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

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Expert
11th March, 2020
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Today is the day. You can’t help but wake up with a smile on your face, because tonight, the NRL season kicks off at what is likely to be a packed Bankwest Stadium as a local derby gets the new year rolling. Welcome to The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions for the 2020 season.

Season 2019 is all but a distant memory, with a full preseason, months of chatter about who is going to finish where and trial matches behind us.

There may be no greater day on the calendar than this one. Or, you know, the next four days when your team finally gets to prove the doubters wrong and get their first game of the season out of the way.

This year’s tipping panel will see the return of AJ Mithen, who likes to claim he was the champion last year, only that he wasn’t. The Barry and Stuart McLennan leaves the panel, while we welcome back former tipster and Roar expert Mary Konstantopoulos, as well as prolific writer and live blogger David Holden. (Editor’s note: The Barry has made a late comeback and will be on the panel again this year!)

Every week, you’ll get the chance to tip against the expert panel on the form at the bottom of the article. You’ll form The Crowd, with the most popular tips here on The Roar published at approximately 6pm (AEDT) each Thursday (or Friday when there is no Thursday game).

Looking ahead to the opening round, and it’s the Eels who will get things underway in Parramatta against the Bulldogs, before a Queensland derby graces the screens on Friday night – and let’s hope it doesn’t disgrace the screens like the one at the back end of 2019 (genuinely, worst game of football I’ve seen).

In between, last year’s grand finalists the Canberra Raiders get welcomed to the 2020 season with a Friday 6pm game against the Gold Coast Titans – make of that what you will.

Saturday’s feast goes to Newcastle, Homebush and Penrith as the Knights, Rabbitohs and Panthers host the Warriors, Sharks and Roosters respectively.

Sunday kicks off with a doozy as Manly host Melbourne, and ends with a potential dud as the Dragons play the Tigers in Wollongong.

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As mentioned, remember to you get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEDT) on Thursday to join The Roar’s NRL tipping competition for 2020 and be featured as part of The Crowd’s tips for Round 1.

AJ Mithen

Tips: Eels, Raiders, Broncos, Knights, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Sea Eagles, Dragons

Can you feel it? Your house smells different, the train to work smells different, everyone has a smile on their face and no one is scared of coronavirus, because rugby league is in the air!

And rugby league means another year of me dominating all pretenders in The Roar’s tipping comp. I would say sorry to you all for the beat down that’s on the way, but it would be an empty offering. I’m here to crush. You’re all playing for third place (because my burner account will come second).

So here are this week’s winners. Do your best – it won’t make a difference…

I wrote this week that the Bulldogs needed a fast start, and they won’t get it. Poor behaviour has set the Dogs back at selection and they needed everything to go right in the first place to derail the Parra hype train at Bankwest. Parra by stacks.

My beautiful Raiders won 15 games last year, mainly on the back of stout defence. They didn’t rip teams apart like the good old grand final-free days.

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The heavily depleted Titans are wasting their time going to Bruce Stadium, they could start playing now and still be held to zero. Raiders by a million.

Raiders

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Brisbane have named a prop who’s played 19 games and a Storm retread as co-captains and I’m here for it. Anthony Seibold doesn’t care for convention, or the home team’s opening of their brand new unroofed stadium in the tropics.

The Cowboys have a terrifying 1-7 but the Broncos have the beef up front. They’ll get a hilarious upset.

Newcastle will beat the Warriors and build up those false hopes and dreams. New Zealand will put up a fight though, like they always do until Round 4.

Uncle Wayne’s Bunnies will get past Cronulla but it’s going to be a pretty closely run thing. The Sharks will have a few weeks of trying to prove us all wrong until they prove us all right.

Penrith will put the cleaners through the Roosters because the Roosters have no interest in the regular season until week 14. Get ready to put your hopes up, Panthers fans!

Manly will knock over the Storm in the best game of the opening round. These two played belters last year and I’m looking forward to it.

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Finally, St George Illawarra.

Mary Konstantopoulos

Tips: Eels, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Tigers

As a Parramatta Eels fan, it always makes me nervous when my team heads into the season with great expectations. Despite that, following the standing down of two Canterbury Bulldogs players on Tuesday night, I’m confident that the Eels have enough strike power across the field to start their 2020 season with a bang.

Round 1 is always a hard tipping week given that fans have very little other than trial form to go off, but I’m tipping the home teams in most games this weekend.

The Canberra Raiders will make the top eight this year and will be far too strong for the Gold Coast Titans, who will finish close to the bottom of the ladder and the Newcastle Knights will welcome their new coach with a win.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs will also be too strong for a Cronulla Sharks team that has lurched from challenge to challenge over the off-season including the lack of a home ground, the loss of their CEO and more recently, the loss of Josh Morris to join brother Brett at the Sydney Roosters after Round 2.

Speaking of the Roosters, even without their captain courageous Boyd Cordner, they will be too strong for a Penrith Panthers team heavily reliant on youth (as seems to be the case every year).

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James Tedesco

(Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The Sea Eagles are my smoky for the title this year and I’m predicting that they will beat the Melbourne Storm on Sunday, especially with the shock additions of both Trbojevic brothers in the squad as well as Addin Fonua-Blake.

The Wests Tigers will be too strong for the St George Illawarra Dragons, who have suffered an injury crisis even before the season has started.

And in the derby, the North Queensland Cowboys will beat the Brisbane Broncos and christen their brand new stadium with a win.

David Holden

Tips: Eels, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Dragons

It was only, well, 24 hours ago when the NRL pre-season had proceeded along well, with less than the usual number of off-field incidents, and then… boom. The Bulldogs were seen as the big improvers this year but the loss of Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor will hurt. The Eels to win this.

Justin Holbrook has a massive job on his hands this season. By my count, the Titans need 15 trainers on the field on Friday night to stand a chance. The Raiders will start with a win.

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The second Friday night match sees the Broncos take on the Cowboys in Townsville. Val Holmes will take off his helmet and play fullback in what is a classy back line.

The Broncos have just plodded into Round 1, with murmurings aplenty in Bris Vegas. Cowboys to get the chocolates in this one.

Super Saturday starts in Newcastle when the Warriors come to town. Everyone is seeing the Warriors as wooden spoon chances, which is precisely the time when they turn up and smack you in the head.

There is an upset written all over this but I am going to resist. Newcastle, just.

Next up, the Rabbits take on my team. No team does injuries like the Sharks and they are off to a fine start, with three starting backs out. This leaves a back line of kids and one experienced brother who would much rather be sipping a latte with Nick Politis, but I digress.

Adam Reynolds’ kicking game will prove the difference with the Rabbits winning.

We round out Saturday night with the Roosters travelling to Penrith. No Cooper Cronk, no Latrell Mitchell, no Boyd Cordner this week. Are the Panthers a chance? Nope, with Nathan Cleary taking a little time to get used to playing without James Maloney.

My match of the round takes place on Sunday afternoon. Are the Storm on the slide? We hear it every year and they just keep contending. However, Des Hasler has something special brewing at Lottoland and the Sea Eagles will get the win in front of a rabid home crowd.

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Brad Parker of the Sea Eagles runs the ball

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

We finish off Round 1 with the Dragons taking on the Tigers. I will take the Dragons purely because they are playing at Wollongong and because Mary should have a least a week before the knives come out.

The Barry

Eels, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights, Sharks, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Dragons
Only complacency can stop the Raiders here. Eyes on George Williams – one game is a small sample to form an opinion but the assessment of whether he’s NRL standard starts now.

“Jack Bird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly” – The Beatles. Poor bugger. I liked the Bronco’s preseason but with Bird and Lodgey and their dodgy ACLs I’m not so sure. Looking forward to the new-look Cowboys attack and the JT13 versus TPJ rematch. Home ground gives the Cows the edge.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck injured his ankle in a Warriors’ trial and there have been whispers about him missing this game. Despite changing coach, the Knights look more settled than a year ago. Hard to see the Warriors winning this with RTS. They’re dead in the water without him.

With Cameron Murray moving to an edge, the Rabbitohs have lost George, Sam and Murray from their middle third and haven’t replaced them. Their star studded backline shouldn’t struggle for points but they need to win the middle. Sharks are in the same boat and will win in an upset.

The battle of the sevens is intriguing with Kyle Flanagan trying to fill a big pair of shoes and Nathan Cleary needing to prove that he can own his team. The Roosters usually start slow but have the Panthers covered.

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I have Melbourne and Manly in my top three. The Storm’s pack and bench look formidable but I love the way Manly are capable of attacking down both edges. Hopefully a battle of Brookvale of old. Manly.

A vanilla game to end the round. The team that falls in a hole versus the one that never quite makes it. The Dragons forward pack looks the same as it has for the last few years but there’s a few changes in the backline. Toss a coin. Dragons.

Scott Pryde

Tips: Eels, Raiders, Cowboys, Knights, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Storm, Dragons

A new season. I have blocked out all the “Dragons finished 15th rubbish,” so let’s get that tip out of the way first shall we? Yes. Okay. Dragons to smoke the Tigers in Wollongong on Sunday night by approximately 53 points.

On to more pressing issues. If we ever have to watch a Queensland derby like the one at the back end of last year, then we should put the whole state of Queensland into a cannon and fire it to the moon. Seriously, worst game of football ever.

But the Cowboys will win this. Jack Bird has gone down with an ACL, the Broncos have a bench of backs and are going to be in for a very rough season.

I like the Cowboys as well. Paul Green needs to prove his mettle as a coach this time around, but their squad on paper looks pretty good.

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Paul Green at a press conference.

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

That might be the first competitive game of the season though. Parramatta are destined to blow the Doggies doors off the park at Parramatta, with Canterbury not helped by the exclusions of Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera – the latter of those in particular.

But Parramatta are in for a seriously good year. Could be a thumping. In fact, it could be anything. The first team out of premiership contention by the 50-point rule… in Round 1? Just maybe.

Canberra will smoke the Gold Coast as well – won’t be close, that one, and if the Dogs don’t let in 50, the Titans might, while the Knights should have just about everything their own way when they host the Warriors in front of their adoring fans and the build a statue for Andrew Johns camp.

South Sydney and the Sharks is a tough one to tip, but I’ll take the Bunnies, purely because it’s hard to know where the Sharks are at with injuries, their forwards and the Josh Morris situation.

The Panthers should be one of the major improvers this season, so I’ll take them to stun the defending premiers. The Roosters will come good and finish in the top four when it’s all said and done, but they have a big mountain to climb early with Luke Keary and Kyle Flanagan’s combination in the spotlight, as well as the form of James Tedesco, who surely can’t play as well as he did last year.

And on Sunday, I like Melbourne to beat Manly on the Northern Beaches. Des Hasler’s boys will be there and thereabouts again, but expect the Storm to make an early statement.

This week’s tipping

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Round 1 AJ Mary David The Barry Scott Crowd
PAR v CBY PAR PAR PAR PAR PAR PAR
CAN v GC CAN CAN CAN CAN CAN CAN
NQL v BRI BRI NQL NQL NQL NQL NQL
NEW v WAR NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW
RAB v SHA SOU SOU SOU CRO SOU SOU
PAN v ROO PEN SYD SYD SYD PEN SYD
SEA v STO MAN MAN MAN MAN MEL MEL
DRA v TIG STI WT STI STI STI STI
Total 0 0 0 0 0

Be sure to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm (AEDT) this evening, and we will publish the results of The Crowd’s tips before the first game of the round kicks off.