Round 1 of the NRL season is finally here after a controversial off-season in rugby league to say the least! We are back in 2019 with previews and betting tips for every game of the home & away season and finals, starting with Round 1 below!
It's a new era for both the Storm and Broncos as they clash in the first game of 2019. Melbourne is missing Billy Slater for the first time since 2003 and Ryan Hoffman has also retired. While for Brisbane, Anthony Seibold takes the reins from Wayne Bennett. The Storm have an incredible Round 1 record as they've won 16 in a row! They also love playing the Broncos with a 15-3 record since 2010 and it's even better at night (16-1). Jarome Hughes is an able replacement for Slater and I expect Cam Smith to be the difference in a first-up victory for the home side.
The Friday night double-header starts with an expected close matchup between the Knights and Sharks in Newcastle. Both sides are currently $1.90 to win and hopefully, it lives up to expectations. In this matchup, an interesting battle will be at five-eighth. Ponga has moved into the position from fullback and Shaun Johnson debuts for the Sharks. In the head to head, Cronulla has won 8 in a row over the Knights but Newcastle looks a better side in 2019. The Sharks are also missing Holmes, Lewis and Wade Graham. So the either team looks the best value. Last year, the Knights first 2 home games finished under a 6 point margin.
Traditional rivals clash at the SCG on Friday night as the Roosters start their title defence against the Rabbitohs. The two sides played in last year's preliminary final and the Roosters won a tight affair, 12-4. It didn't take long for Crichton to face his former side and he'll come off the bench for the Roosters. In the end, this is looking like a low scoring affair at the SCG. The turf is a bit of an issue at this stage and that should slow down both attacks. The last 2 meetings have averaged 24 total points and the Under is 7-3 at the SCG since 2010.
Both the Warriors and Bulldogs aren't expected to finish in the top 8 but a Round 1 victory will be a nice start. New Zealand is without Shaun Johnson in 2019 and that will put more responsibility on Blake Green. The Bulldogs look to be rebuilding and they will rely on a big season by Kieran Foran. As well as new recruit Dylan Napa. At Mt Smart last season, the trend was the Unders as it saluted in 10 of 13 games. Both sides finished in the bottom 8 for points scored last season and that should see a close but low scoring affair.
Super Saturday moves onto Leichhardt Oval as the Tigers host the Sea Eagles. Both sides are coming in with a number of injury concerns so the halfback battle between Daly Cherry Evans and Luke Brooks will likely be the key. Wests do have a good record over Manly with 3 straight victories. However, the average margin in two of those victories when the Tigers were the home side is just 3 points. So with each side missing star power, that should even up this contest once again and I like the value for either team to win by under 8.5 points.
In North QLD, the Cowboys and Dragons will go head to head in the heat. It will be 30+ in Townsville on Saturday and that will test each sides fatigue factor in Round 1. The home side starts a new era without JT and they did finish 2018 on a high note at home with 3 straight wins. However, the Dragons have a 3-0 record against them and have a strong squad despite missing Jack de Belin. The main changes will see Corey Norman at five-eighth and Widdop moves back to fullback. In the end, this is one of the toughest picks of the round and the betting says the same without a clear favourite. Safe no bet here.
Another rivalry matchup in Round 1 will see the Panthers play the Eels in Penrith. The Panthers swept the Eels last season and Ivan Cleary makes his debut as head coach. They dominated at home in early 2018 with 6 straight wins and get a good matchup against the Eels in Round 1. Parramatta is coming off a dismal 6-18 campaign and they lost Corey Norman in the offseason. The pressure is on Mitchell Moses as he looks to improve on the Eels 15.6 points scored per game in 2018. The trend at Panthers Stadium in 2018 was the Unders as it went 8-3. In day home games, the Panthers are 15-8-1 against the Under.
Concluding Round 1 will be the Titans up against the Raiders. They also met in Round 1 last season and the Titans prevailed in a thrilling 2 point victory. Defensively, both sides were poor in 2018 as they ranked inside the bottom 5 of the NRL. However, there is a lot of rain expected on the Gold Coast this weekend and that should see a battle between the forward packs. The Titans are loaded with talent in their pack and that should be the difference in a Titans home victory. They played close games at home against top 8 sides in the latter stages of 2018 and they should be good enough for the Raiders.
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