NRL ROUND ONE
Dragons v Broncos
Great match to kick the season off with as we get to see some of the new signings in action for each of the clubs – notably Graham and Hunt for the Dragons and the much talked about Lodge for the Broncos. It’s the new signings of the Dragons I expect to be most influential here as there’s been so much anticipation around Hunt’s arrival at the club as they hope he will be the answer to their halfback woes over recent years and his partnership with Widdup in the halves could well be the combination the Dragons attack have been longing for.
The Broncos are one of the more settled sides in the competition with a fairly similar looking side to that which has served them consistently well over recent years and we pretty much know what we’ll get from them here – tough defence with a clinical attack and Bennett will have them ready to go from the opening kick-off.
The bookies haven’t got much between the sides as the odds suggest and in what I expect to be a relatively low scoring encounter it’s the toss of a coin as to who takes this out; I think the smart money is in either side to win by six points and under. Pick - 2 units on either side to win by 6 points and under
Knights v Sea Eagles
Wow, to say the Knights have been busy on the recruitment scene leading up to this season is a massive understatement with a total of nine new faces named to play here and the high expectations from the Knights fans is somewhat justified when you look at the great mix of experience and raw talent they’ve now got in their squad.
The Sea Eagles have been very quiet in comparison with Joel Thompson being the notable inclusion in their side to take on the new-look Knights, his presence in the second row will certainly bolster what was an already decent pack in 2017.
Amongst the many signing for the Knights it’s the new look halves pairing of Pearce and Watson who I expect will make an immediate impression as Watson is a livewire and will perfectly compliment the approach of the cool-headed and clinical Pearce and they will certainly play their part in unleashing the exciting backline.
There’s no doubt the pressure will be on the Knights here in front of what will likely be a sold out and very expectant home crowd but they’re littered with experienced players that have been there and done that and those players will ensure the younger stars keep their heads.
The Sea Eagles backline will miss Dylan Walkers influence here and with the inexperienced Croker likely to be a target at five-eighth it could be a long day at the office against a fired up Knights defence.
Knights fans have every right to approach this season with optimism and should see their side come up trumps here and lay the foundation for a season where they’re talking top-eight as opposed to wooden spoon. Pick – 3 units on Knights to win
Tigers v Roosters
This Roosters side of 2018 is on paper the most formidable in the competition as they’ve managed to squeeze in Tedesco and Cronk under the salary cap, two world class players who join a roster already stacked with incredible talent. In comparison to the Roosters, the Tigers look like a reserve grade side and it is going to take every ounce of Ivan Cleary’s coaching ability to get them into the top eight this season.
The match-ups across the field here are ridiculously in favour of the Roosters and it can only be the internal battle against expectation/complacency that could undo them here but with the experienced players they have I don’t expect that to be an issue.
The all-star line-up of the Roosters should walk all over the Tigers here and win very comfortably. Pick – 4 units on Roosters -10.5 point start (BEST BET)
Rabbitohs v Warriors
It’s been eleven matches of misery for the Warriors in Perth as their losing streak dating back to 1999 is on the line and it would be a brave person to suggest they’ll break to streak this week.
I’ve no doubt the Warriors side of 2018 will be more competitive than what we’ve seen over recent seasons as their recruitment has been more targeted than previous years with Hiku, Blair, Green and Harris all seasoned campaigners who will slot in nicely.
Despite the good Warrior recruits all playing this week I can still see them struggling to win the key moments here as the Rabbitohs have had several tough hit-outs in the pre-season, beating a full strength Dragons side most recently; in comparison the Warriors have played a second string Storm side and the Titans, albeit winning efforts but they failed to set the world on fire.
The hiring of Alex Corvo as the Warriors strength and conditioning coach is a masterstroke from Kearney as they’ve looked consistently out of shape in recent years and the ex-Storm trainer will have been punishing them in the pre-season so we should see a lot more sustained 80-minute efforts from them, starting here in game one.
The Warriors defence won’t be anywhere near as feeble as what we’ve seen over recent years and they’ll make the Rabbitohs work hard for every point but ultimately I see this coming down to one or two key moments, probably led by Inglis, as the Bunnies do sneak the win. Pick - 2 units on Rabbitohs to win by 12 points and under