The Big Marns Round 1 NRL Preview
Thursday 7:30pm (AEDT) Newcastle Knights $1.61 v St George Illawarra Dragons $2.34 – Hunter Stadium
The season kicks off with a blockbuster between the Newcastle Knights and the St George Illawarra Dragons.
It’s a case of master up against apprentice with former Dragons coach Wayne Bennett now at the helm of the Newcastle Knights while Steve Price has some pretty big boots to fill as head coach of the Dragons.
The Knights have been very active in the player market and have recruited very strongly with Darius Boyd (Dragons), Timana Tahu (Panthers), Kade Snowden (Sharks) and former Knight Danny Buderus (Leeds) turning out for the Novacastrians in 2012.
The Dragons will miss the dynamic Mark Gasnier and Darius Boyd. Young Kyle Stanley will have the difficult task of replacing Boyd at fullback and also coming up against him on Thursday night.
Newcastle looks the goods here and I expect them to win and cover the start.
Friday 7:30pm (AEDT) Parramatta Eels $2.38 v Brisbane Broncos $1.59 – Parramatta Stadium
It’s been said plenty of times but what will life be like for the Broncos without Lockyer?
We get to find out this Friday night and it will be Corey Norman in the pressure cooker wearing the famous No 6.
The Eels will be missing key players in Jarryd Hayne and Willie Tonga through injury. Parra will be hoping new recruit Chris Sandow delivers after an impressive season for Souths last year.
The Broncos forward pack looks very solid and they have some speed to burn in the backs. Parra lose too much when Hayne is out. Broncos to win on the road
Saturday 5:30pm (AEDT) Canberra Raiders $2.49 v Melbourne Storm $1.55 – Canberra Stadium
The Raiders were dealt a massive blow last season when five-eighth Terry Campese could only manage 20 minutes for the season.
2012 is a big year for Campese and the Raiders will be hoping he can guide them to a Top 8 berth.
Melbourne Storm has the outstanding trio of Slater, Cronk and Smith to call upon but I see the Raiders winning at home on the back of Campese and you can always throw in some Josh Dugan brilliance.
Saturday 7:30pm (AEDT) Penrith Panthers $2.17 v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs $1.70 – Centrebet Stadium
This should be a beauty at the foot of the mountains.
Both sides have exciting backs with plenty of pace to burn. We should hopefully see the likes of Barba, Coote and Jennings in full flight and put on a show for the crowd.
The Dogs have a very solid forward pack and the bench looks equally as strong with English import James Graham and Greg Eastwood named on it.
I think the Dogs will be winning this game.
Saturday 7:30pm (AEDT) North Queensland Cowboys $1.55 v Gold Coast Titans $2.49 - Dairy Farmers Stadium
The Titans have recruited well this season with Jamal Idris, Luke Douglas and Nate Myles moving to the club.
Unfortunately the Cowboys have a guy by the name of Johnathan Thurston who is one of the most influential players in the game. Throw in Matt Bowen for support and the Cowboys are a tough side to play and even tougher at home.
It will be interesting to see how JT goes in the No 6, not that it should make much difference to his game. He will be the man to replace Lockyer in the QLD jersey this year.
The Cowboys shant be losing this match
Sunday 12:00pm (AEDT) New Zealand Warriors $1.65 v Manly Sea Eagles $2.26 – Eden Park
What a match this should be! The 2011 grand-final replay comes early across the ditch.
The Sea Eagles have had a tough pre-season that included a trip to England to play against Leeds in the World Club Challenge. They have also had to get use to life without Des Hasler who has moved on to the Bulldogs.
It will be difficult for Manly clocking up so many k’s so early in the season and Eden Park is not the easiest place to win at the best of times.
The Warriors to get across the line and get some small redemption for their grand-final loss last year.
Sunday 2:00pm (AEDT) Wests Tigers $1.46 v Cronulla Sharks $2.75 - Leichhardt Oval
The Tigers are the current premiership favourites and love playing at a packed Leichhardt Oval on a Sunday afternoon. From all reports this match is close to a sell-out.
The Sharks have shown some decent trial form and will be confident of matching the Tigers in this clash especially with old Tigers Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita having a point to prove after they were discarded by the Tigers.
Sharks half-back Todd Carney will be instrumental to the Sharks chances this year along with ever reliable skipper Paul Gallen.
The Tigers have skill and speed across the park and with Benji leading the way the Tigers should get the cash in a close one over the Sharkies.
Monday 7:00pm (AEDT) South Sydney Rabbitohs $1.91 v Sydney Roosters $1.91 – ANZ Stadium
Round 1 wraps up with these bitter rivals going toe to toe. Souths welcome back Sam Burgess who is like a new signing and have also named Adam Reynolds as the man to replace Chris Sandow at half-back.
A lot of Souths fortunes will be decided by how well John Sutton and Adam Reynolds gel and direct the Rabbitohs around the park.
The Roosters are in a similar situation where their fortunes will be decided by their half pairing of Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce.
It’s always a fiery encounter between these two sides. I’m tipping the Bunnies to win this one on the back of their forwards including the steam train David Taylor.