Holden Cup Round 1 previews
The players to watch and predicted results from the opening round of the National Youth Competition.
Sharks v Broncos
If you're a true rugby league fan then there is no better way to whet your appetite before Thursday night's Telstra Premiership season opener than by strolling down to Southern Cross Group Stadium for the NYC.
The Sharks have named a backline brimming with familiar faces from last year's squad, with Kyle Flanagan (son of NRL coach Shane Flanagan) set to start at halfback. Look out for Blayke Brailey – brother of NRL rookie Jayden – to fire in the familiar No.9 jersey.
The Broncos have named NRL hopeful Gehamat Shibasaki, with the young centre keen to add to his 14-try haul from last season. Jaydn Su'A will be the man to watch in the back row, with many tipping the Junior Kangaroo to fight back into the first grade side at some point.
Tip: Sharks by 8
Bulldogs v Storm
Bulldogs cult hero Jayden Okunbor has gone back to the centres after finishing last season in the front row. Pocket rocket Joey Tramontana will be one to keep an eye on at hooker.
The Storm have named an experienced backline headed by last year's Holden Cup leading scorer, Jesse Arthars. Melbourne will need to improve on their defence from 2016 (15th in the NYC) if they want to return to the top eight.
Tip: Storm by 16
Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Adam Doueihi is coming off a huge game for the Rabbitohs against the Dragons a few weeks ago and will be one to look out for at five-eighth.
Wests Tigers big man Taniela Paseka could come into calculations for an NRL spot if he continues to dominate the Holden Cup like he did last year. The man mountain has already caught the eye of NRL coach Jason Taylor, and the outside backs will be sweating on his second-phase footy.
Tip: Tigers by 2
Dragons v Panthers
On paper this should be the match of the round with both of these teams featuring in last year's top four, but with plenty of stars having moved on, no one is quite sure what to expect in 2017.
Tristan Sailor will be hoping to follow in his father's footsteps when he runs out on the wing, and if he's half as good as Wendell then he will be one to follow.
The Panthers have named a virtually unrecognisable squad from the one that made back-to-back grand finals, but familiar face Wayde Egan is still there and he'll skipper the side out of dummy-half.
Tip: Panthers by 6
Cowboys v Raiders
Two traditional powerhouses of the NYC will collide on Saturday evening in what could be a dress rehearsal for a repeat meeting in September.
Headed by superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga, the Cowboys will start 2017 as one of the teams to beat. The only query is how many games he will actually play.
While 2016 wasn't a great year for the Green Machine, a lot of their squad were given an opportunity to make their NYC debuts and that will help them in the long run. Kalani Going is a goer in the back row and should do big things in 2017.
Tip: Cowboys by 14
Titans v Roosters
Tyronne Roberts-Davis has been named in the extended NRL squad for Round 1, but it's more likely he'll start on the wing in the NYC. They'll need him against a Roosters side looking to go back-to-back.
The defending premiers have named virtually the same forward pack that won them the competition, with unlikely grand final hero Victor Radley the man set to replace Nat Butcher at lock.
Tip: Roosters by 12
Warriors v Knights
It doesn't matter what team they name; the Warriors always start the new season as premiership favourites. Expect Kane Telea to be their attacking weapon from the back.
There is no bigger name in Newcastle than 'Johns'. This year, we get to see what Jack (son of Matthew) can do in the halves.
Tip: Knights by 8
Sea Eagles v Eels
Things can only go up for the Sea Eagles, who are the current holders of the wooden spoon. Lock forward Billy Bainbridge will again be their key player in 2017.
Troy Dargan is coming off 28 try assists last season and his experience at halfback should be enough to see the Eels pick up the points.
Tip: Eels by 16