Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 1: And away we go!

 

Round 1 of the 2021 NRL season risks being overshadowed by the news (finally) that Cameron Smith has called time on his unparalleled career. You can read about that elsewhere – we’ll stick to Round 1 here.

 

And what better way to get things underway than the Storm v Rabbitohs clash at AAMI Park tonight? The defending premiers up against one of this year’s top picks for the title. The Bunnies have yet to record a win in Melbourne and they won’t get a better chance than this given that the Storm are reshaping their backline and will be without the wise old warrior himself. Souths will be up for a fast game and quick movement of the ball with Cook darting from the ruck and Reynolds kicking to advantage. Melbourne will try to slow the game to a grind because there can only be one winner that way. I’ll go with Souths to break their Melbourne hoodoo.

 

On Friday, the Knights host the Bulldogs with both sides eager to impress early in the season. The home side is without Ponga but are strengthened up front with the addition of Frizell. The Dogs have a new look about them and we’ll get some indication of the style of play new coach Trent Barrett wants them to adopt. I’ll go with the Knights at home but I’m hoping for an open, flowing game. Later, the Broncos are at home to the Eels and it’s hard to see the locals getting much of a look in. The Eels are big and strong up front, zippy in the backs and are a comparatively settled side. A tough start for Coach Kevvie, I’m afraid.

 

The Warriors, the unsung heroes of the disrupted 2020 season, take on the Titans in Gosford to get Saturday football off to a solid start. The NZ lads have gained Euan Aitken to add speed to their backline and Addin Fonua-Blake up front – handy! Not to be outdone, the Gold Coast lads will unveil David Fifita and Tina Fa’asuamaleaui for the first time and have AJ Brimson returning after a long-term injury. No place for the faint-hearted in this one! I’ll go with the Warriors. Later on, the heavyweight Roosters will meet the Sea Eagles at the SCG. One way traffic here, methinks – the Chooks by plenty! Not much else to say about this one. Then, in the evening, premiership favourites the Panthers host the Cowboys. I expect the mountain men to pick up where they left off last year and inflict a whipping on the lads from North Queensland. (As is the case with the Broncos, I just can’t see the Cowboys going anywhere this year.)

 

Then on Sunday, the Raiders meet the Tigers in Canberra. The Tigers are talking a good game but Luke Brooks has still not become the player we have expected him to develop into. Meanwhile, the Raiders look good across the park and have the scheming George Williams to provide excellent service to the likes of Wighton and Nicoll-Klokstad. The home side, comfortably, for me. To round out the fixture, the Dragons are at Jubilee Stadium to take on the Sharks in an early season local derby. Neither side impresses on paper and neither takes the field on the back of any serious form last year. Toss of the coin but I’ll go with the Sharks.

 

So my winners are the Rabbitohs, Knights, Eels, Warriors, Roosters, Panthers, Raiders and Sharks.

 

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Thursday March 11

Storm v Rabbitohs, AAMI Stadium, 7.05pm

Friday March 12

Knights v Bulldogs, McDonald Jones Stadium, 5.00pm

Broncos v Eels, Suncorp Stadium, 7.05pm

Saturday March 13

Warriors v Titans, Central Coast Stadium, 2.00pm

Roosters v Sea Eagles, Sydney Cricket Ground, 4.30pm

Panthers v Cowboys, Panthers Stadium, 6.35pm

Sunday March 14

Raiders v Wests Tigers, GIO Stadium, 3.05pm

Dragons v Sharks, Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, 5.15pm

 

Check local times due to daylight saving.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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