There are eight games in the opening weekend of the 2020 NRL season. Our Rugby League expert has put together an acca for you to get involved with. Take a look and see if you agree.
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Round one kicks off with Parramatta Eels taking on Canterbury Bulldogs at the Bankwest Stadium on Thursday. Two games on Friday see last season’s Grand Final runners-up take on the team that finished bottom – Gold Coast Titans – at the GIO Stadium, while North Queensland Cowboys are in action against local rivals Brisbane Broncos.
Defending champions Sydney Roosters kick off their title defence away at the Panthers Stadium against Penrith. Newcastle Knights are at home at the McDonald Jones Stadium when they take on New Zealand Warriors, while Latrell Mitchell is set to make his NRL debut for the South Sydney Rabbitohs following his move from the Roosters when they do battle with Cronulla Sharks.
Round one comes to a close on Sunday with Manly Sea Eagles taking on last season’s Minor Premiership winners Melbourne Storm at Lottoland, while Wests Tigers travel to WIN Stadium to take on St George Illawarra Dragons.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: Parramatta Eels vs Canterbury Bulldogs (Thursday, 09:05 GMT)
Parramatta Eels kick off their 2020 NRL campaign on home soil against Canterbury Bulldogs at the Bankwest Stadium. The Eels made the play-ffs last season, having finished in fifth place on the league ladder. The took on Brisbane Broncos in an elimination final in week one of the play-offs with a stunning 58-0 win, before crashing out a week later when they were turned over 32-0 away at Melbourne Storm. The Doggies failed to make the play-offs last season. They finished the weekly rounds in 12th position having won just 10 games from their 24 matches. These two met twice last season with the Eels picking up a 36-16 win at the ANZ Stadium in round two, while the Doggies got a measure of revenge with a 12-6 win on the road in round 23. The Bulldogs may have picked up a win at the Bankwest Stadium last season, but I cannot see history repeating itself. I feel the Eels will be a play-off team this season again, so I’m backing them for the win on Thursday.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: Canberra Raiders vs Gold Coast Titans (Friday, 07:00 GMT)
Canberra Raiders fell short in their quest to be crowned champions for the first time since 1994 as they went down 14-8 in the NRL Grand Final against Sydney Roosters. The Green Machine have made just two signings ahead of the new campaign with George Williams and Curtis Scott coming in from Wigan Warriors and Melbourne Storm respectively. Gold Coast Titans were terrible last season as they won just four matches to finish with the wooden spoon. They will be hoping the appointment of new coach Justin Holbrook will have an effect, he arrives back in Australia as champion having won the Super League Grand Final with St Helens. These two locked horns on the opening weekend last season with the Raiders winning 21-0 on the road. We expect a similar outcome this time around with Canberra winning quite comfortably.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: North Queensland Cowboys vs Brisbane Broncos (Friday, 09:05 GMT)
North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos reignite their local rivalry in round one in what should be a thrilling encounter at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium. These two famously clashed in the one and only Grand Final that went to golden point extra-time with the Cowboys winning 17-16 in 2015 thanks to a drop goal from Jonathan Thurston. These two met twice last season with Brisbane winning both games. They ran out 29-10 winners on home soil in round two, before edging out the Cowboys 18-14 in round 21 on the road. Brisbane look good this season, and with Darius Boyd announcing his retirement at the end of the season, they will be looking to send him out in style. I’m backing the Broncos to take this one.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors (Saturday, 04:00 GMT)
Every season I want the New Zealand Warriors to be good and pushing for a Grand Final spot, but every year they find ways of letting me down. With the likes of Kodi Nikorima, Blake Green, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Lachlan Burr and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in their squad, they should be better than they are. They have qualified for the play-offs just once in the last eight seasons and their last Grand Final appearance was in 2011 when they were beaten by Manly Sea Eagles. Newcastle Knights failed to make the play-offs last season, having won just 10 games all season. These two won a game apiece when they met last season. The Knights recorded a 36-18 away win at Mount Stadium in round eight, while the Warriors won 24-20 in round 16. Both away teams won last season, but I can’t see that happening in round one. The Knights will be too strong and clinical for the Warriors, so a home win for me.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Cronulla Sharks (Saturday, 06:30 GMT)
Latrell Mitchell might be in new colours this season, but he will be hoping he continues his fine form and reaches his third consecutive Grand Final. Mitchell is one of the best players in the NRL on his day and if he gets used to his surroundings quite quickly, then the Bunnies could be in with a chance of making the top four. The Bunnies finished third after the weekly rounds, but they were dumped out of the play-offs in the preliminary finals when they went down 16-10 away at Canberra Raiders. Cronulla Sharks have the likes of Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson in the halves and they are capable of guiding the Sharks to a top eight finish, but if they fail to hit their top form then they could really start to struggle. These two met just once last season in round 20 with the Sharks taking the spoils at Shark Park with a 39-24 success. The Sharks won four games on the bounce at the end of the season to finish in the eight, but they were eliminated in week one of the play-offs as they went down 28-16 away at Manly. I like the look of the Bunnies with Mitchell at the back, so I’m backing them to open the season with a win.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters (Saturday, 08:35 GMT)
Sydney Roosters will be looking to make it three Grand Final win in succession. This has never been done since the NRL was formed in 1998, but Parramatta Eels did win three titles in succession back in the eighties. The Roosters may have lost Cooper Cronk to retirement, but that doesn’t make them as weak as it should do. Luke Keary and Kyle Flanagan will more than likely be the half-back pairing for 2020 and they are capable of guiding the Chooks around the paddock, while Jake Friend looks like he can play for another 10 years. The Roosters may have lost Latrell Mitchell to the Bunnies, but they still have plenty of quality in their side with the likes of James Tedesco, Mitch Aubusson, Boyd Cordner, Daniel Tupou, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Brett Morris in their ranks. The Panthers missed out on the play-offs by just one point last season, they have made three new signings for the upcoming season in Api Koroisau, Kurt Capewell and Zane Tetevano. Team them up with the likes of Nathan Cleary, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare, James Tamou and Moses Leota then they have a decent side. These two met twice last season with the Panthers stunning the Chooks with a 19-10 success in round 13, while the Roosters won the return game in round 24 when they ran out 22-6 winners at the Sudney Cricket Ground. Beating the Roosters is a hard task, I cannot see them slipping up against the Panthers.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm (Sunday, 05:05 GMT)
I think it’s safe to say that both Manly and Melbourne Storm will be in the top eight this season, quite possibly the top four. The Storm, who last won the Grand Final in 2017 when they beat North Queensland Cowboys 34-6, have finished top of the ladder three times in the last four seasons. So, you know they are going to be there and thereabouts again. I’ve got to admit, there is something I like about Manly. Des Hasler is a quality coach and he is capable of guiding Manly to their first Grand Final win since 2011. If Daly-Cherry Evans hits top form, then they will definitely be in with a shout. He needs to be backed up by the likes of Lachlan Croker, Curtis Sironen, Joel Thompson, Jake and Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker to be taken more seriously. The Sea Eagles came out on top in round 19 last season with a golden-point, extra-time 11-10 success, while the Strom got their own back with a 36-6 hammering of Manly in round 24 at Lottoland. I’m going for a little bit of an upset in this one and I’m backing the Sea Eagles to start the season with a win.
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NRL Week 1 Tips: St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers (Sunday, 07:15 GMT)
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m excited about the new NRL season, or the fact I’m going slightly crazy, but I fancy St George Illawarra Dragons to have a strong season and even make the play-offs. I think with Shane Flanagan helping out head coach Paul McGregor with the defensive side of things, the Dragons will be a bigger force than they have been in recent years. St George Illawarra have only made the play-offs twice in the past eight seasons, so you can see what a massive achievement it would be if they do it this year. They may have lost the likes of Gareth Widdop, Jeremy Latimore, Mitch Allgood, Jai Field and Luciano Leilua, but they have recruited well with Trent Merrin returning to the club, while Issac Luke and Brayden Wiliame are good signings. The Dragons have some quality youngsters coming through with the likes of Cody Ramsey, Matt Dufty, Zac Lomax and Tristan Sailor all looking for more game time this season, I just think they will go well. Unfortunately, I don’t think the same for the Wests Tigers. They have an excellent coach in Michael Maguire, but I am pretty confident they will fail to make the play-offs for the ninth successive years. The Tigers failed to make the play-offs lasts eason, as they finished in ninth place just one point behind Brisbane Broncos in eighth. These two met just once in 2019 with the Tigers running out convincing 42-14 winners over the Dragons in round 24 at the SCG, I’m backing the Dragons to get some revenge and win this one quite convincingly.