Round 1 team analysis
The teams for Round 1 have been announced on NRL.com and they carry plenty of surprises and shocks. We look through all the teams and how they will line up for the opening game of the season.
Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Broncos: The Broncos have named a formidable forward pack including Adam Blair who will make his Brisbane debut at prop this Thursday night. Matt Gillett failed to play any trials but will be eased back into the NRL by coach Wayne Bennett off the bench alongside James Gavet and shock inclusions Aaron Whitchurch and Mitchell Dodds. The surprises don't end there with Daniel Vidot overlooked on the wing for Dale Copley and Lachlan Maranta, while Jack Reed slots into the centres alongside captain Justin Hodges. Jordan Kahu will replace the injured Darius Boyd at fullback while Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt will combine in the halves for the first time in the NRL. Kodi Nikorima has been named at 18th man.
Rabbitohs: After winning the NRL All Stars, Charity Shield, Auckland Nines and World Club Challenge all before his NRL debut, Chris Grevsmuhl has been named on the bench for the Rabbitohs. Alongside Jason Clark, Chris McQueen and Thomas Burgess on the interchange, Grevsmuhl has been named over the likes of Tim Grant, Cameron McInnes and Daryl Millard who make up an extended bench. Bryson Goodwin and Joel Reddy will replace the suspended Kirisome Auva'a and retired Lote Tuqiri in the team while Ben Lowe will lock the scrum. Glenn Stewart will also make his South Sydney debut in a back row also consisting of John Sutton.
Parramatta Eels v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Eels: In Parramatta's first team since Jarryd Hayne announced his departure to the NFL, Will Hopoate will play fullback for only the eighth time in his NRL career. New recruits Beau Champion, Brad Takairangi and Reece Robinson will accompany Fijian flyer Semi Radradra in the three-quarters while Anthony Watmough will lock the scrum. Darcy Lussick, Tepai Moeroa and Manu Ma'u will accompany captain Tim Mannah in the forwards while Nathan Peats and Isaac De Gois will share hooking duties. De Gois will be joined on the bench by Joseph Paulo, Junior Paulo and David Gower.
Sea Eagles: Tom Symonds, Jamie Lyon and Brenton Lawrence have all been named despite being under injury clouds, however Steve Matai (shoulder) wasn't so lucky with Clinton Gutherson named in the centres to replace the injured Kiwi International. Willie Mason will make his Sea Eagles debut in the front row after Josh Starling (knee) was ruled out for 4-6 weeks. Symonds, Feleti Mateo and Dunamis Lui have been named in the back row which sees Justin Horo named 18th man. Jesse Sene-Lefao, James Hasson and new recruits in Blake Leary and Luke Burgess make up the interchange.
Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors
Knights: Australian international Sione Mata'utia has been named 18th man in the Knights team with coach Rick Stone choosing to stick with a three-quarter line of James McManus, Dane Gagai, Joey Leilua and Akuila Uate. Captain Kurt Gidley has been named at fullback meaning Tyler Randell will come off the bench to help out hooker Adam Clydsdale. Korbin Sims will start in the front row over Chris Houston, David Fa'alogo and Jack Stockwell who have all been named on the bench.
Warriors: Warriors' coach Andrew McFadden has named three debutants to play Newcastle on Saturday. Solomone Kata, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete will join back-rowers Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson in their first taste of first grade in Warriors colours. Chad Townsend will join Shaun Johnson in the halves while Nathan Friend will come off the bench to replace Thomas Leuluai – named at hooker. Simon Mannering will lock the scrum while Suaia Matagi was named 18th man.
Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers
Titans: The Titans have named six debutants for their clash with Wests Tigers. Kierran Moseley will start at hooker – in only his second NRL game – with fellow recruits Eddy Pettybourne, Matt Robinson, Lachlan Burr and Ryan Simpkins also named to play. Nate Myles will lock the scrum while Will Zillman beat out Josh Hoffman for the fullback role, with the latter named in the centres.
Wests Tigers: Surprisingly new Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor failed to name boom forward Martin Taupau in his starting team after naming the Kiwi international on his bench alongside Brendan Santi, Matthew Lodge and Ava Seumanufagai. Kevin Naiqama will come into the team for David Nofoaluma while James Tedesco will make his long awaited return to the NRL. Curtis Sironen, Sauaso Sue and Dene Halatau make up the back row while Kyle Lovett was named 18th man.
North Queensland Cowboys v Sydney Roosters
Cowboys: Robert Lui has fought his way into the team after being named to accompany Johnathan Thurston in the halves. Michael Morgan was named at fullback with Lachlan Coote missing out. Tautau Moga is also another omission with coach Paul Green preferring former Storm speedster Justin O'Neill on the wing. Rory Kostjasyn will start at hooker over Jake Granville – who will come off the bench while Ben Hannant beat out James Tamou for a starting prop spot. Ethan Lowe will also start with Scott Bolton and Glenn Hall named on the interchange. Kelepi Tanginoa and Ray Thompson are named on the extended bench.
Roosters: There aren't many shocks in the Roosters team with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (fullback), Blake Ferguson (centre), Matt McIlwrick (hooker) and Isaac Liu (lock) all expected choices in the starting team. Mitchell Aubusson will provide hooking backup for McIlwrick, while Martin Kennedy needs to push out one of Dylan Napa, Kane Evans or Siosiua Taukeiaho from the interchange to play.
Penrith Panthers v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Panthers: George Jennings (wing) and Reagan Campbell-Gillard (bench) have been named to make their NRL debuts in a team which will see the long-awaited returns of Peter Wallace, Brent Kite, Elijah Taylor, Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Cartwright. James Segeyaro will look to go 80 minutes after Api Koroisau was named 19th man while Jeremy Latimore claimed the final bench spot over 18th man Isaah Yeo.
Bulldogs: The Bulldogs haven't changed many of their troops around following their grand final loss to the Rabbitohs last October. Corey Thompson has been overlooked for Cowboys recruit Curtis Rona, Michael Lichaa comes in at hooker for Moses Mbye – named at 18th man – and Sam Kasiano comes onto the bench for the Storm-bound Dale Finucane. Otherwise it's an unchanged team for Des Hasler's men.
Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders
Sharks: Auckland Nines stars Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes have been named on an extended bench with Mitch Brown and Sosaia Feki preferred on the flanks. Ben Barba will accompany Jeff Robson in the halves while Matt Prior will replace the injured Sam Tagataese in the front row. Luke Lewis is also injured with Jayson Bukuya named in the back row along with Paul Gallen and Wade Graham. Chris Heighington, Tinirau Arona, Anthony Tupou and David Fifita complete the bench for the Sharks.
Raiders: Jack Wighton has completed his transition to fullback after being named there by coach Ricky Stuart. Jordan Rapana and Edrick Lee have been named on the wing and in the centres respectively while Blake Austin and Mitchell Cornish will combine for a new halves combination in the nation's capital. Sia Soliola will make his awaited return to the NRL after being named in the back row while Josh Hodgson will make his NRL debut at hooker. Josh McCrone will play in a super-sub role with Paul Vaughan and Shannon Boyd named on the bench alongside new recruit Frank-Paul Nuuausala.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm
Dragons: Eto Nabuli and Rory O'Brien have been named to make their NRL debuts on the wing and bench respectively after a positive pre-season from the duo. Dane Nielsen and Dylan Farrell have been named in the centres while Josh Dugan returns to fullback. Mitch Rein has overcome Heath L'Estrange's (19th man) challenge for the hooking spot while George Rose will start at prop in his Red V debut. Trent Merrin will start on the bench with coach Paul McGregor preferring a back row of Joel Thompson, Tyson Frizell and captain Ben Creagh. Mike Cooper and Jack de Belin round out the bench.
Storm: Was he ever in doubt? Cameron Smith has been named to play despite speculation he would miss the first month of footy due to an ankle complaint. Kurt Mann was selected in the centres over Mahe Fonua while Young Tonumaipea has been named on the wing. Blake Green will join Cooper Cronk in the halves while Dale Finucane will make his Storm debut at lock. Tim Glasby, Ryan Hinchcliffe and Dayne Weston will join debutant Felise Kaufusi on the bench.