St George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos
Thursday March 8, 7:50pm – Jubilee Oval
Brisbane have a dominant record against St George Illawarra in recent years, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings between the teams dating back to 2010 when Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was in charge of the Saints and they should continue that run at Kogarah in the season opener. The inclusion of Andrew McCullough is a major inclusion for the Broncos while the decision to play Corey Oates on the wing gives Brisbane the right balance. Ben Hunt debuts for the Saints and after a shaky preseason will be feeling the pressure off the bat. The Broncos are 13-5 against the line when interstate in the first four rounds of the year over the last decade.
Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles
Friday March 9, 6:00pm – McDonald Jones Stadium
Manly have won seven on the trot against Newcastle and will be confident of making it eight on end on Friday night. The Knights are certainly a team on the up this year after three straight wooden spoons but with so many new players it will surely take some time to gel. The Sea Eagles look to be headed in the opposite direction but with a stable roster they should be ready to roll opening week. The Knights have covered just three of their last 11 as a favourite and only six of their last 15 at home. The market has overreacted markedly to Newcastle in this one.
Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters
Saturday March 10, 4:30pm – ANZ Stadium
If the Wests Tigers get up for one game this year it will be the Roosters in Round 1. The Tigers are playing against their former star fullback James Tedesco. Ivan Cleary has wielded the axe, leaving out a number of senior players including David Nofoaluma, putting everyone on notice. They enter the year wooden spoon favourites. They look to be in a great spot though, sitting in one of the best angles in Rugby League, with home underdogs of 4.5 or more in the opening four rounds covering at over 80% since 2008. The Tigers have also covered eight of their last 11 at ANZ. Expect a big showing from the Tigers to open the season.
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders
Sunday March 11, 6:30pm – CBUS Super Stadium
Canberra head to the Gold Coast to tap out the opening round and should provide punters with an excellent play to finish off the round laying the small start. The Raiders have been reliable as road favourites in recent years, covering at 60 per cent with small interstate favourites 22-16 against the line in the first four rounds over the last decade. Canberra have won four of their last six against the Titans and should extend their good run.