Season 2013 of the NRL season kicks off tonight, with two foundation clubs doing battle at the SFS. While all the talk has been about Sonny Bill Williams, who will actually win the game?
Sydney Roosters vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Thursday, March 7
8:05pm local time
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
It’s finally here. This is the opening round match that everyone has been looking forward to.
The Sydney Roosters, coming off two disappointing seasons which followed their fairytale run to the Grand Final in 2010, against the ever-improving South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Roosters have responded to their two seasons of underperformance by recruiting aggressively, and they did it impressively.
They have lured the likes of Michael Jennings, James Maloney, Sonny Bill Williams and Luke O’Donnell to the club and whilst they won’t combine to win the premiership together, then can at least turn the Roosters into a competitive side once again.
The Rabbitohs may have lost David Taylor but they have found his perfect replacement in Ben Te’o.
However his career at Redfern has not gotten off to a good start, being dropped before the Charity Shield match against the Dragons for turning up to training late.
Nevertheless, his arrival at the club will strengthen an already strong Rabbitohs forward pack which features Michael Crocker, Sam Burgess, Roy Asotasi and Jeff Lima, who comes to the club after a stint with Wigan in the Super League.
Looking at the pre-season, the Roosters have been very impressive.
They comprehensively defeated Manly and the Tigers in their two trial matches, but worryingly Sonny Bill Williams did not feature in either match, leaving him at risk of entering the season undone.
Michael Jennings showed no signs of homesickness and he may be the centre the Roosters have lacked in recent seasons.
James Maloney has also shown why he is needed at the Roosters, especially following the exits of Braith Anasta and Todd Carney.
His partnership with Mitchell Pearce will also be valuable and could provide some stability in the Roosters’ playmaking department. By contrast, the Rabbitohs have been a bit shaky.
They lost their first trial match against Newcastle before hitting back superbly to beat the Dragons in the annual Charity Shield match. Matt Maguire is a strict disciplinarian and he has made it clear that slackers will not be tolerated.
Already, he had to drop Ben Te’o before the Dragons match for turning up to training late. Can the rest of the team learn from his misdemeanour?
Match-up: Forward pack. Sonny Bill Williams and Luke O’Donnell will look to combine with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to form the deadliest forward pack in the competition.
For the Bunnies, the addition of Te’o will not only make up for the loss of David Taylor but also add some grunt.
Key: Can the Roosters build on their impressive pre-season form, or are the Rabbitohs just getting started?
Last meeting: Rabbitohs 24-22 at Allianz Stadium, Round 19, 2012.
Tip: Rabbitohs by 6 points.