Struggling to work out who to pick for a clash this week? With many mouth-watering and entertaining clashes ahead, there are some tough decisions to make but we have you covered here as our tipping guru casts his eye over the week’s fixtures. Would you tip the same teams he does or their opposition?
After what seems like an eternity, round one is finally here! A word of warning: you probably wonâ€™t get a harder round to pick all year because you simply have no reliable way to gauge form. Yes, trials and the Auckland 9s and the Charity Shield and the Indigenous All Stars are all great to watch, but they generally tell us precious little about how the first round clashes will go. Itâ€™s a lot of guesswork and luck. Unfortunately, that trend continues for the first five or six rounds when upsets reign supreme and youâ€™re doing well to be batting at a 50% average. Itâ€™s best to tip conservatively in the opening weeks, ride the inconsistent results and look to jag the upset tips and the 50/50s when we have some form to consider. Anything above four out of eight this week would be considered par.
At a glance: Souths, Eels, Knights, Tigers, Cowboys, Panthers, Sharks, Storm
Broncos v Souths, Suncorp Stadium
A bumper match to kick of 2015 with the reigning premiers taking on a new-look Brisbane outfit. This is a really tough way to start the round and I think this game is much closer than the betting suggests. The bookies have the Bunnies as fairly clear favourites (Broncos $2.35, Souths $1.62 [Odds through Sportsbet]) but Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™s this clear cut. To me Souths are significantly weaker without Burgess, Teâ€™o and Auvaâ€™a (Tuqiri is missing as well from their Grand Final side), and the Broncos squad is definitely stronger than last yearâ€™s edition â€“ their pack is monstrous. The Broncos play exceptionally well at Suncorp (won six of their last seven at home in 2014), have a great record in round one fixtures but itâ€™s just too hard to go past the reigning premiers. Part of me wants to tip the Broncos but itâ€™s too high-risk this early in the season.
Eels v Manly, Pirtek Stadium
This is another really tough call. Manly have their noses in front in the betting, but their injury toll worries me. Their overall squad is weaker in 2015 and theyâ€™re already down some troops in Matai, Taufua and Starling, with Lawrence, Lyon and Symonds all under a cloud (suffered injuries in their last trial). I think the Eels can get the job done given their strong record at Pirtek, and theyâ€™ll get home on the back of a massive game from Watmough.
Knights v Warriors, Hunter Stadium
You canâ€™t take the Warriors in round one clashes, and you canâ€™t take them in away fixtures. The Knights should be too good, especially with a few rookies in the Warriorsâ€™ backline; expect Gagai and Leilua to have a field day. Tomkins is also under a massive injury cloud which will throw out the Warriorsâ€™ attack should he miss the game.
Titans v Tigers, CBus Super Stadium
This clash was a straight-out coin toss before the cocaine crisis, but now Iâ€™m reasonably confident the Tigers will get up. The Titans just have too many front-liners missing, and it wasnâ€™t an overly strong squad to begin with. Iâ€™ll always give the Tigers a chance when Tedesco and Farah are on deck and Titans are awful at home.
Cowboys v Roosters, 1300SMILES Stadium
Iâ€™m not completely convinced, but you have to take the Cowboys at home, especially with Friend missing for the Roosters. The Cows will still be rueing their heartbreaking loss in the semis last year, and I think the big Roosters forwards will struggle in the heat. I expect the Cowboys to make in 12 wins on the trot at Townsville, even though as a rule they start seasons poorly. This clash worries me, though.
Panthers v Bulldogs, Pepper Stadium
The Dogs are slight favourites in this clash mainly due to Penrithâ€™s injury toll. They have a number of players out including Mansour, Docker and Plum. I am a big fan of the Dogs but I think the Panthers are the safer option: I saw Canterbury struggle on the road in 2014 and with a number of players coming back from off-season surgery the Panthers should get the chocolates. The Dogs will need some time to adjust to their new hooker and fullback, and the heat wonâ€™t favour their gargantuan pack.
Sharks v Raiders, Remondis Stadium
This clash takes place at 6.30pm Sunday night, so itâ€™s almost the tried-and-tested â€œShark park in the Darkâ€ rule, but even in the twilight the Sharkies should get home â€“ theyâ€™ve got more points in them than the Raiders. Itâ€™ll be closer than people think, but the Raiders need time to adjust to their new recruits, in particular the new spine of Wighton, Austin, Cornish and Hodgson.
Dragons v Storm, Jubilee Oval
Iâ€™ve got no wraps on the Dragons this year, and although I reckon the Storm are on the slide they should still be too good in this one. The Storm generally start seasons well and their forward pack is a class above their opponents. Cameron Smith is in doubt but even if he misses the game (unlikely), Iâ€™d still be taking Melbourne.
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