By Stephen Gallagher
Thursday: Panthers V Sea Eagles – BlueBet Stadium – 10.05NZT
What a way to kick off the season! The reigning premiers without their Clive Churchill Medalist go up against a very solid Manly side.
Now I’ve got high hopes for Manly this year. I’m tipping them to win the comp.
While Penrith has a few younger faces in their lineup, they are still a very good side.
Sean O’Sullivan is a very handy replacement for Cleary.
But I don’t think they’ll start the defence of their premiership with a win.
Manly are almost unchanged from last year, and that will pay dividends.
Tip: Sea Eagles 1-12
Friday: Raiders V Sharks – GIO Stadium – 20.00NZT
While all the off-season chatter was about Jamal Fogarty, it’s now about Brad Schneider.
Unfortunate to be ruled out with injury for the first ten weeks, but what an opportunity for the youngster.
Cronulla are boasting a very strong lineup, but are still missing a couple of keys through injury.
I see the Raiders really starting rong against the Sharks. Ricky Stuart will have them raring to go, without a doubt.
Sharks to sneak home in the end by a try.
Tip: Sharks 1-12
Broncos V Rabbitohs – Suncorp Stadium – 22.05NZT
Everyone wanted Reynolds against his old club round one, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Brisbane were underwhelming in trials, but they just have to scrap it and move forward.
South Sydney still have Cody Walker, but will that be enough to pick up a win against the Broncos?
I’ve changed my mind on this game so many times, but am leaning towards Souths, just.
I think it’s their forward pack that’ll help them win it.
Tip: Rabbitohs 1-12
Saturday: Roosters V Knights – Sydney Cricket Ground – 17.00NZT
All eyes on Connor Watson against his old club – I can’t wait for him to put a hit on his best friend Kalyn Ponga.
But lets cut to the chase. This is a stacked Roosters team. They are looking very dangerous on paper.
The Knights have had some struggles in their offseason through injury and departing players, but they just have to deal with it.
Keary will be a maser out there for the Roosters – and I don’t see the Knights getting close to him. He’ll want to put on a big display after missing the year previous due to an ACL injury.
Tip: Roosters 13+
Warriors V Dragons – Sunshine Coast Stadium – 19.30NZT
Both sides are in somewhat of a similar situation, but I really think the Dragons are ahead of them.
Naming Chanel Harris-Tavita at fullback in a position he’s never played before is a big ask, especially with Ben Hunt bombs to catch.
The omission of Tariq Sims is a head-scratcher for Red V fans, though.
This has the potential to be 8-6 of 38-36. I really don’t know what to expect, but the forward battle is going to be exciting.
Think the Dragons backs will get them home. Too talented.
Tip: Dragons 1-12
Tigers V Storm – CommBank Stadium – 21.35NZT
Twenty years of getting the two points in round one for the Storm, and it looks like it’ll happen once again.
Though they are missing some important players, they still have a ridiculous team on paper.
The Tigers trial form was confusing – but at least they have FIVE CAPTAINS ON THE FIELD for their first game…
Storm in a canter. Won’t get out of third gear. Tough for Wests to deal with.
Tip: Storm 13+
Sunday: Eels V Titans – CommBank Stadium – 18.05NZT
I’m really liking what I see in Parramatta. They really have a good opportunity to win the comp this season, all things considered.
Yet there will be a lot of focus on this game going towards the very young and inexperienced spine of the Titans, who haven’t played an NRL game together as 1,6,7,9.
Eels are quite quick off the mark, and if they score a couple of early tries – it could be curtains.
They have a very good kicking game that’ll pressure the Gold Coast.
Tip: Eels 13+
Cowboys V Bulldogs – Queensland Country Bank Stadium – 20.15NZT
The last game of the first round and it could go in absolutely any direction. Seriously.
North Queensland are a bit of a mystery mob to me, but the Bulldogs have six guys on club debut that will hopefully see them finish above 16th in 2022.
I see this being less about defence and more about the attack.
A messy and high scoring affair. Josh Addo-Carr to score the game-winner with ten to go.
Tip: Bulldogs 1-12
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