It's match preview time for Round 1 of the NRL - check out Paul's match previews and tips below.
For all the lineups for Round 1 - click here.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Allianz Stadium, Moore Park, Thursday 8:05pm
G'day; and now that the pleasantries are over, let's get to it.
Your season opener comes from Allianz Stadium on Thursday night so a warning to Moore Park locals to stay away from the Bat and Ball, the Olympic and the Captain Cook. A big crowd is expected for what is fast becoming the NRLs most heated rivalry. Last year's encounters between the Bunnies and the Roosters were nothing short of remarkable and fingers crossed for more in round 1.
Plenty of talk about that famous Rooster's second-rower; amazingly left on the bench for this match... Boyd Cordner. Once the pride of Newcastle, this kid has emerged from last year's ill-disciplined Bondi pack to be a standout. Captaining the NSW under 20s team to origin victory last year and making a name for himself in the process. As always, this is where the game is won. Up the middle. So, while the little men wait patiently, these two monster packs will sort each other out. Isaac Luke and the bunnies stand taller.
My tip: Rabbitohs 18-14
Brisbane Broncos v Manly Sea Eagles
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Friday 8:05pm
A Friday night game from Suncorp Stadium to kick off the season for the Broncos. Whilst we all contain our surprise at this amazing development in the world of NRL fixtures, the Broncos may need more than some favourable treatment from the league to improve on last year. They limped home... no... not even limped. They looked like a bunch of Australian swimmers on a night out, trying to play footy in between door knocks and dope dealers.
So, as the proverbial stillnox wears off and they awake to a new season, the Manly Sea Eagles come to town. The boys from Brookvale have lost some punch in the forwards but still maintain a magnificent halves combo in Kieran Foran and DCE. This will keep them in the game but the home side's pack and bench look bloody good on paper and what better way to start my tipping year than following this tried and tested formula. Broncos scrape home.
My tip: Broncos 20-16
Parramatta Eels v Warriors
Parramatta Stadium, Saturday 5:30pm
Some movement in the off-season for both of these clubs. The Warriors threw mountains of cash at Craig Bellamy and had to settle for Matthew Elliott whilst the Eels threw mountains of cash at Ricky Stuart and had to settle for Ricky Stuart. With the former Roosters, Sharks, Blues and Kangaroos mentor as their coach, last year's wooden spooners will no doubt be more solid in defence, but not much else at this stage.
This is where the Warriors will sneak home. They'll have a good share of posession and use it wisely through the likes of Shaun Johnson and Feleti Mateo to account for the home side. We'll see a more disciplined and aggressive Parra squad as they inherit the personality of their coach but still can't see a lot of points coming from the spine of Keating, Sandow, Kelly and Hayne. A good road win to start 2013 for the Warriors.
My tip: Warriors 18-12
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v North Queensland Cowboys
Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium, Gosford, Saturday 7:30pm
The Cowboys bring a team of weapons to Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night to face the 2012 Minor Premiers. With some of the most dangerous young forwards in the league combined with a supremely talented backline, North Queensland can threaten from anywhere on the field with ball in hand. They can also knock the stuffing out of you in defence and this will be their advantage here.
Canterbury's attack will again have their forwards carrying more of the load than what is seen from other clubs; and with Ben Barba missing, the 'Dogs will need even more from their pack than usual. The brute strength of Tamou and Scott will slow the Bulldogs down early and when Neil Henry releases the juggernauts from his bench, the Cowboys put them away late and beat Canterbury for the first time in 6 years.
My tip: Cowboys 24-14
Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders
Centrebet Stadium, Penrith, Sunday 2:00pm
Only 6 short months ago, this result would be a no-brainer. Now, in your first Sunday footy match for season 2013, the bookies cannot split them. The Panthers are coming off a re-building year when their superstars and favourite sons left the club and their entire season seemed riddled with injury. The Raiders, by contrast, finished 2012 in red hot form and bring back nearly all of their stars.
But the Green Machine are in for a shock. Ivan Cleary now has a couple of pre-seasons under his belt and has a team that closer resembles his vision. Their unproven spine will fire and their defence will be resolute. Home ground advantage will take care of the rest as the good folk from the foot of the mountains show that Sydney's west is more than just a stage for this year's political circus.
My tip: Panthers 30-14
Melbourne Storm v St George Illawarra Dragons
AAMI Park, Melbourne, Sunday 3:00pm
What a machine this Melbourne Storm club has become. They move from one challenge to another and never change a thing about their football. In any climate, under any pressure and whether the bright lights are on or off, this is the most professional outfit in the country. Even if you think the trip to England may have them slightly distracted, keep the cash in your pocket and be entertained.
Melbourne host the Dragons from AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon and the visitors are at long odds. Literally. They are $4 outsiders. Just for kicks, let's mention a few other hurdles that Saints need to overcome. They had the NRLs worst attack last year, they face the reigning premiers who boast 2012's best defence, and this week has been the hottest week in Melbourne's history (not fact-checked). All leading up to a 35 degree Sunday.
My tip: Storm 24-4
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Gold Coast Titans
Sharks Stadium, Woolooware, Sunday 6:30pm
Sunday night football comes to you from somewhere called Sharks Stadium and what a beauty it will be. Two clubs with plenty to prove and some big signings who'll be hoping to live up to their price tags. Cronulla have bought well, securing the services of some experienced and talented footballers whilst the Titans have done the opposite - taking big risks on some infamous names.
A healthy Todd Carney and Paul Gallen could mean disaster for the visitors, if they don't have their house in order come game time. If recent history has taught us anything it's that the Titans house has come crashing down more often than not in two very disappointing seasons. So, smart money says it crashes again while a new-look Sharks get the win and look good doing it.
My tip: Cronulla 24-14
Newcastle Knights v Wests Tigers
Hunter Stadium, New Lambton, Monday 7:00pm
New beginnings for both clubs. The Knights shrug off the pressure that came with signing Wayne Bennett last year and there won't be many surprises with Newcastle as they move closer that Bennett methodology and play conservative. The Tigers unveil a new coach for the first time in a decade, but we fly blind with their game-plan. A new halfback, a new coach and...hang on...we kinda always fly blind with the Tigers any way.
Newcastle prove too disciplined and too strong in this one with their forwards winning the wrestle and winning the match. Looking at the Knights, they really have brought together a scary group haven't they? Quinn, Costigan, Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith.... This could get ugly and by "this Like