Round 1: Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs preview
Manly and South Sydney have the honours of opening the 2024 season in style, being the first game played on American soil in the Las Vegas double header. Both the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs missed the finals series during 2023 and will be looking to start their season on a high note.
Having a plentiful off-season full of recruitment and signings, the Sea Eagles will be wanting to replicate the successfully start of their 2023 season, where they won their first opening match since 2012.
Giving Manly a much-needed burst of energy coming into the Vegas clash, Tom Trbojevic plays his first game since injuring his PEC during Origin II last year. Former Tiger, Luke Brooks, joins veteran Daly Cherry-Evans in a new halves pairing, whilst Nathan Brown earns a bench spot after coming to the Sea Eagles on a train and trial deal. Reuben Garrick shifts to the centre to allow for new signing, Jaxson Paulo, to slot into the left wing position.
Much like Manly, South Sydney are also hoping to start the 2024 season with a win, after crashing out of the eight, winning only four out of their final twelve games last year. They will be determined to silence any sceptics, proving that they are worthy premiership contenders.
After suffering a calf injury that kept him out of the All-Stars match, Cody Walker will call the shots, partnering with Lachlan Ilias in the halves. Jacob Gagai will make his NRL debut from the wing, with Richie Kennar and Isaiah Tass making up the centres combination, due to Jack Wighton being suspended and Campbell Graham out with an injury. After a strong performance in the trials match, ex Sea Eagle Sean Keppie will join Tevita Tatola in the front row.
This match marks the 150th clash between Manly and South Sydney at premiership level, and they are almost even at number of wins, Manly totalling 77 to South Sydney's 72. However, history is on the Rabbitohs side within recent times, with them winning their past seven matches against the Sea Eagles.
This match marks the first NRL premiership game to be played outside of Australia and New Zealand in its 117 history. I'm excited to see what the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles bring to the table in this grand opening match, which has been filled with an anticipatory and exciting leadup.
Last meeting: Round 4 2023 - Rabbitohs 13 Sea Eagles 12
Who to watch: Latrell Mitchell is one of the many experienced players in the Rabbitohs side, and when he has a good game, he is nothing short of a masterpiece to watch. After having an up and down 2023, I'm interested to see what kind of season Mitchell has this year, especially after just having the honours of captaining the Indigenous All Stars squad. Mitchell is also only two tries away from reaching a total of 100, scoring 65 tries for his former club the Roosters, and crossing over the line 33 times for the Bunnies.
Having spent a decade at the Tigers, it's time to see Luke Brooks play a premiership match with the Manly side, after impressing in the trial match against the Bunnies. I'm looking forward to his partnership with DCE in the halves, and how he goes with his fresh start after playing eleven seasons with the Tigers and not once having the chance to play finals footy.
Favourite: The Rabbitohs are slightly favoured to claim victory and add two points to start their tally in this 2024 season opener.
My tip: First round matches are always hard to pick, with a new roster and new team dynamics you can never quite know what is coming. I think this game could go either way, but I think the Rabbitohs will just manage to get themselves over the line. South Sydney by 8.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Form Guide
Yet to play this season
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Upcoming Games
South Sydney Rabbitohs Form Guide
Yet to play this season