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Opinion

The Roar's NRL expert tips and predictions, Round 1: Can Storm continue hot streak, will Dragons fire, more upsets to come?

Kyle Flanagan passes in Mudgee. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
6th March, 2024
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NRL tipsters, the season is now officially up and running after the Greatest Game of All kicked off with the most unusual round of all-time.

Manly upset the Rabbitohs in Las Vegas last Sunday followed by the Roosters getting up against the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium in another upset in front of more than 40,000 fans in NFL heartland. 

The rest of the round will be completed from Thursday night onwards at Newcastle with six more matches over the remainder of the week.

Our tipsters didn’t cover themselves in glory for the opening two matches, apart from Stuart Thomas, who successfully predicted the feathers of the Sea Eagles and Roosters to fly high.

Along with fellow experts of AJ Mithen, Mary Konstantopoulos, Mike Meahall Wood and Paul Suttor, they have looked into their crystal ball to try to predict the remaining six matches to complete the round.

Here’s how the experts see the rest of the opening round unfolding.

Stuart Thomas

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Knights, Warriors, Panthers, Eels, Titans, Dolphins

I’m off to a flying start in the 2024 tipping and destined to fall flat on my face with the difficulty of this week’s matches obvious.

The Knights will go in as favourites on Thursday night against the Raiders and for good reason. McDonald Jones will be the key and the same advantage will apply the following day when the Warriors are simply far too physical for the Sharks in Auckland.

The Friday night blockbuster between the Storm and Panthers in Melbourne is a tough one to pick. I’d guess the World Club Challenge may have helped get Penrith a little ahead of a few other teams and I’ll go with them on that basis.

The Bulldogs will be all over the place against a far better organised Parramatta in the Saturday twilight and the Dragons will be desperate to prove many wrong and start their season with a win against the TItans. Sadly, I can’t see that happening and Kyle Flanagan will be under pressure early in the season.

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The Dolphins face North Queensland in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon and frankly, I like their squad despite the question of depth still being there. Herbie Farnworth the star in new colours and the Cowboys off to a poor start.

Mary Konstantopoulos

Knights, Warriors, Panthers, Eels, Titans, Cowboys

Given my poor start to the tipping season (0/2) I wouldn’t put too much faith in my tipping suggestions.

I’m excited for the game between the Knights and the Raiders. Weirdly a lot of people seem down on the Raiders this year, but I wonder if that’s because of the loss of Jack Wighton. The Raiders have plenty of other great players and their forward packs is one of the toughest in the competition. In saying all that, I’m tipping the Knights and excited to see what Kalyn Ponga, Bradman Best and Jack Cogger can achieve in season 2024.

Both the Warriors and the Sharks faced similar criticism last year; that they were not able to beat quality teams. With the Warriors at home in this one, I’m tipping them.

We have a great match up next with the Storm taking on the Panthers. I am tipping Penrith. Their game against Wigan was quality and gave them the opportunity to iron out a few kinks before the regular season starts. They will be better off for the hit out and will make a strong statement to start 2024.

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Even without Maika Sivo, the Eels will beat the Bulldogs and the Titans will beat the Dragons.

I’m feeling for the Dolphins tremendously, with the loss of Tom Gilbert set to have a big impact. I’m tipping the Cowboys in this game, who have plenty to answer for after a really disappointing 2023.

Nick Wasiliev

Knights, Warriors, Panthers, Eels, Titans, Cowboys

Now, the weekly grind sets in! Just glad, as a long-suffering Tigers fan, that we enjoy the bye first and get to see the lay of the land, competition-wise – god knows we need the prep time! 

The Knights were very impressive at home last year, and while both sides have some big names mixed with new blood, home-field advantage should play into Newcastle’s hands against Canberra.

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Ditto regarding the Wahs. The slotting in of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson will be a very welcome return, and while they can be a hot and cold team, there was something special to the Warriors last year, and I have a feeling it isn’t a flash in the pan. It will be good to see Nicho Hynes back for the Sharkies.

The clash in Melbourne is easily the game of the round, but the Panthers should get the job done. They’ve got depth for days and their starting squad looks jacked. In addition, with the Storm having an injury cloud over Cameron Munster and Nelson Asofa-Solomon sidelined, they’ll be lacking a bit of punch. 

Ahh, another year, another attempt for the Eels to end that lingering premiership drought. Stephen Crichton is a very welcome addition for the Doggies, but the Eels look better everywhere else, so should take this one in the back half of the match.

In Des we trust! Is this the year Gold Coast shakes off its years of middling form? If they are, playing the Dragons isn’t a bad place to start, given how chaotic preseason has been for the men from the Illawarra. 

Lastly, the match at the Cauldron looms as the real dark horse of the round. There are some big calls in that Dolphins side, notably Tesi Niu and Kodi Nikorima. While you’d be a fool to fully discount Bennett’s boys, the injuries sustained during trials of key names like Tom Gilbert give us plenty of question marks on the squad. Cowboys by comparison look a lot more settled with a lot more forward firepower, so I see them grabbing the win here. 

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Paul Suttor

Knights, Warriors, Storm, Eels, Dragons, Cowboys

Newcastle should put on plenty against the Raiders who will lack plenty of bite without Jack Wighton.

The Warriors at home get the benefit of the doubt against the Sharks, particularly given Nicho Hynes has been troubled by a thigh injury.

Melbourne always win in Round 1 and Penrith are coming off a round trip to Wigan, which is apparently not lovely this time of year (or pretty much anytime).

The slow and steady Eels could rack up a big score on the helter-skelter Bulldogs who are assembling a fantasy team of players rather than a functioning rugby league side.

St George Illawarra are not the no-hopers that many people expect them to be and the Titans could be no-hopers again even though Des Hasler is supposed to be giving them a harder edge.

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Wayne Bennett has made some odd selection decisions with his depleted Dolphins so the Cowboys should win their Queensland “derby” – Redcliffe is within 1400km of Townsville so that qualifies using local rules.

MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24: Kyle Flanagan of the Dragons passes during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers at Glen Willow Sporting Complex on February 24, 2024 in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Kyle Flanagan passes in Mudgee. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

AJ Mithen

Raiders, Warriors, Panthers, Eels, Titans, Cowboys

Feels good being back in tipping world, doesn’t it! I cannot wait to yet again lay waste to all my fellow experts and you ‘crowd’ people as well. Let’s do it, to it!

We’ll kick off the local leg of 2024 with your presumptive champions, the people’s team, the Canberra Raiders laying a casual 56 on the Knights in Newcastle, who are expecting big things this season. 

Once certain tipping death, I’m all in on the Warriors. They’ll put one heck of a score on Cronulla. The Sharks need to show they’ve got the extra step in them to be more than a ‘good not great’ team.

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Penrith will end Craig Bellamy’s incredible first round winning record in a grinder that might be a bit of a bludger. 

Parra will squeak past Canterbury, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dogs pinch it and I repeat this for the Gold Coast against St George Illawarra. Genuine round 1 chaos games these ones, anything could happen.

I’ve got the Cowboys taking care of the Dolphins to finish the round on Sunday.   

Mike Meehall Wood

Knights, Warriors, Panthers, Eels, Titans, Cowboys

Newcastle are now just as Pommy powered as the Raiders, so they’ll win. The Wahs dusted Cronulla twice last year and will again.

Panthers have had a proper game and Munster is under a cloud, so they get my vote though it’s a toughie. Parra have their full pack on display and thus will be far too good for the Dogs, who don’t have any pack at all.

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The Dessurection begins against the Dragons, who I’ll only be tipping against the Tigers this year. If Herbie plays, it’s Phins Up … I feel a late call off is on so Cowboys to take it.

Stuart ThomasNick WasilievMary KonstantopoulosPaul SuttorAJ MithenMike Meehall WoodThe Crowd
ManlySouthsSouthsSouthsSouthsManlySouths
RoostersBroncosBroncosBroncosBroncosBroncosRoosters
Knights Knights Knights Knights RaidersKnights?
Warriors Warriors Warriors Warriors Warriors Warriors ?
Panthers Panthers Panthers Storm Panthers Panthers ?
Eels Eels Eels Eels Eels Eels ?
Titans Titans Titans Dragons Titans Titans ?
Dolphins Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys ?
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