Parramatta vs Dragons
The match-up between last years heavyweights should be a good one, while the Eels are at home and boasting some new stars – their trial form hasn’t been too impressive. They’ll probably need a few more weeks for the new faces to gel into the side.
The Dragons are a little tarnished by injuries to Matt Cooper and Ben Hornby, but their pre-season has been very impressive as has their trial games. The Dragons will also have more speed on the edge with Nightingale coming into the side for the retired Wendell Sailor.
The Dragons should win this in a close game.
Broncos vs Cowboys
The tables looked to be turned this year, with the Brisbane side housing several rookies as opposed to the Cowboys with plenty of experience. The Broncos are lacking in the engine room and on the fringes, with Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace shouldering plenty of responsibility in this game.
The North Queensland side have the edge in the forwards here, but might be a little vulnerable with Ty Williams at the back. The veteran has lost plenty of pace and lacks height under the high ball. On a positive note, the Cowboy bench looks to have plenty of impact too as opposed to the little known Broncos subs.
The Cowboys to win here, possibly by a large margin if they get going.
Bulldogs vs Newcastle
While most punters are all over the Bulldogs for this game, it will be closer than many think. The Dogs showed some promise in the trials and boast the experience of Kimmorley in the halves behind that solid Canterbury pack. They are well rounded by the electric backs in Morris, Idris and new face Steve Turner.
The Bulldogs will be faster now after Hazem’s retirement, look to Turner to really have a big impact in this side.
Newcastle have had the well documented dramas in pre-season, but they still have some promise in their side. Ben Cross will be looking to impress after injury hampered his impact last year, Cory Patterson too is looking to rebuild after troubles in 2009.
The problem for the Knights might be with their veterans. The likes of Steve Simpson and Adam McDougall have been good servants for their side, but are injury prone and may find it hard to keep pace with the new brigade in NRL 2010.
The Dogs should win this comfortably at ANZ Stadium.
Panthers vs Raiders
Penrith really look for for season 2010. The mountain men with Travis Burns joining Luke Walsh, behind a rock-solid forward pack featuring Civoniceva, Waterhouse and Lewis. The Panthers were hot in their trial games and given this game is at CUA Stadium, they’ll be fairly comfortable.
The Raiders are featuring some new talent, with plenty expected from custodian Josh Dugan. The diminutive Dugan has a buckload of potential and was impressive when called upon from Toyota Cup into the top grade last year. By years end Dugan could feature among the top fullbacks in the game.
Canberra do have more potential off the bench than Penrith. If this turns into an arm wrestle, it will suit the Raiders much more.
Penrith to win. If they start positive, expect a high score.
Sharks vs Storm
Initially long shots, there are some corners suggesting an upset by the Sharks here. In an interesting stat, Ricky Stuart has never lost Game 1 of an NRL season since he started coaching.
However, the Cronulla side still look like they will struggle to score points. Their backline features some rookies that will find it hard facing the precision of the Melbourne side, along with Luke Covell who is a rock in defence but lacks pace in attack.
Even if Cronulla can turn this into an ugly game up front, they still won’t be able to score enough points.
The Storm to win comfortably.
Titans v Warriors
The Warriors will be hoping it isn’t a hot day on Sunday, with their black shirts potentially a nightmare on the Gold Coast sun.
A tough roadtrip for the NZ side first up, they will sorely miss Steve Price in this early clash, along with Simon Mannering. The decision to put Lance Hohaia at fullback with Wade McKinnon on the bench could backfire badly for the away side. The NZ team also looks very skinny on the bench, they have it all to do in this game.
The Titans on the other hand are choc full of talent. The addition of Greg Bird will steel this side, giving them options in attack and defence.
They look to be so well balanced the Titans, house-hold names in the forwards, backs built for speed and a handy bench.
At home first up, expect the Titans to win well here. Pressure will immediately be applied to the coaching career of Ivan Cleary in early 2010 as the wolves will circle.
Roosters vs Rabbitohs
A lot has been said about the Souths side in the build up to this season. They have blue-chip signings in the forwards in Dave Taylor and Sam Burgess, but will the pressure tell on the Bunnies?
A lot will fall on the lap of John Sutton and Chris Sandow, no doubt Brian Smith will have the Roosters working overtime to shut these guys down.
The Roosters have been promising in trial form, but they remain a little bit of an unknown until they settle into a new style. Brian Smith will have them more disciplined and the X-Factor of Todd Carney who is proven at this level will beÂ a handy addition.
Souths were solid without setting the world on fire in the Charity Shield, while favourites for this clash – there could be a chance of an upset here with the Roosters looking to pip their cross town rivals.
Roosters here in a tight one.
Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
A great clash here for Monday night, expect to see a big turnout by Tigers fans as they welcome their new signings Lote Tiquiri and Jason Cayless.
Punters are keen on the Wests side here with a big early bet of 20,000 on the side at $1.80.
The Manly side look a little too disjointed for 2010, with a makeshift halves pairing and some reshuffling in the forwards. Chris Bailey would be better used in the halves here, the Sea Eagles look to lack a little pace against the nimble Tigers.
Wests Tigers should win this, expect them to run the Manly pack around – pushing plenty of action down the edges.