NRL Round 1 Previews

RLATG Round 1 Preview

Melbourne Storm vs Brisbane Broncos - Thursday March 14th - AAMI Park.

Round 1 kicks off with a cracker of a game which see's last years runner's up the Storm host a Brisbane side with a new coach and a few new faces. 

The loss of Billy Slater could prove to be bigger than most expect. Jerome Hughes will get the start at Fullback after the Storm lost their number once choice Scott Drinkwater in the trial matches.

The Broncos get some good news with Matt Gillett returning returning from injury at Lock, They also have a very young and exciting bench with David Fifita and Rookie Thomas Flegler.

The way we see it: Storm are fielding a strong side, however Brisbane have a lot to prove with a new coach. Look for this game to be won up the middle. If Brisbane can get into some good field position on the back of their forwards Milford could have a field day. Brisbane by 4 points.  

Newcastle Knights vs Cronulla Sharks - Friday March 15th - McDonald Jones Stadium.

This could be one of the most interesting games of the round with the Knights welcoming in David Klemmer and moving Kalyn Ponga to 5/8. On the other side of the field you get a Sharks side who have been constantly in the news and media about all the off field drama revolving around a Salary Cap issue.

The Knights are trialing something new with moving young star Kalyn Ponga to 5/8. It started off a little rocky in the All Star game however he has shown that it could prove to be something special to watch. Paired with Mitchell Pearce in the halves look for Ponga to roam around the field and play off the back of quick play the balls and offloads.

The Sharks welcome in Josh Morris and Shaun Johnson and both are arguably top players in their respective position. Off the back of this they have Andrew Fifita who on his day is one of the most damaging players to ever play this game. 

The way we see it: This game could go back and forth however I like the Knights in this one, New combinations could prove to be a highlight for many Knights fans this season. Knights by 10.

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs - Friday March 15th - Sydney Cricket Ground.

This game is filled with a lot of strong match ups across the field. Last years Premiers take on the Super Coach Wayne Bennett's new side. 

The Roosters have almost the same side which saw them win the Grand Final last year. They lost Blake Ferguson however they bring in Brett Morris who in the World Club Challenge crossed three times for a Hat-Trick. In the halves the Roosters welcome back Cooper Cronk and the reigning Clive Churchill Medalist Luke Keary.

The Rabbitohs welcomed Wayne Bennett to the club this season and so far he hasn't disappointed any Souths fan. Greg Inglis seems to be healthy and back in the Centres could prove to cause a lot of trouble for the Roosters outside backs. 

The way we see it: This could be the most entertaining game of the week, however the Roosters seem too strong and are heavy favourites to possibly go back to back this year. Roosters by 12.

New Zealand Warriors vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - Saturday March 16th - Mt Smart Stadium.

This could be one of the slower and low scoring games of the week, however if any team can prove us wrong it is these two.

The Warriors have a debutant in Adam Keighran who will partner Blake Green in the halves replacing Shaun Johnson. Also having Nathaniel Roache replace injured Isaac Luke at Hooker. These are pretty big losses, however look for Blake Green to take command. The Warriors still have one of the "biggest" forward packs in the comp, and shouldn't have too much of an issue moving up the field.

The Bulldogs have had a rough off-season filled with Drama, however they bring in hard hitting forward Dylan Napa to replace David Kelmmer looking for something to prove at his new club. Rhys Martin fails to make the side Round 1 with the Bulldogs opting to go with Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Josh Jackson in the back row with former Panther Corey Harawira-Naera on the bench. 

The way we see it: The Bulldogs at this stage are among favourites to win the Spoon this year, however they are always a surprise to many teams. The warriors however have a lot to show and starting the season off at home will be a huge advantage. Warriors by 8 points.

Wests Tigers vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles - Saturday March 16th - Leichhardt Oval.

The second super Saturday game has the Wests Tigers taking on the Manly Sea Eagles at the heartland of Rugby League, Leichhardt Oval.

Both teams are going into this game with some big outs, and it’ll make this game very hard to predict. The massive loss of Tom Trbojevic for Manly will hurt them in every aspect on the field, but their ability to score points without their superstar fullback will be the serious question come Saturday.

The Tigers meanwhile have a few big names out. None more bigger than international centre Esan Marsters. Esan was originally named, but due to personal reasons has had to stand down from the game this weekend. The Tigers will also be without fullback and captain Moses Mbye. Not only does this leave them without a pure fullback option, but it also leaves them down a leader. It will be interesting how much of an impact this makes.

The way we see it: This could be the hardest game to predict. The Tigers have a few new look faces around the field, and would be the obvious pick, but without Nofoaluma, Mbye and Marsters, the back line that struggles to find points could struggle even more. Manly however have a very inexperienced back line, and will still be undermanned compared to their opponents. At Leichhardt, you can’t go past the Tigers, so we’ve got them pulling out a 12 point win.

North Queensland Cowboys vs St George Illawarra Dragons - Saturday March 16th- 1300SMILES Stadium.

The final super Saturday game has the Cowboys hosting the Dragons. Another game that’s going to be very hard to predict to start the season.

The Cowboys are a team that well and truly underperformed in 2018, and despite a few gains, a team I personally still see struggling in 2019. While they won’t be a bottom feeder team, they do have the potential to be a top 8 team if they can turn things around in 2019. The killer forward line has gotten even better, and despite the loss of JT, they seem to of figured it out with the halves. 

Oh the Dragons... what a disappointing end to 2018, a truly disappointing finish! The Dragons will be back in 2019 and with a vengeance! Despite the horror end to 2018, they have the roster to finish top 4 at least, and it’s something I expect of them. With the aggressive front line and the exciting outside backs core, the Dragons will be looking to start the year off on a high in Townsville.

The way we see it: The Dragons running away with this one. A little optimistic? Maybe. But I see a repeat of the 2018 start for the Dragons. And although the Cowboys have improved, the Dragons will be to strong for the Cows in round 1. Dragons by 18!

Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels - Sunday March 17th - Panthers Stadium.

Well it won’t be long before we get our first battle of the west! Round 1 gives us the Parramatta Eels taking on the Penrith Panthers to kick start Sunday afternoon footy for 2019!

Let’s start with the home side. The Penrith Panthers are always such a tough team to predict in terms of where they will finish. I’m pretty confident in saying it won’t be the top 4, but just like last season, they’ll be in that 5-8 pack. They have some exciting young players, but a lot of inexperience in key positions, and it’s something that may hurt the Panthers for the time being. The Panthers can score points but, and it’s for that reason alone that’ll make them a force.

The Parramatta Eels, once a top 4 side only to chase it up with a wooden spoon. The Eels have a lot to prove this year, and despite finishing last in 2018, have a lot on the line. It’s fair to say Brad Arthur’s job is on the line, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the players jobs are on the line either. The Eels will come out fighting in 2019, and won’t be a wooden spoon team. Don’t be surprised if they give us a round 1 upset but!

The way we see it: The Panthers are the clear favourites, but right off the Eels all you want. I expect the Eels to come away with the points, but it won’t be as easy as many expect. Panthers by 2.

Gold Coast Titans vs Canberra Raiders - Sunday March 17th - Cbus Super Stadium.

To finish of the first round, we get the Titans and the Raiders facing off up at the Gold Coast. 

The Raiders have made some interesting changes to their core line up, with Jack Wighton playing in the halves. This a make or break moment for him, and possibly his last chance in the NRL, not to mention, for a team that has been a real disappointment. The Raiders have truly failed to live up to the hype of their roster, and this is about it for them. With some expiring contracts, it’s kind of now or never in 2019, so expect to see them come out of the gates hard.

The Titans are always a hard team to talk about to start a season. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. They’ve filled a lot of gaps needing to be filled over the past season or two, and now is when we should see them start to really fire after a patient few years for their fans. The have a lot of aggression in their roster, and a lot of talent, but 2019 will need to see the Titans improve on last season and least be a finals fringe side, their fans need it.

The way we see it: The Raiders are a team that struggle to close out close finishes, but I see them doing it this weekend. The Titans will show a lot of fight, but the boys from Canberra will grab the single digit win. Raiders by 8.


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