NRL is back in action when the Brisbane Broncos take on the defending champions South Sydney Rabbitohs in Brisbane this Friday night.
We’ve got previews for each Round 1 game, complete with head-to-head and points start markets, odds and our expect picks.
Like always, the NRL has had its fair share of dramas off the field during the summer. League purists, punters and everyone involved in the sport will be pleased to see the athletes take the field and do what they love.
The NRL is one of the most exciting and toughest league around the world and week 1 is set to be no different.
The Newcastle Knights must adapt to life with a new coach as they take on the cross-Tasman rivals New Zealand Warriors.
The struggling Gold Coast Titans and Cronulla Sharks both have home games with one team heavily favoured to overcome their club problems.
There are eight games this week, culminating in the Monday Night clash of St George Dragons vs. Melbourne Storm.
Broncos vs. Rabbitohs
Broncos – $2.35 @ www.WilliamHill.com.au
Rabbitohs – $1.62
Points start market:
Broncos (+4) – $1.90
Rabbitohs (-4) – $1.90
The Brisbane Broncos open their account at home against the 2014 defending champions South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Broncos are not in the top bracket of premiership favourites, but the addition of recent signings Anthony Milford (Raiders), Adam Blair (Tigers) and Queensland winger Darius Boyd (Knights) make this team very dangerous.
Their pre-season has been solid with an easy win in England over the Wigan Warriors and despite losing players such as Josh Hoffman and Ben Barba, their attacking nature should stay in tact. They also welcome the return of coach Wayne Bennett, who has been coaching Newcastle for the past few seasons.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs are fresh off a St Helens smashing in England and they looked simply unstoppable in their pre-season clash. The defending champions will be looking to kick off the new season in fine style and the bookmakers agree.
Their forward pack has been given some mobility with the signing of Glenn Steward from Manly, but the losses of Sam Burgess, Ben Te’o, and Luke Burgess will play a major factor this season. They no longer have that intimidating forward pack, but coach Michael Maguire still has a stellar back line with Greg Inglis ($11 for first try scorer) at fullback and they are expected to win this away from home.
Tip: South Sydney Rabbitohs to win (22-14) at $1.90
Eels vs. Sea Eagles
Eels – $1.98
Sea Eagles – $1.85
Eels (+1.5) – $1.86
Sea Eagles (-1.5) – $1.94
The Parramatta Eels have been strongly supported to get 2015 off to a flying start against the gritty Manly Sea Eagles in this Friday night contest.
The Eels will be looking to use one of Manly’s own against them as recent signing Anthony Watmough will line up for the Eels against his old team. The mobile forward brings plenty of passion to an Eels forward pack that has been missing a leader for a few years now.
They have however lost their captain Jarrayd Hayne to the NFL (San Francisco 49’ers) but the money that has been freed up has allowed them to buy some nice off-season players. Richie Fa’aoso, Brad Takairangi, Reece Robinson, Beau Champion and Adam Quinlan have switched to the Eels from their respective clubs to go along with three players signed from the Super League in Europe.
There was a lot of talk in the off-season about Manly’s team spirit, with rumours around that their top players didn’t want to re-sign, but that hasn’t been the case. Under coach Geoff Toovey, they have retained star players such as Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, and they have also gained Feleti Mateo and Luke Burgess.
The bookmakers are finding it tough to separate these two teams as it should be a tight struggle.
Tip: Sea Eagles to win (16-14) at $1.94
Exotic tip: Eels/Manly halftime/fulltime double – $8
Knights vs Warriors
Knights – $1.97
Warriors – $1.83
Knights (+1.5) – $1.90
Warriors – (-1.5) – $1.90 @ Sportsbet.com.au
It’s not going to be easy for the Knights this season. The men from Newcastle will be without hall-of-fame coach Wayne Bennett and coping with the emotion that was 2014 will be tough.
New coach Rick Stone will also have to cope with a decimated roster as many of their top-line players have signed with new clubs. Adam Cuthbertson, Matt Hilder, Travis Waddell, Matt Minto, Willie Mason and Darius Boyd are all missing and they are facing a talented Warriors team with plenty to prove after a disappointing 2014 season.
Most experts said that the last few Warriors seasons were “growing years” and we tend to agree, but now it’s time to front up for the New Zealand-based franchise. The Warriors often show glimpses of premiership winning skill throughout the year and we think they will kick off 2015 on the right note.
The additions of Ryan Hoffman and Johnathan Wright will bolster up their outside defense and we’re expecting the Knights to crumble under the pressure, despite being at home for this match.
Tip: Warriors to win (28-8) at $1.83
Exotic tip: Warriors pick your own line (-11.5) at $3.30
Titans vs. Tigers
Titans – $2.50
Tigers – $1.52
Titans (+5.5) – $1.90
Tigers (-5.5) – $1.90
Both teams are tipping to struggle this season but no more than the Gold Coast Titans, following a horrendous off-season.
The Titans ownership has been taken over by the NRL after team members were found to have been involved in a drug scandal. This will likely affect their premiership hopes but they have never been a well fancied team.
They take on the Tigers which are favoured away from home in this contest. Whilst the Tigers aren’t meant to go well this season either, they should capitalise on the Titans’ woes.
Tip: Tigers to win (12-6) at $1.52
Exotic tip: Under 42.5 combined points – $1.90
Cowboys vs. Roosters
Cowboys – $1.70
Roosters – $2.15
Cowboys (-2.5) – $1.90
Roosters (+2.5) – $1.90
This should be the most exciting game of the new season. The last time these two teams met was in the semi-finals last season in which the Roosters got out to a 30-0 lead after 30 minutes before the Cowboys tied the game with only minutes to play. The Roosters would end up winning with a James Maloney field goal and that will be playing on the Cowboys’ minds here.
The Roosters have lost star centre Sonny Bill Williams but they still possess an attacking back line which will be tough to contain for any team this season. The bookmakers have set a low total (40) for this game but we think there will be plenty of points.
We fancy the Cowboys to edge this game at home by a couple of points.
Tip: Cowboys to win (24-22) at $1.70
Exotic tip: Over 40 points – $1.90
Panthers vs. Bulldogs
Panthers – $2
Bulldogs – $1.80
Panthers (+1.5) – $1.90
Bulldogs (-1.5) – $1.90
The Penrith Panthers have lost a couple of players in their forward pack, which has made them tough to beat over the past few seasons under the coaching of Ivan Cleary.
The mountain men have lost Tim Grant, Kevin Kingston, Ryan Simpkins and outside back Wes Naiqama to the Super League. They haven’t recruited very well, hence why they are outsiders to start the season, and the Bulldogs will be looking to secure an early season win at Penrith.
The Bulldogs will welcome Brett Morris, who joins his brother at Canterbury, along with Curtis Rona and Michael Lichaa. Des Hasler will have his troops ready to fire and we’re expecting a solid Round 1 victory.
Tip: Bulldogs to win (14-6) at $1.80
Exotic tip: Brett Morris to score a try – $2.30
Sharks vs. Raiders
Sharks – $1.42
Raiders – $2.90
Sharks (-7.5) – $1.90
Raiders (+7.5) – $1.90
Both teams will struggle this season, but the Sharks are heavily favoured to beat the Canberra Raiders at home in this Round 1 match-up.
The Sharks seem to attract controversy but despite losing Todd Carney, John Morris, Beau Ryan and Bryce Gibbs, they have recruited well and those players should make a huge difference to the culture at the Sharks.
Gritty Bulldogs players Michael Ennis and Mitch Brown come over as new signings and the addition of Ben Barba should make their attack more potent.
There’s not much to like about the Raiders this season and the Sharks should win in style here.
Tip: Sharks to win (24-10) at $1.90
Exotic tip: Sharks 13+ at $2.60
Dragons vs. Storm
Dragons – $2.10
Storm – $1.74
Dragons (+2.5) – $1.90
Storm (-2.5) – $1.90
The bookmakers are finding it tough to separate these two teams and rightfully so. The Dragons have been the most active when signing and letting go players this off-season, with a total of 25 players having been shifted.
Of those 25 making their way to the Dragons are big man George Rose and good defending winger Dane Nielson. They have lost Brett Morris, Gerard Beale and Adam Quinlan but their roster looks set for a good season.
Unlike the Melbourne Storm of past seasons, they have lost a few key players but they still retain their star three (Cronk, Smith, Slater). Players lost include Ryan Hoffman, Sisa Waqa and Justin O’Neill, but the Storm always make the playoffs and that is expected again.
Tip: Dragons to win (18-16) at $2.10
Exotic tip: Dragons 1-12 at $3.35 @ Crownbet