Anticipation has been at fever pitch, wait no more Aussie league lovers. Get excited, the footy is back!! 16 sides begin all square, each aiming to take the big prize and send their fans to La La Land, hoping the ecstasy of their dreams aren’t cut short Oscars style!
We can only hope Warren Beatty isn’t moonlighting in the bunker. A confused Beatty, has named Emma Stone at halfback for the Dragons… couldn’t be any worse than Josh McCrone to be honest.
The opening round of a new season is both exciting and extremely hard to pick. There are some quality match ups, let’s check them out:
Cronulla Sharks v Brisbane Broncos
The reigning premiers kick start their defence at home against Wayne Bennett’s Broncos. The Sharkies will find out how hard it is to be the hunted for the first time in their history. The Broncos will be primed after some experts, like Peter Sterling, have written them off. Pressure on the halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford will be a constant all season. Valentine Holmes is a big loss at the back for the Sharks, but the hard-nosed Cronulla forwards, led by talisman Paul Gallen, should have too much fire power for the young Broncos.
Sharks by 8
Canterbury Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm
The Bulldogs at Belmore will be hard to topple. Another side written off by Sterlo, the Dogs will look to get their season off to a bang. Doubts surrounding their style of play can be erased immediately if they can knock off last year’s grand finalists. The Storm are looking vulnerable. Minus the injured Tohu Harris and Billy Slater, and the defection of Kevin Proctor, they look a bit light on especially in the back row. The Bulldogs have rag dolled the Storm regularly in recent seasons and I think they can again here.
Bulldogs by 10
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
An opening round bell ringer, the NRL canny schedulers have both sets of fans salivating at the prospect of watching Robbie Farah and Jason Taylor, metaphorically, go toe to toe! Once Farah and the Tigers get through the traditional softening up period, which could last 75 minutes in this one, the halves take over and the loss of Adam Reynolds for the Bunnies could be vital but not fatal. The Tigers must meet the Rabbitohs forwards head on or they’ll be steam rolled. Expect the Rabbitohs forwards to have the major say in this one. James Tedesco and Co to keep the Tigers in it but Farah to sock one to his old Tiger teammates.
Rabbitohs by 6
St George Illawarra Dragons v Penrith Panthers
A bad smell is already filtering out of the Dragons camp, and it’s not the dirty jersey bag post-match! Word on the street is coach Mary McGregor is on the nose, with Des Hasler’s name bandied around as his possible replacement. Fair play, the Dragons may struggle but let them play a game at least before the rumour mill turns please. The Panthers look the goods and though missing their first choice wingers, the replacements are Kiwi test stars! Penrith have way too much skill across the park, only complacency and straying from the game plan will cost them.
Panthers by 16
North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders
A top class clash in the sapping heat of the tropics and the Raiders better be ready. The Cowboys will blast out of the blocks and attempt to put the visitors on the back foot. Both sides are big and whoever can win the ruck will control this game. Matt Scott’s ample shoulders will have more pressure placed upon them now his partner in crime, James Tamou has gone. Responsibility usually falls on Josh Hodgson to run the show for the Raiders, Aidan Sezer must step up if they are to cause an upset. The Cowboys game plan is never secretive, roll down field and let Jonathan Thurston take over. The hard thing is stopping them. I don’t think the Raiders will.
Cowboys by 8
Gold Coast Titans v Sydney Roosters
Injuries have dominated the headlines for the Titans in preseason and clouds have hovered over half their backline for this match. Big things are expected of the halves Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor and it will be fascinating to watch this combination develop over the season. The Roosters are pretty much fully fit, a breath of fresh air in comparison to last season’s injury plagued start. The Roosters boast strike weapons all over the park, if they get a decent share of possession they will negate the Titans home ground advantage. A highlight will be the clash of the titans in the centres, Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson up against Dan Sarginson and the Hurricane, Konrad Hurrell. The winners of that contest could be the deciding factor.
Roosters by 6
New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights
The bookmakers have called this one already. The Warriors start the weekend’s hottest favourites and it’s easy to see why. The Warriors contain some of the game’s most exciting players, Shaun Johnson weaving, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dancing, Albert Vete’s Maori sidestep. The Knights walloped the Raiders in the preseason and while encouraging this is the real deal. A raw and youthful work in progress, the Novocastrians could get across the stripe a few times and get closer than most people think but not close enough.
Warriors by 18
Manly Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels
An old school battle between two of league’s greatest rivals. The Eels Clint Gutherson will be wanting a huge game versus his old teammates and his personal duel against opposition five-eighth, Blake Green, will be pivotal. The fullbacks on display Tom Trbojevic and Bevan French will be exhilarating, but forwards decide contests. Manly has overhauled its squad over the offseason meaning it could take a few weeks before combinations gel smoothly, which will advantage the Eels. This really is a toss of a coin and the home fortress of Brookvale could be the deciding factor.
Sea Eagles by 2
It promises to be a memorable season, let’s hope the football lives up to the hype. Enjoy the footy and remember gamble responsibly, in other words, don’t open any text messages from Tim Simona.