Resident NRL.com pot-stirrer Andrew Voss addresses the pressing questions heading into NRL Round 1 kick-off.
1. Will there be any premiership hangover for the Roosters?
Simple answer… absolutely not. I expect Trent Robinson’s side to play in the first and last game of the season at ANZ Stadium… and win both. Unlike other premiers of recent times, they haven’t had a pre-season preparation interrupted by an overseas trip for the World Club Challenge. Big advantage.
I can’t see the best defence in the league from last season cracking, which is obviously going to take them a long way towards victory in most matches. They’ve been happy to go on record and say they will be better than 2013 - so look out!
2. Are the Warriors the real deal?
Year in year out, it doesn’t seem to have mattered how the Warriors performed in the pre-season, there’s always a good chance they will lose in Round 1. As a matter of fact, in the past 10 years, they have notched only two opening round victories. On both occasions it was against Parramatta, in 2009 and 2007.
However, last year after a promising final trial hit out against Brisbane (16-10) they were hammered by Ricky Stuart’s Eels 40 to 10. It will be exactly one year to the day since that flogging when they open their 2014 campaign on Sunday.
This time around, the last hit-out is far more impressive (48-4 v Brisbane). In Shaun Johnson, Sam Tomkins and Feleti Mateo they have genuine gamebreakers.
So to answer the question… I believe the Warriors are the real deal, but the side most capable of beating them is themselves.
I firmly believe that calling their games this year for Sky Sport New Zealand is going to be a lot of fun - but tell that to coach Matt Elliott who has just had new rubber padding installed in his coaches box!
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3. How will the Broncos go?
Think what you will of trial matches, but 80 points conceded in two games by Brisbane reads really ugly.
The Broncos are a great club; a proud club… but right now they are facing the most pressure to start a season possibly in their history.
Last year they scored their least amount of tries in a season (77) since 1989. In the off-season they have said adios to two halfbacks, Scott Prince and Peter Wallace, and a promising five-eighth in Corey Norman.
Justin Hodges is sidelined with a long-term injury. The jury is out on whether Ben Barba can recapture his 2012 form. So where are their points going to come from? And how many will they have to chase each game?
Brisbane is not in my top eight, but we are all likely to learn plenty about their season prospects in 80 minutes Friday night against the Bulldogs.
4. Can you have two desperate sides meeting this early in a season?
You better believe it! At ANZ Stadium on Sunday, you can witness it for yourself when the Tigers face the Dragons.
The respective men in charge, Mick Potter and Steve Price have apparently been attending weekly sessions with ‘under pressure coaches anonymous'.
I don’t know who wins. What I am sure of though, both men will play the poker-faced, straight-bat, dare I say, fairly boring interviewees at the post-match media conference.
But inside, the winner will be happier than Pharrell Williams.
5. Who will be the star of the first round?
There will be plenty. But the biggest praise from commentators and the fans alike will go to the rule change that prevents the captains from constantly questioning referees' decisions.
In the games I have called pre-season, it has been an absolute masterstroke that has made for a better and faster game.
And what a positive influence this will have - all the way down through the junior ranks.
Enjoy your footy this weekend folks… and get to a game if you can!
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