SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Robbie Farah of the Tigers acknowledges the crowd after the round 16 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval on July 1, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

With less than 20 days until the NRL season starts, its time to dream about big hits and perfect spiral passes.

Say goodbye to Netflix dates with the missus on a romantic Friday and Saturday night. And hello to a mid-strength beer and a dirty meat pie on a sunny Sunday afternoon at a suburbian ground without adequate toilet facilities.

Yes, its that time again where Rugby League headlines are filled with game reviews and not another off-field scandal. Lets cut the crap and dive into what to look forward to in Round 1.

Season opener – Storm vs. Broncos

The Storm and Broncos have built up a great rivalry between each other and fittingly it will kick off the 2019 NRL season.

With AFL not starting until the week after, this will ensure a sellout and Rugby League being the talk of the town down in Melbourne. Broncos will go down to AAMI Park with a mission that not many teams are able to do; beat the Melbourne Storm at home.

What a perfect task to prove if Anthony Seibold was worth all the offseason drama. Craig Bellamy and the Storm will be hungrier than ever and have a point to prove of their own; how will they replace the un-replaceable Billy Slater?

With both teams going through transitional periods, this matchup will have plenty of bragging rights on the line. Will Storm continue their dominance in round 1 fixtures or will the newly led Broncos upset the party?

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Only time will tell.

Roosters vs Rabbitohs at the SCG

Speaking of rivalries, it doesn’t get much better than this one. Roosters and Rabbitohs during round 1 at one of the most historic homes of Rugby League, the Sydney Cricket Ground.

No, you didn’t get in a time machine and travel to the year 1918. It’s 2019 but let’s pray we get a similar grinding affair with wall-like defence and free-flowing attack. Hopefully, the Rabbitohs faithful emerge from their burrows and Roosters supporters come out of the woodwork to fill out the sacred ground.

Roosters will be looking to back up their Premiership and newly won World Club Challenge victory and show there is no such thing as a second-year syndrome. Just remember boys, don’t run near the middle of the ground to avoid the cricket pitch

Wests Tigers on a Saturday afternoon at Leichhardt Oval

With the sun setting in Sydney’s inner west and a grassy hill filled with orange and black Balmain jerseys, round 1 sure is spoiling us.

Rugby League returns to Leichhardt Oval and both the Tigers and Sea Eagles are looking to make amends of a less than impressive 2018 season. New coaches Michael Maguire and Des Hasler start their new coaching careers looking to rebuild clubs from the ground up.

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Both men have a similar style that mixes old and new school that’s shown to wield results. Maguire kick-started the Rabbitohs recent dominance when he joined them in 2012 and he will be looking to do the same in Tiger-Town.

Tigers and their fans have long needed a stern coach to bring them back to the glory days and since Ivan Cleary hopped off the bus, Maquire is the right man to do so.

Western Sydney Derby

They say ‘a week is a long time in Rugby League’ so a year must be a lifetime. This time last year, Eels and Panthers had the same time slot of round 1 Sunday afternoon at Penrith Stadium.

The Toms Toms were calling for Anthony Griffin’s head and the Eels were on the back of a top 4 finish and now had visions of going to the big dance. But this time has a totally different narrative.

The Eels are coming back from a disaster of a season for what feels like the 100th time and Panthers are on year 8 of a 5 year plan. Both are desperate to start their season off with a bang and prove to the critics that they deserve to be a top 4 or top 8 side.

This should be one of the games on the round with plenty of attack and little defense.

John Caristo
A full-time part time Rugby League nut: https://www.instagram.com/johncaristo14/

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