By Stephen Gallagher
THURSDAY: Cronulla Sutherland Sharks V Brisbane Broncos – Southern Cross Group Stadium – 22:05NZT
The title defence starts in the very first game of 2017, and what better opponents to go up against than the tough Broncos.
This is going to be a physical match, and the Sharks will be showing their strengths up front to match it with Brisbane. Lots of even battles all over the field.
There’s going to be plenty of emotion involved in this one too. Broncos will want to upstage the Sharks on their own turf. Big match.
TIP: Sharks 1-12
FRIDAY: Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs V Melbourne Storm – Belmore Sports Ground – 20:00NZT
Another juicy match-up here. The Bulldogs at their traditional home ground against the always impressive and powerful Storm side.
The Bulldogs let 2016 get away on them, and will want to give themselves a strong 2017 start.
The Storm have plenty to prove too, with a number of new faces on the side wanting to solidify a spot in the 17.
Melbourne always start the season well, and I think they’ll win away from home here too.
TIP: Storm 13+
South Sydney Rabbitohs V Wests Tigers – ANZ Stadium – 22:05NZT
What a great way to start the season with Robbie Farah going up against his old team in a massive match-up.
I don’t see this one being a close battle at all. The strike power the Rabbitohs have all over the field is going to torment the poor Wests Tigers.
The Tigers have a lot to prove, but I don’t think they’re strong enough across the board to fire a shot.
At least Tim Simona isn’t betting against himself I suppose.
TIP: Rabbitohs 13+
SATURDAY: Saint George Illawarra Dragons V Penrith Panthers – UOW Jubilee Oval – 18.30NZT
The Dragons are under strength, there’s no doubt they are lacking in some key positions, so everyone in this team will have to deliver on a team performance.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Penrith will deliver. They are probably the most exciting up and coming squad in the comp, and with a successful 2016 only adding to their arsenal; there’s still a bit of pressure riding on the youngsters.
The Panthers are just too talented for the Dragons here.
TIP: Panthers 13+
North Queensland Cowboys V Canberra Raiders – 1300 Smiles Stadium – 21:00NZT
Two solid sides running full steam in to each other is going to be a bloody good watch.
The Cowboys have set themselves up well for 2017, and the Raiders very much the same.
Hard to separate these two on paper as well. Canberra probably have more flexibility in their forward pack, but the backs are just as skilled as each other.
I think the home advantage might help the Cowboys get across the line here. In a close one.
TIP: Cowboys 1-12
Gold Coast Titans V Sydney Roosters – CBUS Super Stadium – 23:00NZT
I’m putting a lot of pressure on the Titans to perform this year, and I imagine their fans are doing the same.
There’s plenty of excitement in the air on the Gold Coast with their roster.
The Roosters love coming to play when there’s a party to spoil. They’ve got some key experience among their ranks which will help pilot their season.
The Titans have some fast finishers which could keep them well and truly ahead on the scoreboard.
TIP: Titans 13+
SUNDAY: New Zealand Warriors V Newcastle Knights – Mount Smart Stadium – 16:00NZT
They have to hit the ground running, the Warriors. No excuses, no bullshit please.
The Knights are a weak side, but do have some potential among themselves to bring an upset win back across the Tasman.
The Warriors need not be complacent. If they start to bring silly errors in to their game they will lose their momentum.
It’s hard to see them going down here in this one though. Just too much skill and talent.
TIP: Warriors 13+
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles V Parramatta Eels – Lottoland – 18:00NZT
Before I get started, Lottoland is the shittiest name for a ground.
The Sea Eagles do enjoy a good Sunday arvo match-up, and this will be a close one.
Parramatta definitely have what it takes to get the result here. Manly will be strong in their defence, and will take pride in defending their line.
I think this game will go down to the wire, with a Corey Norman or Daly Cherry-Evans bust to help either side win it.
TIP: Eels 1-12
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