone through significant roster changes in their respective forward rotations with the Eels replacing Reed Mahoney with veteran Josh Hodgson at hooker and Panthers import J’maine Hopgood lining up at lock. Also missing the likes of Marata Niukore, Oregon Kaufusi and Isaiah Papalii – Parramatta faithful will be backing coach Brad Arthur’s ability to develop new talent. To make matters worse, the Eels will also be missing a number of other top-liners to injury and suspension with Shaun Lane, Ryan Matterson and Bailey Simonsson all absent as new signings Jirah Momoisea and Jack Murchie both make their club debut off the bench.
Meanwhile, Melbourne have lost a huge amount of experience with Brandon Smith, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi departing the club. Trent Loiero and Warriors import Eliesa Katoa will form a new second-row combination with Tom Eisenhuth and new signing Tariq Sims injured. Melbourne are also missing a number of other star players with Ryan Papenhuyzen, Justin Olam, Tui Kamikamica and Tepai Moeroa all missing. Young Tonumaipea will join the centres as newly named captain Christian Welch will return from an ACL injury at prop with Nick Meaney also claiming the fullback jersey.
With multiple key members of the forward rotations from previous years missing, both teams will need to work very hard to maintain their cohesion in the ruck. Expect the Eels to compete physically but Josh Hodgson may take time to adjust to his new club. This game could go either way but expect the Storm to get the win.
Warriors v Knights
Friday, March 3, 6pm AEDT
After a disappointing 2022 season, both the Warriors and Knights will be eager to start their redemption off with a bang and with significant roster turnover at both clubs, this match shapes as a fascinating litmus test. After a number of disrupted years due to the pandemic, the Warriors are again based in New Zealand and under new head coach and highly-rated former Penrith assistant Andrew Webster, Warriors fans will be hoping he brings some of the Panthers’ premiership winning discipline. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on coach Adam O’Brien and with significant roster turnover in the off-season, the club will need to show results on the field if they want to keep the same coaching team heading into 2024.
The Warriors will form a new second-row pairing with Jackson Ford and Marata Niukore set to make their club debut. Te Maire Martin, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Brayden Wiliame will join the side at five-eighth, fullback and centre respectively with Dylan Walker taking the bench-utility role in a new look Warriors outfit. For Newcastle, new signings Lachlan Miller and Jackson Hastings will come in at fullback and halfback respectively with Adam Elliot and Jack Hetherington joining the bench rotation. Dane Gagai is also missing and will be replaced at centre by Enari Tuala.
All eyes will be on Kayln Ponga’s transition to five-eighth but expect the Kiwis to steal the limelight with an intense performance in new coach Andrew Webster’s first NRL hitout. Expect the injection of Martin and Nicoll-Klokstad to give the Warriors more composure in key moments. Warriors to get the win.
Betting Tip: Warriors -4.5 @ $1.90 (Unibet)
Panthers v Broncos
Friday, March 3, 8:05pm AEDT
Brisbane face a huge round-one test against the reigning premiers and after a disappointing end to their 2022 season, pressure is mounting on coach Kevin Walters to produce results on the field given the quality of Brisbane’s roster. Reigning premiers in Penrith will be reeling from a rare loss in the world club challenge at the hands of St Helens and eager to start their premiership defence in style.
The Broncos will be missing star recruit Reece Walsh to injury, with boom rookie Selwyn Cobbo set to play fullback as Jesse Arthurs joins the wing. Veteran forward Martin Taupau is set to make his club debut off the bench in a squad largely similar to the Broncos top-17 last season. For the Panthers, replacing the likes of Apisai Koroisau and Viliame Kikau is a tough task. Tigers import Luke Garner will make his club debut in the second-row, while Soni Luke joins the hooker rotation with Mitch Kenny from the interchange. A devastating pre-season ACL injury to talented winger Taylan May will see Sunia Turuva come onto the wing.
While Brisbane will be fired-up for their season opener, it is difficult to see them producing an upset against Penrith, particularly given their agonising last-start loss to St Helens. The loss of Koroisau and Kikau will hurt Ivan Cleary’s troops but with such quality in their roster, Penrith will have worked overtime in the pre-season to cover their absence. Panthers to get the win.
Betting Tip: Broncos +13.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
Saturday, March 4, 3pm AEDT
Both Canterbury and Manly enter the 2023 season off the back of disappointing campaigns last year and a new head coach. By all reports former Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has galvanised the Sea Eagles’ playing group after a difficult period with the pride-round controversy, but the club looks set to bounce back in the best of ways after winning the NRL’s pre-season challenge with some impressive trial form on display. They will face a Bulldogs outfit under the tutelage of highly-rated former Penrith assistant Cameron Ciraldo and after many years in the doldrums, Canterbury faithful will have high expectations for this season.
The Sea Eagles will field a largely similar outfit to last year with promising Tigers import Kelma Tuilagi lining up in the second-row. Cooper Johns will cover five-eighth for the injured Josh Schuster with Kaeo Weekes taking the bench utility role. Meanwhile, Canterbury will unveil a new-look squad headlined by Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau at hooker and second-row respectively. Raiders’ import Ryan Sutton will strengthen their prop rotation after a devastating long-term injury to Luke Thompson during the pre-season. New signing Hayze Perham will also line-up at fullback.
Canterbury have introduced many new faces to their team, particularly in the spine and may struggle with their cohesion and combinations early in the season. Expect a big start to the season from Manly off the back of superstar Tom Trbjojevic’s return at fullback. Manly to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles -4.5 @ $1.90 (Boombet)
Cowboys v Raiders
Saturday, March 4, 5:30pm AEDT
While both clubs made the finals last year, the Raiders and Cowboys were knocked out in consecutive weeks by Parramatta in agonising losses to end their respective seasons. Fielding largely the same 17 as 2022, North Queensland coach Todd Payten will need to manage the pressure that comes with the Cowboys’ success last season – while the Raiders will be looking to emulate their late-2022 form after a rocky start to their season likely cost them a top-four berth.
For Canberra, pre-season injuries to Josh Papalii and Xavier Savage will see Knights import Pasami Saulo start at prop with Sebastian Kris covering fullback. New signing Danny Levi will cover the departed Josh Hodgson at hooker in a largely unchanged squad from last season. The Cowboys have similarly named almost the same 17 from the 2022 season with veteran James Tamau’s inclusion on the bench Todd Payten’s only change.
Expect the Cowboys to get off to a fast start with the same spine combinations and key players. Canberra may struggle to execute at the same level as Levi builds combinations with Canberra’s devastating forward rotation and Sebastian Kris’ inexperience at fullback. Cowboys to get the points.
Betting Tip: Raiders +9.5 @ $1.90 (Colossalbet)
Sharks v Rabbitohs
Saturday, March 4, 7:35pm AEDT
Saturday night will bring a massive clash between premiership heavyweights Cronulla and Souths, with both teams producing successful seasons in 2022 and looking primed to compete for a top-four berth. This match will be particularly significant for Cronulla given Souths knocked them out of the finals last year in a dominant display, only to lose against the eventual premiers the following week.
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon has named a largely similar top-17 to last year, with Eels import Oregon Kaufusi joining the middle rotation on the bench and Braydon Trindall covering the injured Nicho Hynes at halfback. Similarly, Souths have kept the same squad intact with Izaac Thompson covering the injured Taane Milne on the wing and Blake Taafe winning the bench utility position.
Nicho Hynes’ dominant performance in the All-Stars match should underscore the significance of his absence to Cronulla’s attack and fifth tackle-options. Expect a well-drilled Rabbitohs outfit to start their season strongly and emulate their last-start victory over the Sharks.
Betting Tip: Rabbitohs -4.5 @ $1.96 (Picklebet)
Dolphins v Roosters
Sunday, March 5, 4:05pm AEDT
The Dolphins’ debut match in NRL first-grade will be against the Sydney Roosters this Sunday night with veteran mentor Wayne Bennett spearheading the club’s inaugural season. The new team faces a tough first up assignment against the Roosters, who had a successful season last year in the face of a torrid injury toll, only to be knocked out of the finals in week one.
The Dolphins have had little success attracting marquee players but have still assembled a solid squad with plenty of strike and experience. Former Storm veteran Jesse Bromwich will captain the side at prop, joined by former teammates and representative stars Felise Kaufusi and Kenny Bromwich in the second-row. Boom rookie half Isaiya Katoa is set to make his NRL debut at five-eighth alongside Kurt Donoghoe on the bench, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will also get a chance to prove his mettle in the fullback jersey. For the Roosters, their injury crisis continues with Billy Smith, Sitili Tupouniua, Connor Watson and Angus Crichton all out indefinitely with injury, with Joey Manu and Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves set to return in round two. Star signing Brandon Smith will join the squad at hooker as Egan Butcher joins the second-row to cover the absence of Crichton and Drew Hutchison set for the bench-utility role.
Given their opposition’s lack of playing experience and cohesion, the Roosters will enter this match as firm favourites, despite their injury toll. The spine combination between Tedesco, Keary, Walker and Smith will need time to click but their playmaking potency should prove too much for the Dolphins.
Betting Tip: Dolphins +17.5 @ $1.90 (Playup)
Tigers v Titans
Sunday, March 5, 6:15pm AEDT
After suffering the humiliation of winning the wooden spoon, veteran coach Tim Sheens is spearheading the Wests Tigers’ revival and with a number of promising acquisitions the club’s future is looking bright. They will face a Titans squad who underperformed last year but with the injection of some experience in key positions fans have high hopes heading into season 2023.
Wests will field a new-look squad with star recruits Api Koroisau and Isaiah Papali’i coming in at hooker and second-row, with David Klemmer and Charle Stains also set to make their club debut at prop and wing respectively. It has been an impressive recruitment drive from the club, with England star John Bateman yet to return from injury. Meanwhile, the Titans will unveil their own recruits with Sam Verrills and Kieran Foran adding an enormous amount of experience and composure at hooker and five-eighth respectively with Bulldogs import Aaron Shoupp also set for his club debut at centre.
Titans fans suffered a blow with Beau Fermor ruled out late with a season ending knee injury with Same McIntyre or Klese Haas possible replacements. Expect the class of Koroisau, Papali’i and Klemmer to add a lot to the Tigers’ composure and effectiveness in the ruck. This match could go either way but expect Wests to get the points.
Betting Tip: Tigers -9.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Broncos +13.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)