NRL Preview – Round 1 – 2013
As always with Round 1 we are guessing to a large degree what the form and match ups might really look like. We have 4 new coaches (Roosters, Eels, Warriors and Tigers) and a host of player movements right across all 16 teams, in all reality it will take some weeks before and real form is exposed. But that won’t dampen our enthusiasm to have the footy back and the opening round upon us!!
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Roosters v Rabbitohs
Moore Park: 8.00pm Thursday
Roosters likely to be without Cordner and O’Donnell. SBW will play off the bench and they’ll play with key changes to their line up and patterns of play with a new coach and the inclusions of Maloney, Jennings and SBW. Rabbits welcome the return of Asotasi , Champion and the inclusion of T’eo. There is obviously plenty of arch rival history between these two sides, Roosters have won 4 of their last 6 H2H games and their recent record at home is a poor 2/7 however longer term their best form has been here. The Rabbits come off a successful season last year with a top 4 and semi final finish. Their recent record here is 3/7. From what little we have seen through the recent trials the Roosters look to be prepared to play a more mobile and up tempo game style. Maloney will prove a quality buy and offer them greater options in attack and a suitable pairing for Pearce while Jennings’ speed and step will be welcomed down their left edge. Discipline and basic error cruelled the Roosters more times than not in 2012. Let’s wait and see what and or how this might have changed. The Rabbits will be looking to pick up from where they left off last season, they have a stack of size and grunt and will look to play a power game through the middle. T’eo is class and will add some quality ball play to their right edge which will be a welcome foil for Inglis and Sutton who favour their play to the left. Roosters may need some time – a new coach, patterns of play and personal but I expect that they’ll be here to give this a real shake, Rabbits hard to go past on the back of list strength and combination, Inglis the obvious game breaker.
Last Word: Cracking game to open the season. Think it will be closer than many think, lean to Rabbits with their settled combinations.
Betting Interest: No thanks, happy to just enjoy that the footy’s back!!
Broncos v Sea Eagles
Suncorp: 7.00pm Friday
Broncos at home on a Friday night. Who’d have thought that! Prince is a key buy for the Broncos and should strengthen their direction, kicking game and short attack options especially down his favoured left edge. The Eagles look a work in progress here, they have made major rotations and changes (approx 14 players) to their top 25 list but more importantly will be without King and Glenn Stewart with whispers about to suggest that Brett Stewart is also very doubtful. The Eagles have near “owned” the Broncos through the last 4 or 5 seasons, they’ve won 8 of their last 10 H2H and won 5 of the last 6 H2H at the ground. They’ve also been very good on the road for distant games winning 5/6 last season, but they will play here with at least 4 if not 5 “new” list players. I’d expect Griffin to reshuffle his starting line up and push Thaiday back to the back row and his favoured right edge, with Hannant to start. Nice test for the Broncos first up at home, especially off the back of their very poor finish to last year when they limped in and then out of the finals. The use and combinations of Prince, Wallace and Norman will be key, while the Eagles will look to Cherry-Evans, Foran and Lyon. The Hodges v Matai match up won’t lack energy. Eagles look under strength with key outs, new faces and a 3 week break from their last trial, Broncos get their chance for a positive start at home.
Last Word: Broncs look settled and fresh. Prince a key inclusion. Eagles key outs and new combinations.
Betting Interest: Broncos H2H will be one of the best backed this week.
Eels v Warriors
Parramatta: 5.30pm Saturday
Two sides with significant chances through the off season, including two new coaches (Stuart and Elliott). I think longer term both sides could well figure as bottom 4 contenders so it will be interesting to see what unfolds here first up. The Eels have new signing Lussick starting and have gone with Kelly at 6. The Warriors have Johnson in doubt while new buys Nielsen and Lowrie will play. The Eels only play 8 games at their true home venue (Parra Stadium) this season (only 9 last year) which negates a longer term advantage they have held with any winning form having been at this venue. They have won 4 of their last 6 here but only 2 of their last 8 H2H. The Warriors are 3 from their last 4 at the ground but have a shocking recent away record to overcome winning only 3 of 13 on the road last season. Defensive combination and attitude would have been Stuart’s key focus through the off season on the back of leaking 28 points a week. Now under game pressure we’ll start to see if and what changes have been made. Stuart is also a noted motivator for one off events and I’d suspect that he’ll have his team very pumped to start well here and in no need of having the dressing room doors opened for them. What to make of the Warriors? Johnson would be a key out and the halves combinations an obvious issue. They too have had some major defensive problems through the last 12 months, in particular down either outside edge. Going with Eels at home but this looks to be one game where we really need to wait and see what’s on offer from two new coaches.
Last Word: Eels at home, but nothing would surprise.
Betting Interest: Don’t even think about it!
Bulldogs v Cowboys
Gosford: 7.30pm Saturday
Bulldogs have a great record at Homebush but have chosen to move this game to Gosford. Numerous obvious questions over the Bulldogs with Barba not playing – they will also be without Graham, Kasiano and Pritchard – key outs up front especially against a big physical side like the Cowboys. As is well documented, Barba either scored or was involved in 50% of all of the Bulldogs scoring plays last season. His out is significant and will certainly change how they might attack. We’ll have to wait and see what and how that unfolds. Both Graham and more so Kasiano also offered both yardage and ball play which will also change how they might look to play these opening weeks. The Cowboys are another who look settled and ready to kick on from where they finished late last yr, they have two international big boppers up front, plenty of size and grunt behind them (and to their edge) and make no bones about the fact that they like to steamroll forward to allow Thurston and Bowen room to then play. Their recent away record is much better than many think (8/14 last year) although they have lost their last 5 games straight H2H vs Bulldogs. Great clash, numerous questions to be answered especially those about the Dogs attack, I like the Cowboys first up with the size and power game through the middle to trouble their opponents.
Last Word: Power through the middle looks the key, question over Bulldogs attack and points?
Betting Interest: If you wanted to play Cowboys look a nice interest.
Panthers v Raiders
Penrith: 2.00pm Sunday
Panthers are another with a major list overhaul with some 14 or 15 new buys, 6 of them likely to play here first up including key forwards Manu, Brown and Segeyaro and the skillful Whare at fullback. Given such major change it’s going to take a few weeks to watch and work out Cleary’s intentions and more so the quality of that on field execution. I like Cleary as a coach and although it might take a few more years of development I’m sure that he is on the right track (franked by his record at the Warriors). Walsh, Coote and Whare will need to step up, Segeyaro will offer plenty of spark when he plays at 9. Raiders have a number of players in doubt (or are playing games), Dugan, Croker and Robinson supposedly yet to pass fitness tests. Where do we place them? Is it off the back of their enthusiastic and attacking run home into the finals last year? Surely we’d also have to expect they would have grown in combination and confidence off the back of that experience, but the Raiders of old have made a habit of under performing just when you think they might be on the up. I’m going with them on the back of confidence and combination, but I do expect the Panthers to be up and ready to play. Interesting clash.
Last Word: backing the Raiders confidence and enthusiasm first up, but a game with more questions than answers.
Betting Interest: Pass.
Storm v Dragons
Melbourne: 3.00pm Sunday
Storm once again look the obvious here. Defending premiers marked a very short quote first up at home. Not only have the Storm been leaders on the park but their off season preparation has also become a benchmark for most to follow so I see the recent UK club challenge trip far less a hurdle for them than most and with 11 days back in Melbourne to prepare for this I expect little downside. They have again made their new home venue a fortress winning 11 of 14 here last season, I’d be staggered if they were upset here. I want to see what the Dragons really have to offer through the opening weeks, but right now there list on paper looks thin on quality, depth and in particular a quality game breaker. Worst still they have had a shocking recent away record, losing 3 of 13 on the road last year, and coming up with zero from 4 when interstate. Hard to see anything else but the professional Storm back in their groove at home.
Last Word: Hard to see anything but the obvious, Storm by a margin.
Betting Interest: A two try line against the Storm doesn’t seem a hurdle for mine.
Sharks v Titans
Cronulla: 6.30pm Sunday
Gee if we were guessing into many for these games for round 1, what on earth do we make of this on a Thursday morning? I’d expect the Sharks to play as named, but that’s a guess, as would be what sort of mindset they might well be in given all of the current dramas that they are working through. It may well unite them for a major stand. It may well be too much of a burden. Some may not play and we won’t know until Sunday afternoon. I have a set against the Titans long term this season, but they get their chance here fresh and first up to put their hand up. They have named probably their strongest line up possible, have plenty of size, how they then use that and their attack will be most interesting. It’s a fact that sides with rookie 9’s, 7’s and 6’s just don’t keep winning at this level week in week out so I am also very interested to see how they combine and play. Titans have a poor longer term road record, but if ever they got their chance…
Last Word: Who knows what might unfold between now and Sunday? Titans might get their chance.
Betting Interest: No thanks, let’s just watch and learn.
Knights v Tigers
Newcastle: 7.00pm Monday
If they can keep their list available (given all the other goings on right now) I like the look of the Knights this year and expect them to give the top 4 a real shake. The Master Coach has now had a year to mould things for this year, from preparation to playing list and he’s left no stone unturned it would appear stamping his want on all of this. He has bought well in particular with hard men Scott and Smith (themselves Bennett men) and importantly they get Gidley back. I also expect them to play off a strong home base with 30,000 odd supporters more often than not and what was once a home ground fortress to again return to being such this season. The Tigers, Potter is a positive, he can coach and has an excellent UK record, I’m sure he’ll also look to tighten up their attack and errors. My concern through the last 12 months and again reinforced through recent trials is the lack of size and grunt that they have through their middle, often being trampled and or opened up at will. Ellis and Heighington are key exits and so a lot of responsibility looks likely to be shouldered by a few and or the expectation of a few youngsters stepping up. The Tigers have also been poor away through recent years, 6 from 16 last season and had their pants well and truly pulled down by the Knights in this game at Newcastle mid last year. I like the Knights at home, lots to watch and review about both.
Last Word: I’m sure the Knights will test the middle then use their edge speed and skill.
Betting Interest: If I had to I’d be on the Knights but lets just see what’s on offer.
I won’t be firing a serious bullet till round 4 or 5 as with so many changes across all 16 clubs I want to see the new offerings, changes and what form is starting to be disclosed before we play.
But given the level of interest and enquiry, for those who’d like to have a play this week if pressed I’d nominate the following for you to work around.
– Broncos at home, Eagles look under strength and possibly underdone, play the H2H and short Line
– Cowboys look a nice gamble either way H2H or Line, look likely to get the Bulldogs at the right time
– Storm look the winner, look to play them via the Line or Tri bet options (over 7.5) and spec the 13+
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