Well it all kicks off tonight with two magic games, the Eels v Dragons and the Qld derby, Broncos v Cowboys. The Eels have been disapointing in trials, while the Dragons have looked sharper and smoother than last year. The much hyped clash between Jamie Soward and Jarryd Hayne is the teaser for the clash and the new downturn rule may rule this in Haynes favour. Even with this, Matt Cooper out and the return of Timana Tahu, we are tipping the Dragons to win a close one. Brett Morris first try scorer.
Broncos v Cowboys, Thurston V Lockyer. They coined the phrase, the Baby Broncos for the teams that trotted out for Brisbane in the times of Origin, now the phrase is for their top 17. Average age of 22, which is just incredible. A host of no/new names for the Broncos and the Cowboys bristling with potential. Look for a huge game from Willie Mason, and I just can't see the Broncos winning this one. They will be brave, and fight on, but Cowboys for us. Watch for a best on ground performance from JT in a changing of the guard ceremony.
Saturday Night see the Knights travel to Sydney for the Dogs. Seems an easy selection, with the Dogs seemingly easy money. BUT, the people from Newcastle are renowned for their fighting capabilities and we will see that to the fore tonight. Minus, Kurt Gidley and wracked in a drug drama, watch for the Knights to cause the boilover of the round with a backs to the wall win. Josh Morris first try scorer.
Penrith play host to Canberra. Again the Raiders are being tipped to be amongst the also-rans, while expectations are high in Penrith. They need to be, as Matty Elliot has had a number of years to assemble a squad he likes and now appears to be close to it. Panthers for mine, with Michael Jennings starring.
The Storm are on the road and face a dangerous Cronulla. We say Cronulla, because again, hopes are not high and they are expected to trail the field in 2010. The Storm need to head off the World Club Champion hangover, but even with this, you would expect the Storm to win with Billy Slater best on ground, but watch out for a stellar performance from Paul Aiton when he is unleashed.
Titans play on Sunday at home against the New Zealand Warriors. The Warriors are blowing up deluxe about the Titans playing in their white away strip, forcing the Warriors into their Black Home strip. This won't do them much good at all. I expect the Titans to be very sharp, very early in the season, and the under-delivering Warriors will continue to do so. Watch for a big game from Brett Seymour, but Greg Bird will be best on ground.
The foundation derby is the big game on Sunday and this should go to the Rabbits. They have hype, potential and face 2010 with more expectations for a long, long time. How they face up to that hype will be one of the bigger deciding factors. We also have the Brian Smith factor at the Chooks, and we anticipate this game to be closer than many pundits think. Souths for us, but in a nail-biter. Sam Burgess will stamp his mark, Dave Taylor to start slowly, Braith Anasta to play with renewed vigour.
Monday night, sees the return of Lote Tuquiri as the Tigers face off the Sea Eagles. Again, we have some hype with the Tigers, but Manly will be looking to make up for a lost 2009 and they will win handsomely.