The Newsroom previews the opening round of the 2015 NRL season.
Broncos v Rabbitohs
The season kicks off in Brisbane with the return of Wayne Bennett to his old stomping ground to take on the NRL premiers and world champions, the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Bunnies have had a tumultuous off season and will be looking forward to getting the season underway more than anyone. The Rabbitohs went to the World Club Challenge and destroyed St Helens 39-0 in a dominating performance. Led by new skipper Greg Inglis, it is going to take something special to stop the best rugby league side in the world.
But if anyone is capable of stopping them, Wayne Bennett is the man. He has brought back an aura to Brisbane and has enforced some strict team rules that have seemed to benefit his side. After cutting a number of players and making several signings, the side can be declared as Bennett’s Broncos.
A giant contest indeed but no doubt the Broncos will need something special to win.
Newsroom’s prediction: South Sydney by 12 points.
Eels v Eagles
A clash that promises a lot of fire and fierce competition as well as a game that will have many sub-plots to look for.
This marks the first time Anthony Watmough will take on Manly since leaving the club. He hasn’t hidden the fact that he “hates Manly“, while Parramatta are also leading the race for the signature of Manly half back Kieran Foran, although nothing is confirmed. Manly are all class, possessing arguably the best halves pairing in the league as well as a dominant forward pack. The form of Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans will be interesting to watch as they are currently deciding where their futures lie.
The Eels are full of hope and optimism, and with Will Hopoate filling the role of full back, their attack will be interesting to watch try to gel.
Newsroom’s prediction: Manly by 16 points.
Knights v Warriors
The Knights had a season to forget last year, struggling regularly to get going despite showing glimpses of promise. Covering for the loss of Darius Boyd will be difficult and they will be relying on the likes of Kurt Gidley and Jarrod Mullen to step up in this game.
The Warriors posses plenty of flair and talent but do not always have the best temperament. Any side with Shaun Johnson in it stands a chance of doing something special but whether the players around him can step up is yet to be seen. Traveling from NZ won’t help them either so this game provides a good challenge early on.
Newsroom’s prediction: Warriors by 4.
Titans v Tigers
Well… what can be said for the Titans. One of the worst off seasons ever seen in the NRL, they have had players charged with supplying cocaine and will be without stars Greg Bird and Dave Taylor due to pending court cases. Very little can be said about their football as very little focus has been put on it.
The Tigers on the other hand are looking good. Big changes over the last six months gives opposition teams a slight hint of the unknown when it comes to the Tigers this early in the season. The return of James Tedesco after a season ending injury last year will be massive for the Wests.
Newsroom’s prediction: Wests by 12.
Cowboys v Roosters
The Roosters have been talking up their chances all pre-season saying they have no pressure on them as they are no longer reigning premiers, but instead they have added drive this year as they feel as though they let themselves down last year.
Losing Sonny Bill Williams and Anthony Minichello is massive but they still have a very strong side on paper and are a premiership threat.
The Cowboys will be out for vengeance this season after once again being eliminated from the finals due to refereeing mistakes. With one of the strongest forward packs in the competition, and arguably the world’s best player in Jonathan Thurston, the Cowboys will see themselves as a top four team. They play their best football at home and that could give them the edge this weekend.
Newsroom’s prediction: Cowboys by 2.
Panthers v Bulldogs
The Panthers became everyone’s second side last year after they made it to a preliminary final despite being crippled with injuries. However, this is a new season and with it comes new expectations. The Panthers can put the NRL on notice if they perform well this weekend.
The Bulldogs have lost Michael Ennis to the Sharks and will need to be ready to go from the first whistle as they have had an interrupted preseason with numerous injuries. Still possessing a massive forward pack, the Dogs lack talent in the backs and may find it hard to score this season.
Newsroom’s prediction: Panthers by 14
Cronulla v Raiders
The Shire has a reason to smile again with big name players joining the club and the ASADA drama seemingly behind them. Signing Ben Barba and Michael Ennis over the summer has boosted their squad and will allow them to play a more free brand of football.
The Raiders have been quiet this summer and will need to win some early games this season to keep the fans interested. Not a lot is expected from them but there will be a lot of in-house hope for improvement. It could be a tough day for the Raiders to kick off their season.
Newsroom’s prediction: Sharks by 8
Dragons v Storm
St George had a good preseason and are looking to build on their trial games. The combination of Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop continues to show signs of being a threat to opposition sides. Josh Dugan has also been in fabulous form and is starting to show signs that he is back to his best.
The Storm, on the other hand, are still full of their typical class and are focusing on fixing their consistency after finishing sixth last season. Skipper Cameron Smith will miss the start of the season but is expected back sooner rather than later. Still full of fire power and scoring ability, they will consider themselves a top four side.
Newsroom’s prediction: Storm by 4 – Jake Benoiton
Top photo from Johnny Worthington’s Flickr photostream.