Round 1 of the 2021 NRL Season has officially arrived as we prepare for eight thrilling games across four huge days.
The action kicks off on Thursday night with a potential Grand Final preview between the Storm and Rabbitohs, followed by what is sure to be a scintillating encounter on Saturday between the new-look Titans and Warriors.
With a sense of normalcy restored, you can find our best bets for Round 1 below, as well as our best futures bets in our 2021 NRL Season Preview here.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Thursday 11 March, 7:05pm, AAMI Park
The Storm and the Rabbitohs have been a popular pick to play out this year’s Grand Final and it is only fitting that they should meet in the opening game of the season.
After winning their fourth Premiership last year, the Storm have been installed as slight favourites in betting as they embark on a new chapter without long-time captain Cameron Smith at the helm.
The Rabbitohs will also sport a new look this season with the likes of Jai Arrow, Josh Mansour and Benji Marshall joining Latrell Mitchell and Alex Johnston in the red and green.
Many have labeled South Sydney as the most dangerous side in the competition this year, but this does shape up to be a nice litmus test for Wayne Bennett’s crew after falling short to the Panthers in last year’s Prelim.
As far as recent history goes, the Storm have no doubt enjoyed the better part of this match up winning each of their last four encounters against South Sydney dating back to 2018.
Also working in the Storm’s favour is home-field advantage, something the club went without last year in the truncated COVID season.
Believe it or not, the Storm are undefeated in 16 home games against South Sydney since they joined the competition, while Craig Bellamy’s undefeated 18-0 record in Round 1 is also worth noting.
South Sydney no doubt has the talent to overcome all of that, but with a few new faces debuting, it wouldn’t be surprising if it takes a game or two for the Bunnies to really gel.
With the Storm out to prove they are just as dangerous without their star skipper, it’s worth taking the value on Melbourne outright.
Tip: Back the Storm to Win @ $1.87
Friday 12 March, 5:00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
There’s no mistaking the uncertainty that has swept over Newcastle of late.
After receiving a touch-up at the hands of the Rabbitohs in last year’s Elimination Final, the Knights returned a very disappointing effort in their only preseason trial two weeks ago in another blowout loss to the Storm.
To make matters worse, Newcastle is set to open the season without star fullback Kalyn Ponga and talented winger Edrick Lee on Friday night, leaving the bulk of the work in the hands of Bradman Best, Mitchell Pearce, and new recruit Tyson Frizell.
Fortunately, the Knights are taking on a rebuilding Bulldogs club, but this does shape up to be one of the most likely upsets on the Round 1 card.
The Dogs have been busy all offseason signing talent under new head coach Trent Barrett, most of which we should see take the field this week.
Former Raider Nick Cotric looks likely to play through an ankle injury, while the Dogs will also be boosted by the inclusion of Dylan Napa and Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
Trends wise, the Dogs should also feel pretty good about themselves knowing they defeated Newcastle 18-12 when they met last July.
Lastly, Canterbury has proven their worth against Newcastle covering in each of their last three games as the away underdog.
With the Knights missing their top two playmakers and the Dogs riding some momentum following a preseason win over the Sharks, don’t be surprised if this game turns out close.
Tip: Back the Bulldogs to Cover the Line (+5.5 Points) @ $2.00
Friday 12 March, 7:05pm, Suncorp Stadium
No surprise to find the Eels as the short-priced favourites as they prepare to take on last year’s wooden spooners.
The Broncos have suffered mightily at the hands of Parramatta over the last few seasons, making this an uphill battle for Kevin Walters in his first game as head coach.
Brisbane has cleaned house during the offseason in an attempt to recreate a winning culture post Anthony Seibold, a process that is no doubt going to take time with names like David Fifita and Darius Boyd departing.
The Eels, meanwhile, should approach this game with a serious point to prove.
Through the first half of last year Parramatta looked unstoppable, only for the scoring to dry up on the way to back-to-back losses to the Storm and the Rabbitohs in the finals.
The good news is the Eels have retained most of the same roster that took the field last year, leaving Parra poised for another finals spot providing they don’t collapse mentally down the stretch.
Three consecutive blowout losses makes the Eels difficult to back against here, especially after Brisbane’s trial game against the Cowboys left a lot to be desired.
With most of their star performers suiting up, Parramatta’s class should sign through.
Tip: Back the Eels to Cover the Line (-8.5 Points) @ $2.00
New Zealand Warriors
Gold Coast Titans
Saturday 13 March, 2:00pm, Central Coast Stadium
Outside of Thursday’s nights encounter, this is far and away the most exciting game of the opening round.
Both of these teams have been popular picks to return to the finals this year after signing several big names to the dotted line during the offseason.
The Titans have lost fan favourite Jai Arrow during the process, but in return have gained David Fifita, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and former Warrior Patrick Herbert, who lines up to face his old team for the first time.
By the same token, the Warriors also spent big during the break signing Euan Aitken, Kane Evans and Addin Fonua-Blake to help compliment Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in his final season with the club.
After both sides finished the 2020 season red-hot, it wouldn’t be surprising if we were treated to a high-scoring thriller on Saturday.
Both teams have high expectations heading into the new year, but it is worth noting these two sides both ranked towards the top of the league in points allowed last season.
Since it’s too early to get a gauge on either team, the Over looks the safest play with plenty of star power on offer.
Tip: Over 45.5 Total Points @ $1.90
Manly Sea Eagles
Saturday 13 March, 4:30pm, SCG
The Roosters will be hungry to get back to business on Saturday after losing three straight games to close out the 2020 season.
Sydney’s blowout loss to the Rabbitohs in the final round translated into a pair of narrow losses during the finals, but that isn’t to say the Roosters can’t reclaim their dominance with a healthy and fit squad set to return.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Manly after suffering another injury setback to star fullback Tom Trbojevic.
Turbo’s absence alone has greatly affected Manly in betting, which comes as no surprise when you consider the Sea Eagles lost 11 of their 13 games without him in the lineup last year.
The Roosters were clearly lacking a playmaker last year with James Tedesco quiet and Latrell Mitchell absent, but that isn’t to say they aren’t as dangerous as they were this time 12 months ago.
The Morris brother are back for another year, while there’s also good news on the Luke Keary front with the star five-eighth a chance to play through a hamstring injury.
Overall, this is simply a case of Manly lacking the talent to bring down what should be a highly motivated Roosters team playing with a chip on their shoulder.
Tip: Back the Roosters 13+ @ $2.20
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 13 March, 6:35pm, Panthers Stadium
The defending minor premiers will take the field on Saturday night missing a few familiar faces.
The departure of Josh Mansour and James Tamou leaves the Panthers significantly weaker in their bid to return to the Grand Final, but they should feel pretty good about facing a rebuilding Cowboys team playing under new head coach Todd Payten for the first time.
North Queensland has spent most of the offseason working on speed and creativity after last year’s stagnant attack saw the Cowboys finish 14th on the ladder.
Much line Penrith, Payten’s side has also come off worse for wear losing names like Gavin Cooper and John Asiata during the offseason, but there is some positive news on the Josh McGuire front with the star forward set to return from a hamstring injury.
As far as betting goes, it wouldn’t be surprised if the line got out to double-digits before kick off.
The Panthers won both of their encounters against the Cowboys by more than 12 points last year, while their outstanding 9-0 record at Panthers Stadium speaks for itself.
Cowboy fans will no doubt hold some optimism to start the season, but with a new system in place, this is a very tough way to start the year.
Tip: Back the Panthers to Cover the Line (-9.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday 14 March, 3:05pm, GIO Stadium
The Raiders will have a top four finish in mind this season after coming up short to the Storm in last year’s Prelim.
Like several other clubs, Canberra has lost the likes of winger Nick Cotric and forward John Bateman during the break, but the Green Machine still look poised for another deep finals run with plenty of depth and experience to rely on.
The same can’t be said for the Tigers however, as head coach Michael Maguire looks to avoid a 10th consecutive season without playing finals.
Wests proved to be a tough customer at times last year – particularly agains the Raiders – but they too have received their fair share of losses during the offseason with Benji Marshall, Harry Grant and Robert Jennings departing the club.
To add further concern, Moses Mbye also looks doubtful to make the trip to the nation’s capital as he continues to battle a hamstring injury.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have received some positive news on the Jarrod Croker front with the co-captain likely to play following a shoulder injury.
Even with Mbye on the field, this always shaped up to be a tough test for the Tigers, a team many already have down for the wooden spoon.
Tip: Back the Raiders 1-12 @ $2.85
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Sunday 14 March, 5:15pm, Nestrata Jubilee Stadium
The Sharks find themselves as the short-priced favourites on Sunday as they look to open their account with a win against the rival Dragons.
Most pundits have both sides to finish well outside the eight this season, but there is a case to be made for the Sharks exceeding expectations for the second year in a row.
Defensively, Cronulla was a train wreck last year, but this is still a talented lineup full of playmakers on the attacking side of the ball.
Sione Katoa and Ronaldo Mulitalo were try-scoring machines last year, while head coach John Morris has managed to get the most out of Josh Dugan and Blayke Brailey since taking over back in 2019.
The Dragons, on the other hand, are firmly in the midst of a rebuild that could see them finish as the wooden spooners.
A long list of talent has departed the club during the offseason, namely Euan Aitken, Korbin Sims and Tyson Frizell.
New coach Anthony Griffin has a huge job ahead of him as he looks to put a new system in place and also change the culture, all of which will take time throughout the course of the season.
As far as Sunday’s game goes, it’s really a dart throw.
The Sharks have tendency to play only 40 minutes of football, but if they show up ready, they could easily win this by 13+.
On the other hand, the Dragons kept things close when these two sides met last July, largely thanks to some of Cronulla’s familiar defensive errors.
With all that in mind, a high-scoring game wouldn’t be surprising.
The total has gone over in each of Cronulla’s last 10 away games, so don’t be surprised if we get some points.
Tip: Over 42.5 Total Points @ $1.90
Round 1 of the 2020 NRL Season kicks off on Thursday night and we will be treated to eight outstanding games.
Highlighted by the always exciting Queensland Derby, there is plenty of value to be found this weekend as all 16 teams open with a newfound sense of optimism and belief.
We have analysed every game set to take place this weekend in our Round 1 Preview below, while we’ve also taken a hard look at all the futures markets you need to know about in our complete season preview right here.
Thursday 12 March, 8:05pm, Bankwest Stadium
Eels 8 - Bulldogs 2
Eels fans will be hoping their club can pick up where they left off in 2019, where they were one of the toughest teams in the competition to face at home.
Parramatta finished 9-3 in their new digs last year, averaging just over 29 points a game at Bankwest Stadium, but they’ll have their hands full with a Bulldogs side that won three of their final four games to close out last season.
The Eels got busy during the offseason adding Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson – two players with close to 200 games worth of experience between them.
Canterbury, meanwhile, chose to inject some more youth into the side, but overall, this is a very similar looking Bulldogs outfit to the one that finished 12th last year.
Parramatta is getting a -9.5 head start at time of publish, which seems a little generous considering Round 1 always holds a few surprises in store.
The Eels also have a few new names that need to gel with the rest of the team, which could play into the hands of a Bulldogs squad that held Parra to only six points in Round 23 last year.
From a trend’s perspective, the Dogs are 3-1 as the line underdog on the road against the Eels, so it’s worth taking Canterbury to keep this game somewhat respectable.
Tip: Back the Bulldogs to Cover the Line (+10.5 Points) @ $1.90
Gold Coast Titans
Friday 13 March, 6:00pm, GIO Stadium
The Titans take a trip to Canberra for the first time since 2018 and are hoping to put last season’s miserable wooden spoon finish behind them.
Gold Coast is laying +9.5 as the underdogs against a new-look Raiders side also looking to rid themselves of the infamous ‘six again’ controversy in the Grand Final.
The Green Machine will look a little different this year following the departures of Jordan Rapana and Joseph Leilua, but the addition of George Williams could make fans quickly forget that duo.
It should be interesting to see how the Raiders respond to their devastating Grand Final loss not just in this game but moving forward. Many expect Canberra to play with a chip on their shoulder, but that mightn’t mean much if they struggle to win games at home.
The Raiders finished 6-6 at home last year, although on the plus side, Canberra’s defence helped them to a fourth-place finish as they allowed the third-fewest points in the league.
Canberra has no excuses not to open 2020 in the same manner – especially after shutting out the Titans 21-0 on the Gold Coast last year.
Injuries to AJ Brimson only make life tougher for the Titans, so while a fairytale upset is fun to think about, it just doesn’t seem likely for a team that won only four games a season ago.
Tip: Back the Raiders to Cover the Line (-9.5 Points) @ $1.90
North Queensland Cowboys
Friday 13 March, 8:05pm, Queensland Country Bank Stadium
There’s a newfound sense of optimism about the Cowboys this year as they open their new stadium as the favourites on Friday night.
The Broncos will be action for the first time since last season’s 58-0 drubbing in the Elimination Final and, since then, they have lost Matt Gillett to retirement and added Brodie Croft.
The Cowboys also enjoyed a busy break adding Valentine Holmes and Esan Marsters to the squad.
Holmes’ presence in the back line has already vaulted North Queensland into top four talk, but the Cowboys will need to prove themselves on the field first.
As far as betting for this game goes, you could almost argue the Cowboys are a little under the odds.
Brisbane will go without new captain Alex Glenn due to a hamstring injury, while Jordan Kahu and Matt Lodge are also out.
The Broncos’ speedy young forward line could cause some problems for the Cowboys’ back line, but in a new stadium with expectations rising, the hosts should be able to pick up a Round 1 victory for the fourth year in a row.
Tip: Back the Cowboys to Win @ $1.80
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 14 March, 3:00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
Two teams with a serious point to prove meet in Newcastle on Saturday after missing out on a finals spot in 2019.
Like the other 16 clubs, optimism is high in Knights camp right now as the club enters a new era under head coach Adam O’Brien.
Newcastle belted the Roosters 58-0 during a hit out on the Central Coast last fortnight, but there are other reasons to go all-in on the Knights this week at home.
Aside from a simple attitude change under O’Brien, the Knights were a sneaky good betting play at home last year where they won six games over the Sharks, Eels, Roosters, Broncos, Cowboys and Titans.
Newcastle also has to feel good about their chances knowing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Josh Curran and Agnatius Paasi are all looking doubtful to play.
Last but not least, the Knights hold a perfect 2-0 record as the home favourite at the line over New Zealand – a side that won only four games on the road last year. With their best player missing and Newcastle looking to turn their home ground into even more of a fortress, this doesn’t bode well for the visitors.
Tip: Back the Knights to Cover the Line (-6.5 Points) @ $1.90
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Saturday 14 March, 5:30pm, ANZ Stadium
All eyes will be on the new-look Rabbitohs this weekend as Latrell Mitchell makes his debut in the green and red.
The Sharks will also draw some attention though as they kickoff a new era following the retirement of Paul Gallen and the loss of Matt Prior to the Super League, making this one of the most intriguing games of the round.
Souths are being favoured heavily in the market against a half-strength Cronulla outfit.
The Sharks are likely to play without Josh Dugan, Matt Moylan and Bronson Xerri, while the only real loss the Rabbitohs need to overcome is the retirement of Sam Burgess.
These two sides met only once last year in a game the Sharks won comfortably by 15-points. A lot has changed since then, but it’s doubtful we see the same kind of high-scoring affair with so many stars missing.
Souths are undoubtedly one of the sides to beat this year with Latrell in the fold, but like any new acquisition, Rabbitohs fans will have to remain patient as he returns to match fitness and adapts to a new culture.
It also happens that Souths’ last three home games against the Sharks have all gone under the total, so take this one to be low scoring.
Tip: Under 41.5 Total Points @ $1.90
Saturday 14 March, 7:35pm, Panthers Stadium
It’s a new-look for both of these clubs on Sunday in what could turn out to be the most one-sided game of the round.
The Roosters turn over a new page with Latrell Mitchell seeking new challenges in South Sydney and Cooper Cronk departing for retirement, while the Panthers have also lost plenty of experience in Reagan Campbell-Gillard to the Eels and James Maloney to the Super League.
James Tedesco and Nathan Cleary are the two names to watch in this game, but really, the Roosters look extremely tough to bet against.
This is an enormous first test for a very green Panthers squad that won only four games on the road last year.
Penrith will also take the field with Dylan Edwards and Mitch Kenny, leaving Clary with plenty of responsibility on his back against the second-best defensive side in the competition last year.
Tip: Back the Roosters to Win & Under 39.5 Total Points @ $2.90
Manly Sea Eagles
Sunday 15 March, 4:05pm, Brookvale Oval
The absence of the Trbojevic brothers has dampened the excitement for what would otherwise be considered the game of the round, but that isn’t to say Manly can’t keep this game somewhat close with home-field advantage.
The Storm have won 15 straight games in Round 1 dating back to 2005 – so backing a Manly upset win outright isn’t advised.
That said, the Sea Eagles have covered the line in four of their six games as the underdog at home to Melbourne, so there’s every chance this turns out like 2014’s one-point Round 1 thriller.
On the injury front, the Storm look relatively fit, while Manly could go without Addin Fonua-Blake due to a shoulder injury.
If the Sea Eagles can channel their inner underdog spirit like they did last year with the Trbojevic brothers on the sideline though, there’s every chance they keep the Storm honest.
Tip: Back Manly to Cover the Line (+3.5 Points) @ $1.90
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Sunday 15 March, 6:15pm, WIN Stadium
The bookies are clearly having a tough time separating these two sides, with the casualty ward beginning to pile up.
After a preseason that brought with it plenty of injuries, the Dragons are currently expected to go without Josh Kerr and Matt Dufty, who join the likes of Cameron McInnes and Korbin Sims on the sidelines.
The absence of those four big names leaves the door wide open for the Tigers to pick up a win, but they too have to overcome the loss of Moses Mbye to a knee injury.
This game is a coin flip no matter which way you look at it, but the one worrying sign for St George is their 0-4 record as the line favourite at home to the Tigers.
Wests has covered in all four of their games as the away underdog at the line against the Dragons, while their overall 6-3 mark as the away underdog last year at the line also makes the Tigers worth a look.
Tip: Back the Tigers to Cover the Line (+1.5 Points) @ $1.90
There’s something special about this time of year. It’s not only the start of the season, it’s the start of a 16 team quest ending in Premiership glory for one worthy contender.
For teams like the Cowboys and Storm, it’s a new era. And for teams like the Roosters, it’s time to get back to work and defend what’s rightfully theirs.
As for the rest of us, it’s time to start watching, cheering and most importantly, punting. We’ve previewed all eight games, and our complete 2019 NRL Round 1 Preview can be seen below.
Thursday 14 March, 7:50pm, AAMI Park
It doesn’t get any bigger than Storm/Broncos, but like you already know, there’s plenty of subplots to focus on as the 2019 season gets underway.
A year on from Cooper Cronk’s departure, Melbourne again look to pick up the pieces following Billy Slater’s retirement. Meanwhile, a new era gets underway in Brisbane as the Broncos resume with new head coach Anthony Seibold at the helm following Wayne Bennett’s disastrous four-year tenure.
Speaking of disaster, that’s exactly what’s played out in recent years when these two have come together. Melbourne have won five-straight over the Broncos dating back to 2017, outscoring Brisbane 66-36 across their two meetings last season.
With all that in mind, it comes as no surprise to see Melbourne listed as the favourite. At home, the Storm were 10-4 in this scenario last year, but there’s something to be said about Brisbane’s 4-1 record as the away underdog.
It goes without saying that much of this game is a question mark. Can the Storm play their usual fast-pace brand minus Slater? And can Seibold find a way to shutdown Cameron Munster and Josh Addo-Carr?
Everyone is talking about Brisbane’s talented young side, but nobody is mentioning the loss of Sam Thaiday and Josh McGuire. The future looks bright, but the baby Broncs could be in for a Round 1 touch-up against a Storm side that hasn’t lost in Round 1 since 2004.
[matchmodule matchid="75166333" no="1"]
Tip: Back the Storm 1-12 @ $2.8
Friday 15 March, 6:00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
This has been a fun market to keep an eye on over the last few weeks. The Knights opened as the odds-on favourite, leaving the Sharks at an enticing $2.00 heading into Friday night’s match up.
Things have since firmed even further as the bookies look to be having a tough time separating the two. On one hand, Cronulla have won eight-straight over Newcastle dating back to 2014, while on the other, the ongoing off-field saga leaves plenty of questions unanswered.
For Newcastle, this is perhaps the most optimistic Knights fans have felt since 2014. The addition of David Klemmer adds a big playmaker up forward, while the brilliant Kalyn Ponga can only improve as he enters his second year with the club.
In Cronulla, things look a lot more… ordinary. Valentine Holmes has packed up for the NFL, Wade Graham is out with a knee injury until at least Round 9, all of which leaves a hefty workload for rookie head coach John Morris to attend.
But as far as betting goes, this one could go either way. Newcastle were favoured at home only twice last season, while the Sharks finished 4-4 as the away underdog. Perhaps the only form you can go on right now is preseason trials, a three week stretch that saw the Sharks finish 2-0 with a 30-6 win over Newcastle a fortnight ago.
[matchmodule matchid="75167645" no="2"]
Tip: Back the Sharks To Win @ $1.90
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday 15 March, 7:55pm, SCG
If you watch only one game this weekend, make it this one.
All eyes will be on these two heavyweights, but just like every other fixture, there’s plenty of storylines worth monitoring as the Roosters kick off their Premiership defence against one of the league’s top contenders.
Sydney left nothing to chance during the preseason as Trent Robinson opted to rest most of his starting lineup in favour of second-stringers. It leaves the Roosters well-rested entering the season, but there’s no mystery surrounding this team – Sydney once again figure to be a Top 3 scoring side again this season.
Souths, meanwhile, hold plenty of allure for futures bets this season. The Wayne Bennett era is officially upon us, and after a strong preseason that saw the Bunnies obliterate the Dragons a fortnight ago, South Sydney looks a great chance to finish inside the Top 4 once again.
In their two meetings last year, the Roosters walked away with a pair of victories, both of which came in narrow fashion. Fingers and toes are crossed that Greg Inglis plays on Friday, but even if the star centre suits up, he may not prove the difference against a sharp Sydney side that finished 10-5 against the line last year.
The Roosters are a powerhouse that only grew stronger during the offseason. Angus Crichton and Brett Morris are terrific additions after losing Blake Ferguson, and although it mightn’t be all smooth sailing this season, it’s hard to see the Roosters kicking off their title defence with a loss.
[matchmodule matchid="75167924" no="3"]
Tip: Back the Roosters 1-12 @ $2.80
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday March 16, 3:00pm, Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors enter 2019 just like they did 2018: looking every bit a contender.
Things looked great up until the midway point last year, right before the Warriors somehow fell from fourth all the way down to eighth by seasons end. It was a disappointing finish for a side that boasts one of the most explosive attacks in the competition, and now without Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will have to carry the load.
The Bulldogs were right on par with expectations last year. The big win was not finishing with the wooden spoon, but more importantly, the Dogs still finished strongly in the second half of the year defeating the Broncos, Dragons and this same Warriors side in August.
Since these two sides met only once last year, it’s fair to say the Dogs look a little over the odds at this price. Unfortunately, trips to New Zealand having exactly been their forte in recent years – the Bulldogs haven’t won in Auckland since 2014.
[matchmodule matchid="75168441" no="4"]
Tip: Back the Warriors to Cover The Line (-4.5 Points) @ $1.90
Manly Sea Eagles
Saturday March 16, 5:30pm, Leichhardt Oval
The Tigers have been waiting six long months for this. New head coach Michael Maguire will be hungry to improve on last year’s disappointing ninth-place finish, and in their 20th year as a club, it’s time for some consistent football.
Manly, well they too have plenty to make up for. The Sea Eagles will be keen to put last season’s soap opera behind them, and it all starts with new coach Des Hasler. The former main man at the Bulldogs inherits a talented lineup headlined by Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trobojevic brothers, but as the odds suggest, Manly could be in for a tough season if they struggle to beat equal competition.
These two sides played out a classic in Round 24 last year, a game that saw the Tigers walk away with a nail-biting 22-20 win. There’s every chance Saturday’s game winds up just as close considering three of the last five games between these two have been decided by 12-points or less.
As the home favourite, the Tigers finished a subpar 3-3, indicative of how their overall season turned out. Manly were less impressive as the away underdog in the head-to-head market, but they did finish 6-2 against the line, which looks to be the play this week.
[matchmodule matchid="75168625" no="5"]
Tip: Back the Sea Eagles to Cover the Line (+2.5 Points) @$1.90
North Queensland Cowboys
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Saturday March 16, 7:35pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
It’s the start of something new in North Queensland. Jonathan Thurston is no more, while the additions of Josh McGuire from the rival Broncos should compliment Jason Taumalolo nicely.
The Dragons also added a pair of players from Brisbane in Korbin Sims and Jonus Pearson. Despite making it to the second round of the Finals, head coach Paul McGregor will be hoping the pair can add some stability to his team that faded from the top of the ladder midseason to finish seventh.
As far as the market goes, St. George look a little over the odds at this price. The Dragons have won three-straight over North Queensland, including last year’s 24-10 belting during Round 19.
It appears the bookies are siding with North Queensland due to home-field advantage here, a factor that proved less than beneficial to the Cowboys last season. Paul Green’s side finished 5-7 at home, but importantly, just 2-4 against the line as the home favourite.
On the other hand, it’s not like the Dragons were any better. St. George are 0-3 as the underdog against the Cowboys on the road, while they also lost two of their final five road games to close out the season. With that in mind, this is a market you’re best off avoiding.
[matchmodule matchid="75169451" no="6"]
Tip: No Bet
Sunday March 17, 4:05pm, Panthers Stadium
If the Panthers can start the season anything like they did last year, they might just surprise some folk. Penrith won four of their opening five games last year, while Sunday’s meeting against Parramatta is a rematch of last seasons Round 1 fixture that saw the Panthers walk away 24-14 victors.
It’s been a long offseason for Penrith for all the wrong reasons. The video-sharing scandal is at the forefront, but there’s also the loss of Tyrone Peachey, among many others, to account for on the field.
The rebuilding Eels have enjoyed a much more positive summer, headlined by the signing of Blake Ferguson from the Roosters. There’s no denying the pressure on head coach Brad Arthur, though. He now enters his fourth year at the helm, having won only 58 of 128 games coached.
Fast forward to Sunday, and it’s suddenly a tough call between a side that’s caught up in the headlines and a team desperate to forget last seasons wooden spoon finish.
The Eels were winless in two games against the Panthers last year and were an even worse 0-9 as the away underdog. Still, there’s reason to believe the Eels can get the job done against a distracted Penrith side. They’ll need a strong performance from their forward pack, but Mitchell Moses is certainly the man for the job.
Lost among their 18 losses last season was the fact the Eels defeated the Dragons in the final month of the season. All this team needs is some belief.
[matchmodule matchid="75170565" no="7"]
Tip: Back the Eels To Win @ $2.45
Gold Coast Titans
Sunday March 17, 6:10pm, CBUS Super Stadium
Lots of talk surrounding the Titans and the eight after a successful offseason. Gold Coast added Tyrone Peachey and a bunch of depth to their young roster, which should make life a little easier for Garth Brennan as he hopes to turn things around in his second year as coach.
The Raiders also enjoyed a busy summer, although they have lost a handful of key playmakers, including Shannon Boyd to this weekend’s opponent. Canberra looked every bit a Top 8 side last year but fizzled out over the final month to win just two of their four games.
These two sides met twice last season splitting the series one win apiece. They played out a two-point classic in Round 1 last year, the same margin that sees the Titans favoured ahead of this weekend’s opening matchup.
It’s been a rare occurrence to find the Titans at the shorter price. They were favoured at home only once last year, while the Raiders finished 1-8 as the away underdog. That’s good news for Gold Coast, but they’ll need to shutdown the kicking game and keep guys like Jack Wighton away from the ball if they want any chance at winning this one.
[matchmodule matchid="75170916" no="8"]
Tip: Back the Titans to Win @ $1.85
The 2018 NRL season is finally here!
We have had one of the busiest off-seasons in the modern history of the NRL and there are a number of new-look rosters in the competition, which makes this a very interesting weekend when it comes to NRL betting.
We have analysed every game set to take place in the NRL this weekend and our complete 2018 NRL Round 1 tips can be found below.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Thursday 9 March, 8:05pm, Jubilee Oval
This is a very interesting way to start the NRL season.
Ben Hunt has moved from the St George Illawarra Dragons to the Brisbane Broncos and this is set make a difference to both of these sides.
Hunt is expected to take the pressure off Gareth Widdop at the Dragons and help them go to another level, while Anthony Milford has been charged with the task of leading the Broncos.
It is the Dragons that will into this clash as narrow favourites and that is something of a surprise considering their horrible record against the Broncos.
The Dragons have won only one of the past 12 games played between these two sides and they have lost five of their past six games against the Broncos as home favourites.
Brisbane fell a couple of games short of winning their first NRL Premiership in over a decade last season and once again they are expected to be in the NRL Finals mix.
Beating the Dragons in Sydney has not been an issue for the Broncos in recent seasons and these are the sort of games that they did win last year.
The Broncos are generally strong starters to the season and they have won three of their past four round 1 games.
I think that Brisbane should be favourites for this clash and they are juicy value at their current price.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49208496" no="1"]
Back Brisbane To Win @ $2
Manly Sea Eagles
Friday 9 March, 6:00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
The market can’t split the Newcastle Knights and Manly Sea Eagles ahead of this Friday Night clash.
Newcastle have won the wooden spoon three years in a row, but their is a sense of optimism surrounding the club ahead of 2018.
The Knights have signed the likes of Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Aidan Guerra, Tautau Moga, Herman Ese’ese and Jacob Lillyman, which has many experts believing that they can return to the top eight this season.
Newcastle did produce their best football in front of their home fans last season, but they were still only able to win four of their 12 games at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Manly were one of the biggest surprise packages in the NRL last season, but they are one side that do look capable of going backwards in 2018.
They really haven’t made any major signings and their forward pack lacks depth, while there is now even more pressure on Daly Cherry-Evans following the departure of Blake Green.
That doesn’t mean that they can’t win this game against the Knights.
Manly have won their past seven games against Newcastle and they didn’t have any issues winning away from home last season.
It really is tough to split these two teams and this is a game that I am happy to stay out of from a betting perspective.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49208564" no="2"]
North Queensland Cowboys
Friday 9 March, 8:05pm, 1300SMILES Stadium
This is a genuine Friday Night Blockbuster between two of the best sides in the NRL.
The North Queensland Cowboys made it all the way to the Grand Final last season and they did so without Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott and a host of other injury problems.
Thurston and Scott are both back and it should come as no surprise that the Cowboys are right towards the top of NRL Premiership betting markets,
It is the Cowboys that will start this clash as favourites and they have the home ground advantage, but they weren’t overly impressive at 1300SMILES Stadium last season.
North Queensland won four of their seven games as home favourites for a loss, although they did beat the line in each of these games.
It was the Cowboys that ended the season of the Cronulla Sharks in 2017 in a golden-point thriller and these two sides have played out a number of close games in recent years.
Cronulla head into the NRL season with a new-look backline that now includes the likes of Josh Dugan and Matthew Moylan, while James Maloney has moved to the Penrith Panthers.
The Sharks still have one of the best forward packs in the NRL and if Moylan can establish himself in the halves, there is no reason that the Sharks won’t be in the premiership conversation.
Winning away from home was not an issue for the Sharks last season and they won 10 of their 12 games on the road, while they won five of their six games as away underdogs for a huge profit.
I don’t think that there is as much between these two teams as the current betting market suggests and the Sharks are a great bet to cover the line.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49208635" no="3"]
Back Cronulla To Cover The Line (+5.5 Points)
Saturday 10 March, 4:30pm, ANZ Stadium
The Sydney Roosters are premiership favourites and the shortest-priced side in the opening round of the 2018 NRL season.
Sydney went straight to the top of 2018 NRL Premiership markets as soon as it became clear that James Tedesco would sign with the side and they got shorter again after they added Cooper Cronk.
There is no doubt that they now have one of the most talented rosters in the NRL and they really should prove too strong for the Tigers.
The Roosters have 11 of their past 12 games against the Tigers and they have won 15 of their past 19 games as favourites, but they are only 6-13 against the line in this scenario.
2017 was another tough season for the Tigers and it won’t get any easier for the side that has now lost Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses.
The fact that coach Ivan Cleary has now had more time to work with the side is a big positive, but this is still a roster that is thin on talent.
Wests were a losing betting proposition across the board last season and they have covered the line in only one of their past eight games against the Roosters.
Sydney will win this game comfortably and the line of 10.5 points will not be enough.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49208747" no="4"]
Back Sydney To Cover The Line (-10.5 Points)
South Sydney Rabbitohs
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 10 March, 7:00pm, Perth Stadium
The NRL returns to Perth and this will be the first match in a double-header that will be played at the new Perth Stadium.
This will be the first game that the South Sydney Rabbitohs play under the care of new coach Anthony Seibold and there are few rookie coaches that come into the competition with more hype surrounding them.
The Seibold factor as well as the return of Greg Inglis are the main reasons that there is some optimism about the Rabbitohs this season and they will start this clash as clear favourites.
South Sydney won and covered the line in five of their nine games as favourites last season and their record in Perth is excellent – they have covered the line in six of their eight games played in Western Australia.
The New Zealand Warriors have proven to be the most frustrating side in the NRL for a number of seasons and it could be another long year for their fans.
New Zealand have lost Kieran Foran and there will once again be plenty of pressure on Shaun Johnson to perform.
This looks a particularly tough assignment for the Warriors as they are awful travellers and the journey from Auckland to Perth is not a short one.
They have lost and failed to cover the line in their four recent games played in Perth and they won only one of their past 11 games as away underdogs last season.
South Sydney can make a winning return to 2018 and cover the line in the process.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49209129" no="5"]
Back South Sydney To Beat The Line (-6 Points)
Saturday 10 March, 9:05pm, Perth Stadium
This is the start of the post Cooper Cronk-era for the Melbourne Storm and it is expected to be a winning one.
The Storm have lost Cronk as well as the likes of Jordan McClean and Tohu Harris, but there is still little doubt that the defending premiers will be in the mix once again.
There is no side that starts the season as well as Melbourne and they have not lost a game in the opening round of the season since 2001.
Melbourne won 20 of their 22 games as favourites last season and they were also a winning play against the line when giving away a start.
The Canterbury Bulldogs are a tough team to analyse ahead of the 2018 NRL season.
They did finish 2017 fairly well, their new coach Dean Pay has the respect of the players and they have a new-look spine that includes Kieran Foran.
While the Bulldogs did struggle at times last season, they were still a decent betting side and they were eight of their 18 games as underdogs for a big profit.
No side in the NRL has had a better record against the Storm in recent seasons than the Bulldogs and they have won six of the past seven games played between the two sides.
It is always tough to bet against the Storm, but it would not surprise if this was a fairly low-scoring affair and the Bulldogs can cover the line with a healthy start.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49209246" no="6"]
Back Canterbury To Beat The Line (+7.5 Points)
Sunday 11 March, 4:10pm, Panthers Stadium
There is no love lost between these two sides and this is set to be an intriguing clash.
The Penrith Panthers have had a controversial off-season and the rumours surrounding player unrest continue to swirl.
They have lost the likes of Matt Moylan and Bryce Cartwright, but they have signed James Maloney and the veteran half adds some leadership to a side that has badly missed it in recent seasons.
The Panthers will go into this clash as narrow favourites and they were tough to beat in front of their home fans last season – they won eight of their 11 games as home favourites and they covered the line in each.
Parramatta finished in the top four last season and they may have been bundled out in the finals in straight sets, but there were still plenty of positives to take from their season.
Whether they can take the next step is the question and how prodigal son Jarryd Hayne performs could go a long way to deciding their season.
Parramatta won three of their seven games as away underdogs last season for a profit and they were 4-3 against the line in this scenario.
The market in which the value really lies for this clash is the Under in Total Points betting.
Backing the Under in games involving either of these teams was a profitable betting play last season and it really would not surprise if this was a fairly dour contest.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49209337" no="7"]
Back Under 38.5 Points
Gold Coast Titans
Sunday 11 March, 6:30pm, Cbus Super Stadium
The Gold Coast Titans and Canberra Raiders were two of the biggest disappointments in the NRL last season and they meet in the final game of the opening round.
There hasn’t been a great deal of change at the Raiders, but it should not be forgotten that this side just missed out on a berth in the NRL Grand Final in 2016 and they were unlucky last season – their record in close games was very poor.
Canberra will go into this clash as narrow favourites and they were a tough team to trust from a betting perspective last season.
The Raiders won only three of their six games as away favourites for a clear loss, but they did beat the line in each of those wins.
2017 was a disastrous year for the Titans both on and off the field – it really can only get better for the club in 2018.
They have now gotten rid of Jarryd Hayne and there is a lot of excitement surrounding new coach Gareth Brennan, but they still have one of the thinnest rosters in the competition.
Gold Coast did win three of their six games as home underdogs last season, but they generally struggled in front of their home fans..
Both these teams are tough to trust from a betting perspective and I am happy to stay out of this clash.
[matchmodule matchid=" 49209433" no="8"]
The start of the 2017 NRL season is finally here.
The Cronulla Sharks finally secured a maiden premiership and they start the season with an interesting clash against the Brisbane Broncos on Thursday night in the opening game of NRL Round 1.
The first twilight Friday night clash will be held when the Canterbury Bulldogs host Melbourne Storm before old rivals South Sydney and Wests Tigers do battle.
There are a number of exciting games spread right across the weekend and you can find the our recommended betting plays for every game below.
Thursday 2 March, 8:05pm, Southern Cross Group Stadium
Cronulla Sharks 18 - Brisbane Broncos 26
This is an intriguing game between two teams that have just returned from what ended up being unsuccessful trips to England.
The Cronulla Sharks broke through for a maiden premiership last season and I am fairly confident that they will regress somewhat this season.
Michael Ennis’ retirement leaves a big gap in their spine and the loss of Ben Barba may be bigger than it looks on paper as it takes away their depth in the outside backs.
In saying that, Cronulla are still a good bet to make a winning start to their title defence.
The Sharks were nothing short of outstanding in front of their home fans in 2016 and they finished the year with nine wins from their ten games as home favourites.
Brisbane are another side that head into 2017 with a couple of key losses.
It is impossible to replace the workload of Corey Parker and his absence shows the lack of depth that the Broncos now have in their forwards, while there is also issues with their outside backs.
Brisbane were very poor in the World Club Series against Warrington and the likes of Ben Hunt, Sam Thaiday, Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford go into this season under plenty of pressure.
The Broncos won just one of their four games as away underdogs last season and this really is a tough opening round fixtures.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28963859" no="1"]
Back Cronulla To Win @ $1.85
Friday 3 March, 6:00pm, Belmore Sports Ground
Canterbury Bulldogs 6 - Melbourne Storm 12
There are very few coaches that go into the 2017 NRL season under more pressure than Des Hasler.
Canterbury made the NRL Finals last season, but it is fair to say that they never looked like premiership contenders and they have done nothing in the off-season to suggest that they can take big strides.
The Bulldogs simply couldn’t compete with the best teams in the NRL last season and they face one of those sides in their 2017 opener.
Canterbury did not win a single game as home underdogs last season and Belmore Sports Ground really hasn’t been a happy hunting ground since their return.
Melbourne went extremely close to winning another premiership last season and there is nothing to suggest that they won’t be in the mix once again.
Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith remain two of the best players in the entire competition, while the return of Billy Slater frees up Cameron Munster to partner Cronk in the halves.
Melbourne had no problem whatsoever winning away from home last season and they finished the season with a most impressive record of eight wins from nine starts as away favourites.
The Storm should prove far too good for the Canterbury Bulldogs and they are one of the best betting plays of the weekend.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28964109" no="2"]
Back Melbourne To Win @ $1.80
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday 3 March, 8:05pm, ANZ Stadium
South Sydney Rabbitohs - Wests Tigers 34
This is the grudge-match of the opening round of the NRL season as Robbie Farah takes on his old club Wests in his first game for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
South Sydney were one of the biggest disappointments in the NRL last season, but all the pieces are there to make a return to finals football in 2017.
They are well-coached, there is plenty of speed in their outside backs and the likes of Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess both look very fit.
Throw in the x-factor that Farah offers them and this is a side capable of making a very deep run.
They go into this clash as favourites and this is a position in which they did struggle last season.
The Rabbitohs won just four of their nine games as favourites for a clear loss and their record at ANZ Stadium was not particularly strong.
There is plenty of talk about the potential that is at the Wests Tigers, but that upside really is overrated.
James Tedesco is one of the best players in the NRL and easily the star of this team.
Aaron Woods carries the forward pack that is not up to NRL standard, while both Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks are incredibly overrated.
The Tigers made a profit as away underdogs last season, but they only won three of their nine games in this scenario.
This is a clash that the market looks to have got just about right and I would like to see South Sydney actually get the job done before we start considering them as a betting prospect.
[matchmodule matchid="28964488" no="3"]
St George Dragons
Saturday 4 March, 4:30pm, Jubilee Oval
St George Illawarra Dragons 42 - Penrith Panthers 10
St George Illawarra have the home-ground advantage in this clash, but it is the Penrith Panthers that go in as clear favourites.
Paul McGregor is another coach under plenty of pressure and it really is tough to see the Dragons improving in 2017.
They are a side that offers very little in defence outside of individual brilliance from Josh Dugan and their forward pack is solid, but lacks creativity.
Gareth Widdop is coming off arguably the worst season of his career and he no longer has Benji Marshal to blame for his woes.
The Dragons generally do produce their best football in front of their home fans and they did win five of their nine games as home underdogs last season for a clear profit.
Penrith played some exciting rugby league in 2016 and they are a club that is heading in the right direction.
Nathan Cleary is one of the most talented young halves in the NRL and should only improve with a season under his belt, while Matthew Moylan continues to take strides as a footballer.
They continue to recruit shrewdly and based on his form at the Auckland Nines James Tamou could be the man to take the Panthers forward pack to another level.
One issue for the Panthers last season was winning away from home and they won just three of their five games as away favourites last season for a narrow loss.
This is another game that the market looks to have got just about right and there is no value to be found from a betting standpoint.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28964802" no="4"]
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 4 March, 7:00pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
North Queensland Cowboys 20 - Canberra Raiders 16
This should be a very exciting clash between two sides that were only a game away from the Grand Final last season.
North Queensland ran out of steam following their epic semi-final clash with the Brisbane Broncos, but there was still plenty to like about their season and they are poised to be Premiership contenders once again.
Jason Taumalolo is now arguably the best forward in the game and the emergence of young forward Coen Hess should help off-set the loss of James Tamou.
Johnathan Thurston is still without peer and the likes of Michael Morgan, Lachlan Coote (outside of a shaky finals series) and Jake Granville help take the pressure off the future immortal.
North Queensland have turned 1300Smiles Stadium into a genuine fortress and they did not lose a single game as home favourites last season, while they were 8-1-3 against the line in this scenario.
The Canberra Raiders had their best season since 1995 and they played some very exciting rugby league in doing so.
They were perhaps a touch unlucky against the Melbourne Storm in the preliminary final and they would have given the Sharks a serious contest in the NRL Grand Final.
The big question surrounding the Raiders is whether they can repeat that effort and the jury is definitely still out.
The likes of Josh Hodgson, BJ Leilua and Jordan Rapana all had career best seasons and the laws of averages suggests that they can’t sustain that form in 2017.
One of the most important factors for the Raiders last season was their form away from home and they were 6-1 against the line as away underdogs last season.
The market looks to have got this clash just about right, but there is value in the Over/Under total points betting market.
These are two of the best attacking teams in the NRL and the total points line of 43.5 points does not look as though it will be anywhere near enough.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28965410" no="5"]
Back Over 43.5 Points
Gold Coast Titans
Saturday 4 March, 9:00pm, Cbus Super Stadium
Gold Coast Titans 18 - Sydney Roosters 32
The Gold Coast Titans and Sydney Roosters head into 2017 off the back of two very different seasons.
Gold Coast were many experts selection to join the Newcastle Knights in the battle for the wooden spoon, but they defied all expectations to sneak into the top eight.
In doing so they added Konrad Hurrell, Nathan Peats and Jarryd Hayne to their roster mid-season and exciting half Kane Elgey returns to the side this season.
All that bodes well for the Titans in 2017 and they should be in the battle for a finals berth once again.
They go into this clash with the Sydney Roosters as narrow underdogs and this was not a position in which they thrived in 2016.
The Titans won just one of their five games as home underdogs, but they were 3-2 against the line in this scenario.
Sydney could be the big improvers in 2017.
A string of injuries and off-field dramas ensured that 2016 was a year to forget, but they still have one of the best rosters in the entire NRL and a return to Finals Football looks a formality if they are able to keep a semblance off their best 17 on the field.
Luke Keary struggled for South Sydney last season, but he is a big upgrade at five-eight for the Roosters and it would not surprise to see him return to the form that stamped him as a future State Of Origin player.
There will be plenty of value on offer for the Roosters in the early stages of 2017 and I am keen to take advantage of the price available this weekend.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28966061" no="6"]
Back Sydney Roosters To Win @ $1.80
New Zealand Warriors
Sunday 5 March, 2:00pm, Mt Smart Stadium
New Zealand Warriors 26 - Newcastle Knights 22
The Newcastle Knights won just the one game last season and they look set for another long year in 2017.
Newcastle should be much better than they were last year, but they still look an outstanding bet to finish with the wooden spoon.
Jarrod Mullen’s ASADA ban takes experience out of a side that desperately needs it and they have not been blessed by good fortune during the off-season – recruit Rory Kostjasyn will miss the start of the season due to a throat injury.
It is no surprise that the Newcastle Knights will start this clash as such a big price – they did not win a single game as away underdogs last season and they were just 3-8 against the line this scenario.
For about the 10th season in a row there is no team in the NRL with more x-factor than the New Zealand Warriors.
It was another disappointing season in Auckland last year, but it is fair to say that they did not have a great deal of luck and the fact that Andrew McFadden has been shown the door is a big positive.
Kieran Foran could be the foil that Shaun Johnson needs and if his head is in the right place the Warriors actually have one of the most talented spines in the entire competition.
The Warriors won only four of their past nine games as home favourites last season and they were particuarly poor against the line.
There is no way that you can get the Warriors as short as their current quote, but it is also impossible to back the Knights.
The one betting market that does stand out is the total points betting market and the line of 47.5 points does not look like enough.
Both these teams were overs teams last season and four of their past six games have covered that line.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28966575" no="7"]
Back Over 47.5 Points
Manly Sea Eagles
Sunday 5 March, 5:00pm, Brookvale Oval
Manly Sea Eagles 12 - Parramatta Eels 20
The clash between old rivals Manly and Parramatta is one of the most interesting of the round from a betting standpoint.
2016 was a genuine soap opera for the Parramatta Eels – with salary club dramas and Kieran Foran’s off-field problems stealing the headlines – but it should not be forgotten that they did actually win 13 games and would have played Finals Football if not for their lost points.
The Eels have lost the off-season recruitment battle as their salary cap problems limited their ability to bring in any big-name players despite the fact they have lost the likes of Foran and Michael Gordan in the past 12 months, but they have a toughness that has been instilled in them by coach Brad Arthur and club Tim Mannah,
Parramatta will go into this clash as narrow underdogs and they did only win two of their eight games as away underdogs last season.
Manly continue to go backwards and the first season of new coach Trent Barrett was very disappointing.
This is a side that simply lacks quality right across the park and the pressure of Daly Cherry-Evans as well as the Trbojevich’s brothers to perform is immense.
It really is tough to see Manly getting themselves back into finals contention in 2017, but they will start this clash as narrow favourites.
Manly were generally poor at Brookvale Oval last season, but they did win their three games at the venue as home favourites.
These are two teams that are very tough to trust from a betting standpoint and I am happy to stay out of this clash.
[matchmodule matchid=" 28966921" no="8"]
The opening round of the NRL season is always highly anticipated and there will be plenty of interest in every single game.
The season begins on Thursday March 3 when Kieran Foran makes his debut for the Parramatta Eels against last seasons runners-up the Brisbane Broncos before the Manly Sea Eagles host the Canterbury Bulldogs on Friday night.
The North Queensland Cowboys will celebrate their maiden premiership in front of their home fans when they take on the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday night, but the match of the round could be on Sunday afternoon when arch-rivals Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs do battle in what is always a spiteful contest.
Thursday 3 March, 7:05pm, Pirtek Stadium
Parramatta Eels 4 - Brisbane Broncos 17
There is a plenty of expectation that the Parramatta Eels will produce an improved performance in 2016 and they get the chance to show that this will be the case in the season opener against the Brisbane Broncos.
The Eels have recruited as well as almost any team in the NRL this season and the addition of Kieran Foran is a massive one, but it is now more than likely that he will miss this game due to a hamstring injury.
Parramatta were a poor betting team in 2015 and they covered the line in less than 46 percent of their games, but they had an excellent record as home underdogs and covered the line almost 62 percent of the time in that scenario.
The Brisbane Broncos were only seconds away from winning the 2015 NRL Premiership title and they take arguably an even stronger team into 2016 following the recruitment of James Roberts.
The Broncos were one of the safest betting teams in the NRL last season and they covered the line almost 54 percent of the time, but their record was not as strong away from home or as away favourites.
The loss of Foran makes this a very difficult game for the Eels to win – even in front of their home fans – and the Broncos are an excellent bet to get their season off to a winning start.
Recommended Bet: Back The Broncos to win @$1.65
[matchmodule matchid="14610617" no="1"]
Manly Sea Eagles
Friday 4 March, 7:05pm, Brookvale Oval
Manly Sea Eagles 6 - Canterbury Bulldogs 28
The Manly Sea Eagles were extremely poor in 2015, but a number of NRL experts believes they can bounce back in a big way this season and they are on the third line of premiership betting.
The Sea Eagles have added a number of big names to their roster in 2016 – most notably Nate Myles, Martin Taupau and Dylan Walker – but whether this trio will improve their side is a genuine question.
While Manly won just over 40 percent of their games last season, they were not that bad as betting proposition and they covered the line in over 51 percent of their games and they had a positive record at Brookvale Oval and as a home favourite.
The big chance at the Bulldogs this season is the move of Moses Mbye to starting half-back after the club expected to part company with Trent Hodkinson.
The Bulldogs made it to the second week of the finals last season without ever looking like a genuine premiership threat, but they are a consistent football team that could improve with Mbye in the drivers seat.
The Des Hasler-coached outfit were a profitable betting side last season and they covered the line in 55 percent of their games and they covered the line in well over the majority of their games as away underdogs.
It is very tough to find an edge between these two teams at their current prices, but the under in the over/under betting market is a must play as both sides were traditionally under sides in 2015 – especially during games played at night.
Recommended Bet: Back Under 38.5 Points At $1.90
[matchmodule matchid="14610619" no="2"]
Saturday 5 March, 2:00pm, GIO Stadium
Canberra Raiders 30 - Penrith Panthers 22
The Canberra Raiders showed signs of improvement in 2015 and if they had been able to win a few more close games they would have finished in the finals.
The addition of Aiden Sezar in the halves is a big boost and if they can overcome the poor coaching of Ricky Stuart they will be right in the hunt for a position in the top eight, which means they should be winning games like this one.
The Raiders were not a profitable betting team last season and they beat the line in only 44 percent of their games and their record was even worse when they played in front of their home fans, while they beat the line in just 37.25 percent of their games as home favourites.
The Penrith Panthers have been absolutely savaged by injuries in recent seasons and that does not look like changing this season, with new captain Matt Moylan to miss the opening game of the season.
The decision to part ways with coach Ivan Cleary was a strange one and both Anthony Griffin and Phil Gould will be under plenty of pressure if the Panthers make a slow start to the season.
The Panthers were one of the best betting teams in the NRL in 2014 and they were a losing head-to-head betting proposition last season, but still beat the line in 51 percent of their games.
Their record away from home as well as away underdogs was very similar and based on that there are far worse bets this weekend.
Recommended Bet: Back The Panthers to beat the line (+3.5)
[matchmodule matchid="14610629" no="3"]
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 5 Mar, 4:30pm, Campbelltown Stadium
Wests Tigers 34 - New Zealand Warriors 26
The Wests Tigers had a shocking season in 2015 and they followed it up with a terrible off-season, which was dominated by the feud between coach Jason Taylor and Robbie Farah.
Morale at the club is sure to be at a low and recruitment wise they have not done a great deal to improve what has been an inconsistent side for a number of years.
The Tigers were poor against the line last season, but their record was significantly better at home and they beat the line 60 percent of the time as home underdogs.
Many experts are tipping the New Zealand Warriors to finally win a maiden premiership in 2016 and they have added genuine match winners to their side in the form of Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
However, the side has not gelled at all based on their pre-season performances and coach Andrew McFadden has made a number of puzzling selections – most notably the decision to play Blake Ayshford over Konrad Hurrell.
The Warriors have been an unreliable betting team for a number of seasons and that was the case again in 2015, as you would have lost plenty if you backed the New Zealanders in every game.
Surprisingly their record against the line was slightly better away from home than it was in New Zealand, but they beat the line in only 45 percent of their games as away favourites.
There are a number of question marks over both these sides ahead of the 2016 NRL season and this is a game that I am very keen to avoid from a betting perspective.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
[matchmodule matchid="14610637" no="4"]
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 5 March, 6:30pm, 1300 Smiles Stadium
North Queensland Cowboys 20 - Cronulla Sharks 14
The North Queensland Cowboys finally broke through for that elusive premiership in 2015 and that means history is again them in 2016 – the Brisbane Broncos in 1993 were the last team to defend a premiership outside of the mess that was Super League.
The Cowboys will go into their opening game of the season with the exact same 17 players that beat the Brisbane Broncos in the greatest grand final in NRL history and beat Leeds to take out the World Club Challenge a fortnight ago.
Teams returning from England have a mixed record in the NRL and it is worth noting that the Cowboys lost their first three games before going on a mammoth winning streak last season.
It should come as no surprise that the Cowboys were a profitable betting team in 2016, but they did only beat the line in 51 percent of their games, which is a surprising figure from the premiers.
That record improved significantly in front of their home fans and they beat the line almost 62 percent of the time as home favourites.
The Cronulla Sharks were far from disgraced in 2016 before they were blown out by the Cowboys in the finals and they have improved their team in 2016 with the addition of James Maloney.
Whether the addition of Maloney is enough to get them to a maiden title remains to be seen and his move to the shire has created some selection headaches for coach Stuart Flanagan, who has opted to start Ben Barba at fullback and moved Jackson Bird to the centres.
The Sharks were a profitable betting team throughout 2015 and they finished the season with a 15-11 record against the line, while their record was just as good away from home.
The Cowboys are deserving favourites for this fixture, but the price on offer looks about right and there is no betting play in this game.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
[matchmodule matchid="14610647" no="5"]
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sunday 6 March, 3:00pm, Allianz Stadium
Sydney Roosters 10 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 42
The Sydney Roosters have had the off-season from hell and they will go into this game without a host of regular starters like Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and they have lost James Maloney and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to other clubs.
Many experts have been quick to write off the Roosters this season, but they still have a squad packed full of talent and it is tough to knock a side that has won three straight minor premierships.
The Roosters have been a profitable betting side for a number of seasons and they finished 2015 with a 16-11 record against the line and they were 3-1 as home underdogs.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs finished the season with four straight losses and there has been a lot of talk in the off-season about chaos in the camp in regards to the return of Sam Burgess as well as the coaching style of Michael Maguire.
The return of Burgess is expected to boost the Rabbitohs, but they have given up a great deal to get him and their depth could be tested if they suffer a couple of early injuries in 2016.
The Rabbitohs were a shocking betting proposition in 2016 and they finished the season with an 8-15 record against the line, while they were 6-11 as favourites and a simply horrible 1-6 as away favourites.
Bookmakers appear to have overrated the loss of Mitchell Pearce, but young halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings could offer the Roosters the attacking spark that they will need now they have lost Tuivasa-Sheck.
Recommended Bet: Back The Sydney Roosters To Win At $2.15 and to beat the line (+2.5)
Gold Coast Titans
Sunday 6 Mar, 5:30pm, Cbus Super Stadium
Gold Coast Titans 30 - Newcastle Knights 12
This was meant to be the beginning of a new era for the Gold Coast Titans, but Daly Cherry-Evans backflipped on his decision to join the club and in the process they lost Aidan Sezer to the Raiders.
To add to their woes they lost they only real attacking weapon James Roberts to the Broncos, while promising young half Kane Elgey is set to miss the entire season due to injury.
The Titans struggled on the field last season, but they were not that bad of a betting proposition and they finished the season with a positive record of 12-11 against the line, while they were 5-3 as home underdogs.
The Newcastle Knights also struggled badly in 2016, but their are hopes they will be able to bounce back in 2016 after signing Trent Hodkinson and new coach Nathan Brown.
Brown has looked to the young talent that the Knights have on their books and they will field seven debutants in the opening round of the seven as well as a number of other young players that have very little first grade experience.
Punters that followed the Knights last season had very little joy, particularly in line betting markets where they finished the season with a 10-14 record.
Their record away from home was very similar and they did not beat the line in a single game as home favourites, but there was only two games where that came up last season.
There does not look to be a great deal between these two sides ahead of the opening game of the season and this could prove to be a genuine wooden spoon preview, but there is a small edge in the price of the Titans at their current quote of $1.98.
Recommended Bet: Back The Titans to win at $1.98
[matchmodule matchid="14610666" no="7"]
St George Dragons
Monday 7 March, 6:00pm, AAMI Park
Melbourne Storm 18 - St George Illawarra Dragons 16
The Melbourne Storm were only a game away from the Grand Final in 2015, but if you look at NRL Premiership betting markets it is clear that they are expected to be the big sliders in 2016.
A number of pundits have been predicted the fall of the Storm for several years, but the consistent outfit just keeps winning football games and with the likes of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater on their roster as well as the wisdom of coach Craig Bellamy it is not hard to see why.
The Melbourne Storm are always one of the best betting teams in the NRL and that was the case again in 2016 as they finished the season with a record of 16-10 against the line, while they were 8-5 at home and 6-3 as home favourites.
The St George Illawarra Dragons defied all expectations in 2015 to qualify for the NRL finals and it took a golden-point thriller to see them eliminated from the competition.
When you look at their roster, it is fair to say that the Dragons overachieve last season and in 2016 it once again looks like they will be a solid defensive outfit, but will struggle to score points.
The Dragons basically had a 50 percent record against the line last season and their record away from home was just as consistent and they were 5-5 as away underdogs – a group of stats that sum up the Dragons fairly well.
The Storm are always a team to throw your support behind when it comes to NRL betting and I am confident that they can get their season off to a flying start with a big win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Recommended Bet: Back the Storm to beat the line (-7.5)
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