NRL Round one predictionsPosted on 01/03 by Joe Gann
The Dragons face the Broncos in the curtain raiser to the 2018 NRL season
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St George Dragons v Brisbane Broncos – St George Dragons
In Ben Hunt, the Dragons have finally landed a top-drawer halves partner for Gareth Widdop, and the former Bronco marks his debut against his former employers in Round one. With the luxury of four home games from the initial six rounds, the Dragons have a great opportunity to get their campaign off to a flying start against a Broncos roster that has been weakened by an exodus of first-string personnel.
Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles – Manly Sea Eagles
The challenge for the Knights lies in finding a solution to the problem of integrating so many new arrivals as swiftly as possible. There are likely to be teething problems initially as Nathan Brown attempts to mould his squad into a cohesive outfit. In contrast, the Sea Eagles have the dilemma posed by the enforced restriction of their transfer activity stemming from the ongoing salary cap investigation. The Sea Eagles are confident that the partnership of Lachlan Croker and Daly Cherry-Evans will be a successful one in the upcoming season with the new recruit producing some promising pre-season displays.
North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sharks – North Queensland Cowboys
Many people's tip to be crowned Premiers in 2018, the Cowboys start off with the boost of home advantage and a returning Johnathan Thurston who looks like he’s never been away. Cowboys boss Paul Green boasts one of the more settled rosters in the competition with many of the 2015 Championship-winning team still at the club. The Sharks will feel the loss of James Maloney's leadership greatly despite the acquisitions of Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan.
Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters – Sydney Roosters
The shortest price of any side in the opening round, the Roosters are expected to encounter little trouble against Ivan Cleary’s men. All eyes will be on Cooper Cronk who makes his bow for the Tricolours here; his arrival, coupled with that of James Tedesco has helped ratchet up the expectation levels for this year’s Premiership favourites.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v NZ Warriors – South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs endured a horror beginning to the 2017 campaign, losing both their opener to the Tigers and skipper Greg Inglis to an ACL injury that kept him on the sidelines for the entirety of the year. A year on, they come into this encounter in much better spirits following their captain’s return, and less than formidable opponents in the shape of the flaky Warriors.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm – Melbourne Storm
The second match of the Perth double-header pits the all-conquering Melbourne Storm against a new-look Bulldogs. The dominant Premiers appeared to be at their imperious best in the recent World Club match up against the Leeds Rhinos and should sweep aside the unfancied Doggies who may have a long season ahead of them.
Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels - Parramatta Eels
This is likely to be the game of the round with the two local rivals, both with a point to prove, squaring up at Panthers Stadium. Each side is expected to a contender for a top-four berth, but it is Panthers’ boss Anthony Griffin who is already under the most pressure following reports of dressing room unrest. Slow starters in recent times, the mountain men know that a good start is essential this year, but they face an Eels outfit that was ruthless in their 26-6 thrashing of Knights in their recent trial match. This is a mouth-watering clash between two attacking sides and the market reflects the fact that there is not much to separate the two.
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders – Gold Coast Titans
Inconsistency dogged the Raiders in 2017, and they will be desperate to make amends – starting here. From second place in 2016, down to tenth in 2017, the Green Machine experienced a chastening campaign that was punctuated by a series of agonisingly narrow defeats. The loss of influential hooker Josh Hodgson for most of the season will leave a void at dummy half, and Ricky Stuart’s ability to solve that problem could make or break his side’s season. The Titans are widely predicted to struggle this year. Nevertheless, coach Garth Brennan has vowed to prove the pundits wrong - this could be the shock result of the opening weekend.
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