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The Roar's NRL expert tips and predictions: Round 1

Adam Reynolds and Souths kick off their season with a blockbuster against the Roosters. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
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13th March, 2019
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Finally. Finally, it’s time to stop talking about the damn off-season, the NRL’s multitude of problems, and player discipline issues, because the footy is here! The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel are back for another year to talk about just that.

This year’s tipping panel has undergone some radical changes. Tim Gore has decided he doesn’t want to risk being beaten by AJ Mithen again, so won’t be with us, and neither will Tom Rock.

Defending champion AJ is back in action, while Stuart McLennan joins us as well. The final member of the panel is long time Roarer, and someone I’m sure you’ve all had plenty of debates with, The Barry.

The opening round of the new season kicks off in Melbourne, as the Billy Slater-less Storm host the Broncos and their youthful pack.

The likely to excite Newcastle Knights will host the Sharks on Friday, before the book of feuds resumes with the Roosters and Rabbitohs.

Saturday starts in Auckland, then heads to Leichhardt, before ending up in Townsville as the Warriors face the Bulldogs, the Tigers play a weakened Manly, and the Cowboys play the Dragons in what are likely to be extremely tough conditions.

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The final games of Round 1 on Sunday take us to Penrith, as the Panthers play the Eels, then the Gold Coast, as another side with the potential to improve in the Titans, take on the unpredictable Raiders.

Don’t forget to join in on the form at the bottom of the article, where you can tip as part of The Crowd, to try and beat the experts in 2019. Tips will close at approximately 5pm (AEDT) on Thursday afternoon.

AJ Mithen

Tips: Broncos, Knights, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Tigers, Dragons, Panthers, Titans
The champ is here! The champ is here! I toyed with the idea of going one and done, but no, I’m back to defend my crown against a swathe of new pretenders. Here’s what’s coming this week.

Brisbane to ‘upset’ Brisbane Junior in Melbourne. Gonna be tough work for the Mexicans in 2019 with Billy Slater gone and their reigning Cooper Cronk medallist, Scott Drinkwater, out injured.

Newcastle will beat Cronulla because that’s what the Knights do, bank quality early wins that amount to not much come August.

New Zealand and Canterbury will put on one for the purists, New Zealand win but only because it’s over there. I don’t mind the Bulldogs this season.

Dragons to squeak past North Queensland in a sneaky game of the round.

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Wests Tigers will murder Manly, who will be scrambling to remember Des Hasler’s 12,000 pre-match instructions. Penrith should sort out the Eels. Interesting year for the Eels. Do they suck or are they middle of the field? ¿Por qué no los dos?

My beautiful Canberra Raiders should get beat on the Gold Coast, but it’s the first step in a long journey to the premiership. If the Raiders win this one it’ll be by 40 plus.

Game of the week sees the Roosters get to Souths at the SCG. Should be a ripper that will test the NRL’s brand new ‘lax refereeing’ policy. Souths by a small bit.

Think you’ve got me covered this year? Have a crack if you’re good enough!

Stuart McLennan

Tips: Storm, Knights, Roosters, Warriors, Tigers, Dragons, Panthers, Raiders
Pre-season trials are a useless form guide. My Round 1 tips are based on vague recollections of last season and a large amount of stab in the dark.

The season opener in the AFL heartland features a Slaterless Melbourne up against a Broncos team with a new coach. Cam Smith’s leadership and Bellamy’s half-time spittle will see the Storm home.

The Knights look the goods at McDonald Jones against the Sharks with big bopper David Klemmer punching holes up the middle and Kalyn Ponga weaving his magic in the front line.

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David Klemmer of the Newcastle Knights

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

The book of feuds continues with another chapter of the Sydney inner-city rivalry to be played out. Former Souths man Angus Crichton has been listed on the bench for the Roosters. Easts to win in a tight one.

The Warriors are without Shaun Johnson but still look like specials to beat the Bulldogs in Auckland.

The toughest pre-season ever according to Benji and Michael Maguire’s regime looks like it has already taken its toll. Three first graders are out with injuries but the Wests Tigers at the ‘eighth wonder’ should be too good for Manly without Turbo at the back.

Michael Morgan has some big shoes to fill in 2019. His leadership and combination with the talented but inconsistent Te Maire Martin will be crucial. The Dragons have issues but I am tipping them to rally for Mary in Townsville.

Both Cleary and Arthur are coaches under pressure in 2019, with Ivan looking for a top-four spot and Brad striving to be competitive throughout the season. Again I am going for a strong performance from a club under scrutiny. Panthers at home.

I am hearing that Raiders support staff will provide mugs of tea at halftime to cater for their increasing number of Englishmen. I’m expecting a big year from the Green Machine and while the Titans have added ‘The Peach’, the Raiders will take the chocolates.

The Barry

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Tips: Storm, Sharks, Roosters, Bulldogs, Tigrs, Cowboys, Panthers, Titans
Great round of games to kick off the season, with some great rivalries rekindled. League’s oldest grudge match, Souths and Easts. Fibros vs Silvertails. Storm vs Broncos. The Battle of the West.

But one fixture really jumps out at me… Titans against the Raiders.

Last year, the Raiders blew a 24-6 lead to get beaten by a late try. Regular Roarers will remember this clash more for the moment Kevin Proctor performed a vital piece of preventative healthcare on international teammate Jordan Rapana.

One prominent Raiders fan thought the refs were nuts for not sending Proctor off and it was even called the moment the wheels came off the Raiders season.

I’m tipping the Titans to grab the lollies this year too.

AJ Brimson runs the ball playing for the Titans

(AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Home ground advantage should be enough to get the Storm home against the Broncos. I’m Looking forward to watching the young Broncos pack as well.

Sharks versus Knights is the toughest game of the round to pick. I’m going for the Sharks’ hard-headed professional grind over the Knights.

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It’s good to see Roosters vs Souths back as a Round 1 fixture. This is another tough game. Across the top five to ten players, these two are pretty evenly matched but the Roosters are classier across the park so I’m going for them.

I’m going for the Bulldogs. Life without Shaun Johnson will be a tough adjustment and the Dogs have always gone well in NZ. This, of course, suggests my heart is bigger than my brain. (Author’s note: We already knew this.)

Without Dylan Walker or Turbo, the Manly backline looks pretty light on so I’m tipping the Tigers.

It’s impossible to read what effect this off-season has had on the Dragons. Are they galvanised or gone? They’re historically strong starters, but Townsville in March is a tough ask. Cowboys.

Can’t find many positives for the Eels in their clash with the Panthers which probably makes them morals. Close at halftime, but Panthers by plenty in the second.

Scott Pryde

Tips: Storm, Knights, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Tigers, Dragons, Panthers, Titans
Thank everything the footy is back, and what an opening round we have in store. Some of these matches you could just about flip a coin for.

There are no matches more so down that line than the Friday night primetime encounter between the Roosters and Rabbitohs.

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The Roosters are the defending premiers, and while they are expected to go deep into the finals again, they might be a bit slow to start after their trip to England for the World Club Challenge.

I get the feeling the Rabbitohs will be right up for this match, with Wayne Bennett wanting to make his mark on the club straight away.

The other game which has got me intrigued this week is the Titans and Raiders. The Titans are one of those sides where they could well make the eight this season, but could also miss. The Raiders are in the same boat, and every match for sides on the edge of the eight is crucial.

While I don’t agree with AJ Brimson being benched, his spark off the bench could be the difference, and I’ll take the Titans at home.

Like the Titans, the Knights should be on of this year’s big improvers, and with the Sharks likely to, at best, take a few weeks to gel, it’s hard to see them winning their opener in the Hunter.

In Melbourne, it’s hard to tip against the Storm. They have plenty of questions this year, but still own a strong forward pack and Cameron Smith, who should get one over the Broncos’ young pack.

Cameron Smith

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The Bulldogs will track to Auckland, but will come away with their first loss of the season, despite the Warriors being likely to struggle in 2019, while the Tigers should make a statement against a very weak Manly backline without Tom Trbojevic.

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On Sunday, I’m taking the Panthers to thump the Eels, while in Townsville, I’m tipping with the heart and predicting the Dragons to get over the adversity of the off-season to beat the Cowboys.

As tough as playing in Townsville is during March, the Dragons need a win to restore confidence in the line-up, and reckon they will with the Cowboys taking a while to get their season rolling.

Round 1 AJ Stuart The Barry Scott The Crowd
STO v BRO BRO STO STO STO STO
KNI v SHA KNI KNI SHA KNI KNI
ROO v RAB RAB ROO ROO RAB ROO
WAR v BUL WAR WAR BUL WAR WAR
TIG v SEA TIG TIG TIG TIG TIG
COW v DRA DRA DRA COW DRA COW
PAN v EEL PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN
TIT v RAI TIT RAI TIT TIT TIT
Total 0 0 0 0 0

Be sure to enter your tips below by the start of the round, and we’ll update the article with The Crowd’s tips by 5:30pm (AEDT) on Thursday.

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