The 2016 NRL season begins on Thursday night and continues throughout the weekend with a total of eight matches to be played. We take a look at every match and offer our 2016 NRL Round 1 Preview and Betting Tips.
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Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos (Thursday, March 3 at 8.05pm AEDT)
The Eels have had a great offseason and have improved their squad drastically since last season. In another boost they will avoid losing competition points for salary cap issues in previous years. They were able to bring the New Zealand captain Kieran Foran into their halves while Michael Jennings will replace Will Hopoate in the centres. This improves their already formidable left edge drastically as it will put Jennings next to the leading try scorer of the 2015 competition Semi Radradra while Foran prefers to attack on the left hand side of the field which should mean a lot of traffic will be heading their way.
Meanwhile, the Broncos will have basically the same squad as last year minus Justin Hodges who retired but they replaced him brilliantly with speedster James Roberts. He will offer a lot in attack as he was forced to create a lot of opportunities by himself whilst he was at the Titans whereas the Broncos halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford will be skilful enough to give Roberts plenty of space. There is also enough other attacking weapons around him for the defence to be concerned about. The Broncos will have wanted to take the field since losing the 2015 Grand Final and I expect them to come out very strong and pick up a comfortable victory.
TIP: Broncos @ $1.65 with William Hill using $1 per point promo (see below)
Manly Sea Eagles vs Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs (Friday, March 4 at 8.05pm AEDT)
These two sides will have top eight aspirations and a lot of that will hinge on their halves being able to find a way to gel and utilise the quality pieces they have around them. Dylan Walker will make his debut for the Sea Eagles in five-eighth next to Daly Cherry-Evans. Walker is known for his time spent at centre but he has been experimented in the halves before but it was with no success as Walker is a strong runner of the ball and generally doesn’t find the correct pass and lacks a creative mind. Whether new coach Trent Barret can change that will be the biggest question to be answered for the Sea Eagles this season.
The Bulldogs have lost New South Wales halfback Trent Hodkinson and they will have Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds to rely on. These two played a few quality games last year together but they were very inconsistent. They show flashes of brilliance in attack but can also come up with massive mistakes that have cost the side. They are also terrible defenders whereas Hodkinson is one of the most reliable defensive halves in the game. The Bulldogs miss a lot of spark off the bench with David Klemmer ruled out through suspension. Manly should have too much quality on their home soil and come away with the win.
Canberra Raiders vs Penrith Panthers (Saturday, March 5 at 3pm AEDT)
The Raiders will enter the 2016 season with a lot of hope after a strong 2015 season that saw a lot of players improve. They have added some quality pieces and have a very strong forward pack and a solid back line. Blake Austin had a breakout season last year that saw him put into the origin discussions and if he starts strongly those whispers will become a lot louder. The key to the Raiders season will be to improve their home record. Last year they were strong on the road but their home losses ultimately cost them a place in the finals series.
The Panthers will start the season still without their star fullback Matt Moylan through injury. It is a big loss for the side as Moylan is one of the most creative fullbacks in the game and had 11 assists through 9 games last season. The addition of New South Wales big man Trent Merrin as lock is a huge addition to the side as he will partner Bryce Cartwright and Elijah Taylor in the back row. Cartwright offers a lot and is known for his offloads and creative play.
However, the Raiders have grown under Ricky Stuart over the past two seasons and will show a lot of attacking flair, as they were the fourth highest scoring team last year – if their defence has improved then they will be a hard team to beat on home soil.
Wests Tigers vs New Zealand Warriors (Saturday, March 5 5.30pm AEDT)
This will be an exciting and interesting match to watch, as it should reveal a lot about both sides. The Tigers are expected to struggle this season with a lot of young and inexperienced players. Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses and Tim Simona are very talented players but they will need to take that extra step this season if they are to have any success. James Tedesco is their star player and he constantly finds himself involved in the match using his speed to his advantage.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have arguably had the best offseason of any NRL team picking up two internationals in fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Isaac Luke. The two will be a part of a spine that involves fellow New Zealand international Shaun Johnson. The three could combine to create the best attack in the league and they have shown they can gel throughout the New Zealand teams success in recent years. Their forward pack is incredibly strong and this match could turn into a blow out.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Cronulla Sharks (Saturday, March 5 at 7.30pm AEDT)
The first match of the 2016 season for the defending champions will be against the Sharks - a team they beat in an elimination final last year 40-0. However a lot has changed for the Sharks with a new halves pairing. James Maloney and Chad Townsend are both strong players with Maloney having represented his state and led the Roosters to a title in 2012. Finding a way to use Ben Barba to their advantage without upsetting young stars Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes will be a big challenge this season.
The Cowboys have been able to retain their premiership winning side and they will take to the field with a full strength line up on Saturday. The side will be obviously full of confidence coming off a winning season and they will want to start things off on a positive note in front of their home fans for the first time since lifting the trophy. The Sharks have always been trouble for the Cowboys but the Cowboys will be too strong and earn a narrow victory.
Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Sunday, March 6 4pm AEDT)
The Roosters will enter the 2016 under a lot of pressure, as they will be without a lot of key star players for at least the early part of the season. Mitchell Pearce has only just returned from rehab after his drunken outing on Australia day and there is no timetable for his return. Whilst Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner will miss at least the first three months of competition with separate injuries. It is a big loss for the side as it forces inexperienced players into positions earlier than expected.
Cody Walker will start at five-eighth for the Rabbitohs with Luke Keary on suspension but other than that the Rabbits will be at full strength. The long awaited return of Sam Burgess will be the biggest talking point of the match and the impact he has on the result will be scrutinised. Burgess last played for the Red and Green with a broken cheekbone and played the entire match at an incredible level to lead his side to a premiership and Clive Churchill medal. I don’t expect the Roosters to play at high level without their stars and whether Blake Fergurson can adjust with his move from centre to fullback remains to be seen.
Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights (Sunday, March 7 at 6.30pm AEDT)
Despite it being round 1, this match could have a big outcome on the standings at the end of the season. However, for all the wrong reasons for these two clubs as the Knights and Titans are most likely to be fighting it out to avoid the wooden spoon. The Titans have had one of the worst off seasons with losing quality players and stars suffering injuries. Tyrone Roberts will take on the team that let him leave and he should have a chip on his shoulder and what to play at a high level. However, five-eighth Jarrod Mullen has returned to full strength and he is partnered with New South Wales halfback Trent Hodkinson which should have him improve his game to the best it has been in years. The two have incredibly strong kicking games and we are backing them to earn a victory in the opening round of the season.
Melbourne Storm vs St George Illawarra (Monday, March 8 at 7pm AEDT)
The last match of the opening round is set to be another big one with two top eight sides from last year fighting it out. Billy Slater will make his long awaited return for the Storm after missing the majority of last season with a knee injury. Cameron Munster was a solid replacement but ironically will miss the contest with an injury of his own.
The Dragons will be at full strength and have added a great defensive centre to their back line in Tim Lafai. Surprisingly , the New South Wales full back will start in the centres for the Dragons with Kurt Mann wearing the number one jersey. This is likely due to Josh Dugan’s inability to create opportunities for his outside players as he contributed to just two assists for his team in the 2015 season. He is a strong runner of the ball and will be a big test for the inexperienced Richard Kennar.
However, Storm coach Craig Bellamy is always able to somehow get the best out of his players despite their inexperience and with the trio Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Slater playing together once again – I expect them to earn a comfortable victory on home soil.
Check out the official NRL website for more details of each game.
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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