THURSDAY: Storm V Rabbitohs – AAMI Park, 22.05
The reigning Premiers kick the season off in Melbourne against the Bunnies and this game could easily set the tone for the 2021 season.
Not only that, it could be the two teams in the grand final at the end of the year!
It’s life after Cam Smith for the Storm, and they are nursing a few key injuries too.
Souths will be raring to go under Wayne, and it’s now or never for a premiership under him, but they’ve never won in Melbourne.
Plus Benji Marshall off the bench for the green and red, it’ll be good to see.
TIP: Rabbitohs 1-12
FRIDAY: Knights V Bulldogs – McDonald Jones Stadium, 20.00
Newcastle are missing a fair chunk of players through injury, but there’s still plenty of talent in their ranks to start the season with a win.
The new look Bulldogs will have plenty of eyes on them, and under new coach Trent Barrett, there’s plenty to play for.
Canterbury are almost at full strength, and they could use this to their advantage.
I expect the doggies to come out firing, and they could snipe the Knights to get a win on the board.
TIP: Bulldogs 1-12
Broncos V Eels – Suncorp Stadium, 22.05
Brisbane, fresh from their wooden spoon are looking to set the record straight and get stuck in at home against Parra.
While there’s plenty of talking points around how this club has fallen, they still have to get back on the horse every week and get stuck in.
The Eels can’t afford to take Brisbane lightly. A strong start to the season for Parramatta will once again go along way to getting them success, which is what happened in 2020.
Broncos need to compete and hang in there as much as they can.
TIP: Eels 13+
SATURDAY: Warriors V Titans – Central Coast Stadium, 17.00
Another home away from home game for the Warriors, led by departing fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
It’s all or nothing for the Auckland-based franchise, and they get to gauge how well their season will go against the media favourites Gold Coast.
While both sides have bolstered their forward packs in a considerable way, there’s plenty to prove.
They played out a draw in a trial three weeks ago, and it could be a tight one.
Expect plenty of crash and bash footy, but it’ll be won with footy smarts.
TIP: Titans 1-12
Roosters V Sea Eagles – SCG, 19.30
The Roosters will be wanting to use the hurt of last season to fuel them in to another dynasty in 2021.
Manly’s season could be derailed quickly if they don’t get some early results. They are very much a confidence based side.
The glamour club from Bondi are still shy a few key players through injury, but they have it over the Sea Eagles up front.
Seeing Cherry-Evans and Foran back together is promising for Manly. From their glory days, there’s plenty of potential.
I still think the Roosters will get the job done.
TIP: Roosters 1-12
Panthers V Cowboys – Panthers Stadium, 21.35
Penrith will be stinging after their seventeen wins in a row amounted to nothing with the dramatic grand final loss.
They get a shot to start the season off at home, and against North Queensland, they will be in a bit of an arm wrestle.
Under new coach Todd Payten, the Cowboys will be looking to get back in to some successful times.
The flair of the Panthers is still very exciting, and I reckon they will start the season in a convincing matter.
North Queensland will do their best work with a quick play the ball, and with three hookers named, they will be wanting to keep the momentum rolling and upset Penrith.
TIP: Panthers 1-12
SUNDAY: Raiders V Tigers – GIO Stadium, 18.00
It could be a very tough trip to the nation’s capital for the Tigers.
They looked under strength, and coming up against what is a very strong Raiders side, it could be a big score.
Something has to give for the Tigers. What will make them successful in 2021? Perhaps the leadership of James Tamou will help, but he needs some support up front.
Canberra have plenty of strike weapons out wide, so early ball could spell big problems for Wests.
TIP: Raiders 13+
Dragons V Sharks – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, 20.15
The Dragons have been scrutinised massively over the off-season, and they have to prove to the media, the fans, and themselves that they can achieve this season.
Cronulla keep very much the same side from 2021, and with a big focus on defence over the off-season, they could be a hard side to break down.
All good wishes to Jack Bird in his first game in a long time in the centres.
The Dragons have to hang in and try find success on the edges.
Cronulla just need to keep the pressure on, and keep building.
TIP: Sharks 1-12
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