By Stephen Gallagher
MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 01: Sydney Roosters V South Sydney Rabbitohs – Friday, Allianz Stadium, Sydney. 20.05 local time, 22.05 NZ time.
The Roosters and Rabbitohs share one of the biggest rivalries in sport world-wide. It’s great to see these two sides opening the 2013 Telstra Premiership in what will be once again a brilliant year for the code.
The Roosters have purchased magnificently over the off-season, snaring such players as James Maloney, Michael Jennings and of course Sonny Bill Williams. With one of the biggest forward packs this year, it will be some monumental go forward among them. New coach Trent Robinson has a lot to prove in his first year of contract as head coach. The backline shows a lot of flare and youth which we caught glimpses of last season. Unleashed in full fury at any stage this year and watch in awe. This Roosters side on paper is an impressive package.
South Sydney will once again be a side to beat. Adding to their already stacked side come the likes of Ben Te’o and Jeff Lima. There’s not too much change from last season. There is no need to change a winning formula under Michael Maguire. Adam Reynolds will have a lot of pressure to stand up and deliver with his rookie season form which took the NRL by storm. Four Burgess brothers this season, and if they happen to all play at the same time it will be the first time since 1910 that a quartet of brothers have played first grade together.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The expectation on this Roosters side to perform after their brilliant trial form will be huge. The fans deserve a better season from this foundation side too. I expect nothing but pure physicality early on from the likes of Waerea-Hargraves and Aidan Guerra. The speed to burn outside is tremendous, but that is a lot of pressure on some young guys to stand up. The Roosters look to be a quality side this season. I think everyone will be waiting for SBW to emerge from the bench. Will the monster be unleashed early? You betcha. If they play anything like their Foundation Cup trial match against Wests, fear this squad.
Souths have to keep building the momentum as a squad from their success of 2012 and it starts with having the knowledge that they got the win late last year against the Roosters. Another monster forward pack so you can see there will be thunder in the engine room. The second phase play is the Rabbitohs biggest weapon. Utilising the man mountain Greg Inglis out wide is going to be a huge beneficiary for their chances of a win. They definitely have the talent all over the park to stick it to their longest foes.
THE BATTLE OF: Fit Five-Eighths: James Maloney will be pressured in to performing after a sub-par effort late in 2012 for the Warriors.His halves partner Mitchell Pearce will give Maloney a lot to work with. Maloney is a natural talent who could easily be selected for State of Origin is he deals his cards right. Everyone knows just how capable Maloney is of being a match winner, and what better time to start that reputation.
John Sutton is pretty much an extra lock on the field with his barnstorming runs. His use of the running game catches defensive lines out all over the field, so teams have to be wary. His game is not limited however, with a big boot and all the skills – Sutton and Reynolds are forming a scary halves pairing for this club. Sutton has the slight of hand that any team would love.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Sonny Bill Williams. Need I say more? The last time he put on a league jersey seemed like a lifetime ago for league fans. My eye will be kept on the bench until he comes on. The things this man is capable of are only dreams to many. His return has been a long time in the waiting, and here’s hoping he can deliver the goods that are on his shoulder.
Isaac Luke is one of the most versatile players in the NRL. Racking up metres left, right and centre with ball in hand, then committing himself hugely on defence. A big asset to the Rabbitohs..I would love to see what is in his bag of tricks for 2013.
PREDICTION: The two matches these teams played in 2012 were both won in amazing and surreal circumstances involving late comebacks and last second plays to clinch the final result. I think both teams are pretty evenly matched and it’s so hard to pick a winner in the first match of the season. However, I am going to back the Roosters to get this one done. 26-18. It’s going to be a bloody thrilling start to the NRL season.
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