Penrith Panthers v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Thursday 10th March at BlueBet Stadium, 8:05pm
Kicking game will be the key on a slow, damp track and with Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary’s return from a shoulder injury delayed for another three weeks, the advantage goes to Manly’s experienced halves duo of Kieron Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans. If Dally M medalist Tom Trbojevic 2021 form continues, Manly will be hard to beat.
Sea Eagles by 6
Canberra Raiders v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Friday 11th March at GIO Stadium, 6pm
The Sharks lose new coach Craig Fitzgibbon for round one due to covid, but they will be in good hands with assistant Josh Hannay. The loss of Jamal Fogarty is a huge loss for the Raiders and will have to rely on rookie half Brad Schneider on debut. On paper, the Sharks look the stronger side with Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes on club debut.
Sharks by 12
Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday 11th March at Suncorp Stadium, 8:05pm
The loss of new Broncos halfback and captain, Adam Reynolds cannot be understated, but the loss of Adam Reynolds to the Rabbitohs cannot be understated either. Both sides are missing other key players as well, neither side showed much promise in the trials, but it is hard to tip against last year’s grand finalists.
Rabbitohs by 14
Sydney Roosters v Newcastle Knights
Saturday 12th March at SCG, 3pm
The Knights lose the experienced Mitchell Pearce while the Roosters welcome back Clive Churchill medalist, Luke Keary and plethora of star players. It is almost unfair to most other clubs when you look at the Roosters roster and on paper, they comfortably outmatch the Knights.
Roosters by 20
New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 12th March at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 5:30pm
Both teams are evenly matched and this should be a relatively even contest, especially in the middle-third, but it may come down to which side has the X-factor to create something out of nothing. With the Warriors missing Reece Walsh to suspension, the Dragons have plenty of strike power with their outside backs to to get the job done.
Dragons by 4
Wests Tigers v Melbourne Storm
Saturday 12th March at CommBank Stadium, 7:35pm
This could be another long season for the Tigers. They are without their best player, Adam Doueihi for at least 10 weeks and the jury is still out, after eight years, as to whether Luke Brooks is the man to lead them back to the finals. The Storm are missing Cam Munster and Harry Grant, but they still look the far superior side and should pick up a comfortable win.
Storm by 16
Parramatta Eels v Gold Coast Titans
Sunday 13th March at CommBank Stadium, 4:05pm
The Eels were super impressive in their trials and the Titans will be short of a gallop after their last trial was cancelled due to poor weather. The Titans have a young, but fearless spine and are capable of racking up a big score, even against the top sides, but the Eels are primed for a massive year and will be desperate to get off to a good start at home.
Eels by 8
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Sunday 13th March at QCB Stadium, 6:15pm
The battle of last seasons cellar-dwellers. All eyes will be on the Bulldogs after their impressive recruitment drive, but they were terrible in their last trial match and the halfback position may still be a big problem for them. The Cowboys showed some promise during their trial victories and have some quality young talent on their roster. The Bulldogs will be under pressure for immediate success, while the Cowboys will be playing without the same external expectations.
Cowboys by 6