NRL Tips & Preview – Round 1

Palmerbet Blog

Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 16 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 1 matches.

Panthers Sea Eagles
Dylan Edwards 1 Tom Trbojevic
Charlie Staines 2 Jason Saab
Izack Tago 3 Brad Parker
Stephen Crichton 4 Morgan Harper
Brian To’o 5 Reuben Garrick
Jarome Luai 6 Kieran Foran
Sean O’Sullivan 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Moses Leota 8 Toafofoa Sipley
Apisai Koroisau 9 Lachlan Croker
James Fisher-Harris 10 Martin Taupau
Viliame Kikau 11 Haumole Olakau’atu
Liam Martin 12 Ethan Bullemor
Isaah Yeo 13 Jake Trbojevic
Mitch Kenny 14 Tolutau Koula
Scott Sorensen 15 Karl Lawton
Spencer Leniu 16 Sean Keppie
Matthew Eisenhuth 17 Taniela Paseka


History:
Played 36, Panthers 21, Sea Eagles 15

Last Meeting: Round 8, 2021: Panthers 28 def. Sea Eagles 16

Final Thoughts: The 2022 NRL season kicks off with a blockbuster between the defending premier Penrith Panthers against a Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles side hoping to go at least one win better in 2022 ($4.50 to make Grand Final).

While Nathan Cleary isn’t available for this one, the Panthers have a reliable replacement in Sean O’Sullivan. He’s not going to have the same impact, obviously. However, O’Sullivan can play the role of organiser while Jarome Luai, Api Koroisau and Isaah Yeo pick up more of the creative duties. O’Sullivan will have the benefit of playing behind one of the best forward packs in the NRL, too. The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have a handful of injury concerns on their own, but most importantly, Tom Trbojevic isn’t one of them. The 2022 Dally M Medal winner is fit and firing ahead of Round 1 and it is going to be interesting to see how the Sea Eagles use their superstar fullback. If I’m Ivan Cleary, I’m doing everything I can to make life difficult for Trbojevic and forcing the Sea Eagles to shoot a different shot.

Cleary is is a significant out for the Panthers but they have the players to make up the difference for a week or two. Anticipating a somewhat ugly match in comparison to the free-flowing football we saw towards the end of the 2021 NRL season, defence will be the decider. The Panthers still present as one of the best teams in the competition in that regard with or without Cleary.

Tip: Margin – Panthers 1-12 @ $3.25

Raiders Sharks
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 1 William Kennedy
Nick Cotric 2 Sione Katoa
James Schiller 3 Jesse Ramien
Matthew Timoko 4 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Semi Valemei 5 Matt Ikuvalu
Jack Wighton 6 Matt Moylan
Brad Schneider 7 Nicho Hynes
Josh Papalii 8 Toby Rudolf
Josh Hodgson 9 Blayke Brailey
Joseph Tapine 10 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Hudson Young 11 Briton Nikora
Corey Harawira-Naera 12 Teig Wilton
Elliott Whitehead 13 Dale Finucane
Tom Starling 14 Aiden Tolman
Emre Guler 15 Siosifa Talakai
Adam Elliott 16 Royce Hunt
Corey Horsburgh 17 Andrew Fifita


History:
Played 45, Raiders 22, Sharks 23

Last Meeting: Round 18, 2021: Raiders 34 def. Sharks 18

Final Thoughts: The Canberra Raiders will be eager to get their 2022 NRL season off to a good start following their disappointing campaign last year. Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and their new-look side.

Jamal Fogarty is out for roughly half of the season which sees rookie half Brad Schneider start for Round 1. The 21-year-old has only one NRL match to his name, but the element of the unknown could work in his favour on Friday night. Elsewhere in the side, Charnze Nicoll-Klockstad has beaten out Xavier Savage at fullback while Adam Elliott makes his club debut. For the Sharks, Nicho Hynes and Dale Finucane both start for their new club, Ronaldo Mulitalo is into a new position in the centres, and Matt Ikuvalu will start on the wing.

There were already question marks around the Raiders halves before Fogarty’s injury. While expected to improve throughout the year, how the pair would link up to start wasn’t so clear. Now Jack Wighton is working with yet another new partner and we’ve seen what the inconsistency in the halves can do to his form and that of the Raiders. While Hynes is playing his first game for the Sharks and there a possible teething issues on that side, he isn’t quite so reliant on others like Wighton. The Sharks attack has stacks of potential and the addition of Finucane to the middle should provide them with some much-needed consistency through the centre-third. It’s difficult to get a read on teams this early in the season but the Sharks look the better-prepared of the two this week.

Tip: Head-to-head – Sharks @ $1.85

Broncos Rabbitohs
Jamayne Isaako 1 Blake Taaffe
Corey Oates 2 Alex Johnston
Kotoni Staggs 3 Jaxson Paulo
Herbie Farnworth 4 Campbell Graham
Selwyn Cobbo 5 Taane Milne
Billy Walters 6 Cody Walker
Albert Kelly 7 Lachlan Ilias
Keenan Palasia 8 Tevita Tatola
Jake Turpin 9 Damien Cook
Payne Haas 10 Mark Nicholls
Kurt Capewell 11 Keaon Koloamatangi
Jordan Riki 12 Jai Arrow
Patrick Carrigan 13 Cameron Murray
Ryan James 14 Jacob Host
Rhys Kennedy 15 Siliva Havili
TC Robati 16 Thomas Burgess
Tyrone Roberts 17 Michael Chee-Kam


History:
Played 35, Broncos 22, Rabbitohs 12

Last Meeting: Round 15, 2021: Rabbitohs 46 def. Broncos 0

Final Thoughts: It’s not the Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs/Adam Reynolds v his former club showdown we all hoped for in this one, but it still shapes as an interesting encounter.

With Adam Reynolds not available, Billy Walters will partner Albert Kelly in the Broncos halves. Meanwhile, Jamayne Isaako fills in for the injured Tesi Niu with Selwyn Cobbo and Corey Oates on the wing. It’s also a big game for Kurt Capewell, Ryan James and Tyrone Roberts who all make their club debut in this one. For the Rabbitohs it’s business as normal. Rookie coach Jason Demetriou will feel right at home at Suncorp Stadium and has named the side most anticipated. The only possible surprise is Jaxson Paulo in the centres, Taane Milne on the wing and Josh Mansour named in #19.

The expectation is for the Rabbitohs to handle the Broncos with relative ease. While they’re without Adam Reynolds after making the 2021 NRL Grand Final, the Broncos don’t have him either…Unfortunately for Kevin Walters, he starts this season with the same issues he finished with in 2021: A young side with plenty of talent but a lack of quality in key playmaking positions. The Rabbitohs, on the other hand, have named a side that can hit the ground running with the ball in hand. Brisbane’s probable issues with the ball does present an appealing tryscorer option, though. Running at Jaxson Paulo who has never started an NRL game in the centres and hasn’t looked especially comfortable there in the trials, Kotoni Staggs is set to benefit when the Broncos run out of ideas before passing him the ball and hoping for the best.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Kotoni Staggs @ $2.30

Roosters Knights
James Tedesco 1 Kalyn Ponga
Daniel Tupou 2 Dominic Young
Billy Smith 3 Dane Gagai
Joseph Manu 4 Bradman Best
Paul Momirovski 5 Enari Tuala
Sam Walker 6 Jake Clifford
Luke Keary 7 Adam Clune
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 8 David Klemmer
Connor Watson 9 Chris Randall
Lindsay Collins 10 Jacob Saifiti
Angus Crichton 11 Tyson Frizell
Sitili Tupouniua 12 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
Victor Radley 13 Kurt Mann
Drew Hutchison 14 Phoenix Crossland
Fletcher Baker 15 Mitch Barnett
Nat Butcher 16 Leo Thompson
Siosiua Taukeiaho 17 Jirah Momoisea


History:
Played 44, Roosters 31, Knights 13

Last Meeting: Round 19, 2021: Roosters 28 def. Knights 8

Final Thoughts: The Sydney Roosters are mostly fit and ready to fire after a disastrous injury toll in 2021. Unfortunately for the Newcastle Knights, they’re the first team forced to face Trent Robinson’s fired up side.

Luke Keary, Lindsay Collins, Joseph Manu and Billy Smith are all back for the Roosters while Connor Watson also returns for his second stint at the club. With Mitchell Pearce moving to France, Adam Clune will partner Jake Clifford in the Knights halves while Kurt Mann has been named in #13. Hymel Hunt, Jayden Brailey and Daniel Saifiti are all unavailable with Dom Young, Chris Randall and Leo Thompson taking their place.

Both the Roosters and Knights dealt with fairly significant injury tolls last year. While the Roosters have managed to name close to their best side, the Knights are dealing with a new round of banged-up bodies. Daniel Saifiti is a huge loss and swings the battle through the middle of the field further in favour of the Roosters. Newcastle finished 15th in the competition in attack last season. Their 17.5 points per game isn’t going to cut it again in 2022. While the expectation is for them to improve and for Kalyn Ponga to play closer to the ruck and on the ball more often, they will struggle to achieve that this week against a beaten pack. Stringing passes and shifts together in training is one thing. Doing it on the back foot against a premiership contender is another.

Tip: Handicap -Roosters -12.5 @ $1.85

Warriors Dragons
Chanel Harris-Tavita 1 Tyrell Sloan
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2 Cody Ramsey
Viliami Vailea 3 Moses Suli
Rocco Berry 4 Zac Lomax
Marcelo Montoya 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
Kodi Nikorima 6 Talatau Amone
Shaun Johnson 7 Ben Hunt
Addin Fonua-Blake 8 Blake Lawrie
Wayde Egan 9 Andrew McCullough
Bunty Afoa 10 Aaron Woods
Euan Aitken 11 Jack Bird
Eliesa Katoa 12 Jaydn Su’a
Josh Curran 13 Jack de Belin
Jazz Tevaga 14 Moses Mbye
Ben Murdoch-Masila 15 Francis Molo
Aaron Pene 16 Josh Kerr
Bayley Sironen 17 Jack Gosiewski


History:
Played 32, Warriors 10, Dragons 22

Last Meeting: Round 16, 2021: Dragons 19 def. Warriors 18

Final Thoughts: The New Zealand Warriors are once again preparing to spend the whole NRL season based in Australia and host the St. George-Illawarra Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium – one of the many stadiums the Kiwi club will call home this year.

Shaun Johnson is back at the Warriors and his return is all the reason anybody needs to tune in for this one. Strangely, Chanel Harris-Tavita has been named to play fullback with Kodi Nikorima winning the #6 jersey. More encouragingly, however, is Viliami Vailea and Rocco Berry being named in the centres. As for the Dragons, Anthony Griffin has named the same starting 13 that won the Charity Shield a fortnight ago. George Burgess and Tariq Sims are the notable exclusions.

Good luck piecing together how these two clubs will play in the season opener. Dysfunctional for their own reasons last year, nobody knows what impact a summer has had on the playing group. Johnson’s return is a huge upgrade for the Warriors but questions still remain in the backline. They’re playing a five-eighth at fullback, too… The Dragons ended the 2021 NRL season in horrible fashion to lose their last eight games. While Talatau Amone, Ben Hunt and Tyrell Sloan has the look of a really good spine with Jack Bird, Jaydn Su’A and Jack de Belin also linking up across the field, there are a lot of new pieces being put together this week.

When looking at two bottom eight teams that are unpredictable, we look to the middle of the field – yardage. The Warriors look as though they will dominate in this area and give their side the best chance of scoring points.

Tip: Head-to-head – Warriors to win @ $1.95

Tigers Storm
Daine Laurie 1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
David Nofoaluma 2 George Jennings
James Roberts 3 Reimis Smith
Oliver Gildart 4 Justin Olam
Ken Maumalo 5 Xavier Coates
Jackson Hastings 6 Nick Meaney
Luke Brooks 7 Jahrome Hughes
Alex Twal 8 Jesse Bromwich
Jake Simpkin 9 Brandon Smith
Stefano Utoikamanu 10 Christian Welch
Kelma Tuilagi 11 Felise Kaufusi
Luciano Leilua 12 Kenneath Bromwich
Joe Ofahengaue 13 Josh King
Tyrone Peachey 14 Tyran Wishart
Luke Garner 15 Jayden Nikorima
Zane Musgrove 16 Trent Loiero
Alex Seyfarth 17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona


History:
Played 34, Tigers 12, Storm 22

Last Meeting: Round 15, 2021: Storm 66 def. Tigers 16

Final Thoughts: There is one club no team in the NRL wants to play in Round 1. Unfortunately for the Wests Tigers, that team is Craig Bellamy’s Melbourne Storm who haven’t lost a season-opener since 2002.

Jackson Hastings, Oliver Gildart and Tyrone Peachey will play their first game for the Wests Tigers this week. The side is otherwise as expected considering Jacob Liddle, James Tamou and Adam Doueihi are all unavailable. The Storm are missing key players but we know better than to rule out their replacements. They’ve added Xavier Coates to the wing and Ryan Papenhuyzen is fit after being under an injury cloud.

The Wests Tigers kick off the NRL season as $3.50 favourites to finish it holding the wooden spoon. Their squad, while encouraging in some areas, has too many holes to fill. Out wide in the backline, in particular. Poor defensively last year and a few weeks away from forming new partnerships and developing in attack, it’s a big ask for the Tigers to host the Storm and even keep it close. Harry Grant is a significant out for the Storm but they will do just fine with Brandon Smith behind the ruck. Smith will be a factor in replacing Dale Finucane’s minutes at lock, too. With Cameron Munster looking the fittest he ever has, Jahrome Hughes carrying superb form over from 2021 and Ryan Papenhuyzen back in the #1 jersey, we’re looking at yet another Storm win in Round 1.

Tip: Margin – Storm 13+ @ $1.91

Eels Titans
Clinton Gutherson 1 Jayden Campbell
Sean Russell 2 Phillip Sami
Will Penisini 3 Brian Kelly
Waqa Blake 4 Patrick Herbert
Bailey Simonsson 5 Corey Thompson
Dylan Brown 6 AJ Brimson
Mitchell Moses 7 Toby Sexton
Reagan Campbell-Gillard 8 Moeaki Fotuaika
Reed Mahoney 9 Erin Clark
Junior Paulo 10 Isaac Liu
Shaun Lane 11 David Fifita
Isaiah Papali’i 12 Beau Fermor
Ryan Matterson 13 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Makahesi Makatoa 14 Will Smith
Oregon Kaufusi 15 Sam Lisone
Ray Stone 16 Jaimin Jolliffe
Jakob Arthur 17 Kevin Proctor


History:
Played 21, Eels 10, Titans 11

Last Meeting: Round 18, 2021: Eels 28 def. Titans 8

Final Thoughts: It’s that time of year: Claims of this being the year the Parramatta Eels end the premiership drought are in full circulation. A win over the Gold Coast Titans will only add to those claims for another week, too.

Brad Arthur likes to keep fairly consistent and has named the same 17 that started for the Eels in their trial against the Panthers. Notably, Nathan Brown is on the reserves list for this one with Ryan Matterson named at lock. Meanwhile, Isaac Liu has been named to make his first start for the Titans with Jarrod Wallace failing to crack the side.

The Eels haven’t been short of regular-season success in recent years. They’re a side stacked with talent and their preparation and cohesion is often enough for them to beat the teams below them on the ladder. While guilty of looking for the easy option with the ball and trying to go around teams rather than up the middle at times, the structure of the Eels attack in their trial games is exciting. Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown looked a lot more willing to be patient with the ball and wait for their time to strike. That’s a concern for the Titans who – fittingly given the Moses element – have a tendency to part like the red sea in defence when the opposition build momentum.

The Titans attack is also a concern. AJ Brimson, Jayden Campbell and Toby Sexton are an exciting trio but very raw both in their NRL experience and experience together on the field. There is every chance they revert to 2021’s approach of give it to David Fifita and hope for the best. Of note: The Titans won seven of the 11 games Fifita scored last season but only two of the 11 he didn’t. The Eels are well-equipped to keep a lid on Fifita which should see them pick up two competition points.

Tip: Handicap – Eels -6.5 @ $1.93

Cowboys Bulldogs
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 1 Matt Dufty
Kyle Feldt 2 Jayden Okunbor
Valentine Holmes 3 Braidon Burns
Peta Hiku 4 Brent Naden
Murray Taulagi 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Tom Dearden 6 Matt Burton
Chad Townsend 7 Jake Averillo
Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 8 Luke Thompson
Reece Robson 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Coen Hess 10 Paul Vaughan
Heilum Luki 11 Jack Hetherington
Jeremiah Nanai 12 Tevita Pangai Junior
Jason Taumalolo 13 Josh Jackson
Reuben Cotter 14 Bailey Biondi-Odo
Jordan McLean 15 Corey Waddell
Mitchell Dunn 16 Max King
Tom Gilbert 17 Chris Patolo


History:
Played 36, Cowboys 17, Bulldogs 19

Last Meeting: Round 6, 2021: Cowboys 30 def. Bulldogs 18

Final Thoughts: The NRL circled this one as the last match of the round on purpose. The North Queensland Cowboys begin this season after losing 11 of their last 12 games in 2021 while the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are looking to hand over the wooden spoon they were left holding after only three wins in 24 games.

Jason Taumalolo has been named to start at lock following a tumultuous 2021 campaign. While named at #13, it remains to be seen if that is where he spends all of his time in this one. Meanwhile, Chad Townsend, Peta Hiku and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown will all make their Cowboys debut. it’s a similar story over at the Bulldogs with Matt Dufty, Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton, Paul Vaughan, Brent Naden, Max King and Braydon Burns all running out in blue and white for the first time. Somewhat surprisingly, Burns has been named ahead of Aaron Schoupp in the centres.

There is a bit of pressure on Todd Payten to start this season well after finishing 15th in 2021. He joined the club with a decent reputation and needs to have that show in this one. He has taken some risks. Tom Dearden in the halves ahead of Scott Drinkwater absolutely takes away from the Cowboys’ attack, however, Payten seems intent on repairing their NRL-worst defence that conceded 31.5 points per game last year. It’s a positive sign and a look at their intent heading into this one. It’s the right approach against a Bulldogs side, that while a lot different to that of 2021, did finish last in attack. The lack of combinations didn’t make for great viewing in their second trial match either. Both have the potential to surprise but neither can be trusted. Given their home-ground advantage and focus on defence, the Cowboys should sneak home on Sunday evening.

Tip: Margin – Tigers to win 1-12 @ $2.78