Storm v Broncos
Thursday, 7.50pm, AAMI Park
Melbourne will enter 2019 with just one of their once famous big three left, with Cameron Smith set to lead the side into the season once again, following Billy Slater’s retirement.
Jahrome Hughes will get first shot at Slater’s No. 1 jersey after an injury to Scott Drinkwater, with the Storm otherwise named without any surprise selections.
For Brisbane, Anthony Seibold takes charge of his first NRL game with the Broncos, and sprung a selection surprise with Tom Flegler handed the No. 16 jersey for his debut.
After some impressive showings from the Rabbitohs under Seibold last season, the Broncos are looking to impress early this time around, and a win on the road in Melbourne will certainly do that.
Looking at Zero Tackle’s tipping pool on Superbru, 74% of users are tipping the Storm to win, although we believe the loss of Slater might take them more than one game to get over.
Prediction: Broncos by 8
Knights v Sharks
Friday, 6pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
This game pits two stars together in the five-eighth position, although both players are at different stages of their career in the No. 6.
Shaun Johnson joins Cronulla in one of the biggest moves of the off-season, and is one of the game’s most damaging players on his day.
On the other side of the coin, Kalyn Ponga will line up for just his second ever game at five-eighth, although the Knights are high on his potential to light up the position and work well alongside Mitchell Pearce.
Matt Moylan is back at fullback which could be a welcome change for the Sharks, with 58% of the ZT community selecting the visitors.
Prediction: Sharks by 2
Roosters v Rabbitohs
Friday, 7.55pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
The reigning premiers will open their 2019 campaign with a clash against old foes South Sydney.
Despite losing premiership winner Dylan Napa, the introduction of Angus Crichton arguably makes the Chooks better, although the former Bunny will start from the bench.
Greg Inglis has been named but is still under an injury cloud, with Dane Gagai moved to the wing to allow Braidon Burns into the backline.
77% of tipsters believe the Roosters will start their premiership defence with a home win, and it’s hard to see any other result, given just how powerful Sydney are looking to start the season.
Prediction: Roosters by 10
Warriors v Bulldogs
Saturday, 3pm, Mt Smart Stadium
Life post-Shaun Johnson begins against the Bulldogs on Saturday for the Warriors, with Adam Keighran handed his NRL debut in a bid to replace Johnson at five-eighth.
Isaiah Papali’i was stood down by New Zealand on Tuesday for one match, with Lachlan Burr set to replace him at lock.
Dylan Napa replaces David Klemmer in the front row, while 2018 star youngster Rhyse Martin hasn’t found himself in Dean Pay’s 21-man squad.
The Bulldogs could struggle this season and have been tipped among the bottom clubs, with 71% of the Zero Tackle pool going with the Warriors.
Prediction: Warriors by 8
Tigers v Sea Eagles
Saturday, 5.30pm, Leichhardt Oval
Michael Maguire replaces Ivan Cleary in the hot seat at the Tigers, while Des Hasler has reunited with Manly.
Both sides are missing key players, while Moses Mbye and David Nofoaluma will be absent for the hosts, with Tom Trbojevic missing in action for the Sea Eagles.
The battle of the halves in this fixture could prove important, with new Sea Eagle Kane Elgey named alongside Daly Cherry-Evans to face the experienced Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks.
Brooks was nothing short of a start last season, and the experience of Marshall alongside Brooks could be enough to power the Tigers past the Sea Eagles. At least, that’s what 69% of tipsters believe.
Prediction: Tigers by 10
Cowboys v Dragons
Saturday, 7.35pm, 1300SMILES Stadium
The battle of the new-look fullbacks could be the difference maker here, as Jordan Kahu and Gareth Widdop look set to go head-to-head on Saturday night.
Kahu steps into the No. 1 jersey after the release of Ben Barba, while Widdop moves to fullback with Corey Norman introduced to partner Ben Hunt in the halves.
The Cowboys added to their strong pack with rep forward Josh McGuire, who’s only good enough for the bench – his first appearance off the bench in six years.
St George Illawarra have dropped young gun Zac Lomax in favour of debutant Mikaele Ravalawa, with the young Fijian named on the wing.
This match is tough to split according to the tippers, although we may need to side with 55% of our community.
Prediction: Cowboys by 4
Panthers v Eels
Sunday, 4.05pm, Panthers Stadium
Ivan Cleary and son Nathan have finally linked up at the Panthers, with onlookers around the nation interested in how far the pair can take Penrith this season.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak returns on the wing and takes the spot of his brother Malakai, while Dylan Edwards will line up at No. 1.
For the Eels, rookies Maika Sivo (wing) and Dylan Brown (five-eighth) will line up in the back, with Junior Paulo only fit enough for the No. 21 jersey with a hamstring injury.
The Eels were poor in 2018 to say the least, and this match-up looks like the most one-sided of the round according to Superbru, with 83% of our pool backing a home win.
Prediction: Panthers by 12
Titans v Raiders
Sunday, 6.10pm, Cbus Super Stadium
Both sides will be looking for September action after some years outside of the finals, with the Titans and the Raiders hoping to start their season in the best possible fashion.
Michael Gordon will line up at fullback for the hosts, while new recruit Tyrone Peachey starting in the centres with Shannon Boyd at prop.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will debut for the Raiders in the No. 1 jersey, while Jordan Rapana’s injury will see Bailey Simonsson replace him on the wing.
This contest is set to be the toughest to call of the round, with just 51% of tippers backing the Raiders, as the tipping pool is almost split down the middle.
Prediction: Raiders by 1