Although crowds were down on last year for Round 1, the on field action increased with every game having a combined total of 30 points or more. Together with unexpected results, major injuries and suspensions the season got off to a memorable start.
Significant outcomes from Round 1 were:
• The Rabbitohs domination of the Roosters, and Sonny Bill Williams copping a three game suspension for a shoulder charge
• The Storm coming from 20 points down at Brookvale to defeat Manly, and Brett Stewart suffering a hamstring injury
• The Eels, wooden spooners for the last two years, providing a big win over the Warriors for their fans
• State of Origin and Blues captain Paul Gallen suffering a serious ankle injury and will now spend a long stint warming the bench.
This week’s Round will also dish up some difficult games to predict.
One of the standout games will be at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Friday night with the local derby between the Broncos and the Cowboys. Brisbane’s new recruit Ben Barba has ignited the Bronco’s and Johnathan Thurston, who is still the best player in the NRL, will have a huge bearing on the outcome. Both teams are coming off good wins however I think the experience of the Cowboys will get them over the line in a close one. Cowboys by 6.
Bitter rivals Souths and Manly will also lock horns on Friday night in Gosford. These two clubs have had an ongoing genuine dislike, dating back to the 1970’s when Manly poached some of the Rabbitoh stars which has never been forgotten by the Bunnies. Manly will be seething after giving up a 20 point lead to the Storm in their loss last week and won’t want to start the season 0-2. And although they will be without Brett Stewart through injury, they’re still a major force with loads of strike power. Souths are coming off a major win over defending champions the Roosters, and looked the best team in Round 1. A repeat of that performance will ensure a win, but I don’t expect the Sea Eagles to capitulate as easily as the Roosters, and the Rabbits should win in another close game. Souths by 8.
How refreshing it is to see three teams who finished near the bottom of the ladder last year: Penrith, Parramatta and Dragons, on top of the ladder? They will want to capitalise this week but will find it tough.
Penrith could be the big improvers this season with major signings Jaimie Soward, Jamal Idris and Brent Kite adding great depth to their squad. However, this week’s game against the Storm will be a yardstick of where they’re at. The Storm, as always, will be hard to crack and are coming off a great victory over Manly last week. Add the return of superstar halfback Cooper Kronk and the Storm will arrive very confident. This could be the game of the round. Storm by 12.
The Eels could experience a very short honeymoon under new coach Brad Arthur as they take on the Roosters. Although they had a confidence building win over the Warriors, the Roosters will present them with the ultimate test after being humiliated last week and will come in extremely focussed. The Eels may be competitive in the first 40 minutes but expect the Roosters to dominate the second half. Roosters by 16.
And, at last the Dragons fans have something to smile about after a huge win against the Tigers last week and new signing Gareth Widdop having a blinder. Although the Saints scored more points than all other teams, it was against an injury riddled Tigers. They travel to New Zealand this week and will have a much tougher task against the Warriors. It’s hard to know which Warriors’ team will show up but at home they seem to grow another leg. I expect the Warriors to bounce back after their shock loss to the Eels and overpower the Saints. Warriors by 15.
The Titans at home should be too strong for the Tigers, and I think the Bulldogs will also win at home against the Sharks.