Round 1: Roosters v Broncos preview
Premiership contenders look to kick off their season with style in Vegas.
We all know the script. The Broncos coming an agonising 2023 Grand Final loss, playing The Roosters - always a top four side on "paper" who'll be wanting to transfer this potential into points.
The Broncos and The Roosters each face similarly a tough draw to start the season, both playing Penrith and South Sydney inside the first four rounds. A win to open the year will be crucial to begin the season on strong footing, and neither side will be likely to take a backward step.
For Brisbane, their backline features flyer Selwyn Cobbo moving into the centres, with young talent Deine Mariner snagging his wing spot. Corey Jensen and Brendan Piakura move off the bench to take Tom Flegler and Kurt Capewell's vacated jerseys. They're replaced on the pine by exciting prospect Xavier Wilison and former Roosters prop Fletcher Baker.
With Roosters recruit Dom Young missing out via injury, wingers Joseph Suaalii and Daniel Tupou will get a chance to cement a starting spot. Spencer Leniu starts at prop and fresh off a premiership at Penrith, he'll look to hold his position over the retiring Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, soon returning from suspension. Young talent and favourite of AJ, Naufahu Whyte edges out Egan Butcher and Angus Crichton on the bench.
Last meeting: Round 22 2023 - Broncos 32 Roosters 10
Who to watch: The Broncos halves pairing is arguably the strongest in the comp - featuring proven veteran Adam Reynolds and young superstar Ezra Mam. Both players have recently re-signed with, Ezra locked in until 2029 and Reyno staying a Bronco until his retirement in 2025. The dynamic duo will look to kick off the season in style and carry their electric combination over to Vegas.
Despite Brisbane's attacking prowess, much of their spark comes off the back of power up the middle. Workhorse prop Payne Haas is crucial to The Broncos' success, and he'll look to stamp his authority on the competition early with a strong outing. The loss of Kurt Capwell also sees Patrick Carrigan step up as vice-captain and leader of the forward pack. All eyes will be on Patty as fans pray he can direct his aggression towards the tricolours, rather than his own halfback…
For The Roosters, two-time premiership winner at the club, Luke Keary will be hoping to return to his best. Despite having a quiet couple of seasons, a contract extension until 2025 may well be the confidence boost he needs to fly out of the blocks fast. He's partnered in the halves by Sam Walker, who's shown glimpses of excellence in his time at the club and will be gunning for a strong outing in Vegas.
Brisbane's main weakness will be their edge defence, featuring Selwyn Cobbo in a new position and Deine Mariner with little NRL experience. The Roosters will certainly try to exploit this and look no further than gun centre Joseph Manu. Though lining up against Staggs, Manu is known to run the ball and will have no qualms attempting to get one on one with Mariner. If The Chooks play their cards right, it could be points aplenty on their right edge.
Favourite: The Brisbane Broncos are the favourite to runaway with the blockbuster clash.
My tip: Last time I tipped Brisbane for League Unlimited was in the 2023 Grand Final - and we all know how that worked out… Round one games are always tough to pick, trials are never the best indicator, and 3-4 upsets are to be expected. Still, I think with a point to prove and an incredibly balanced and skillful roster, they'll safely get the win. Broncos by 22.
Sydney Roosters Form Guide
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Brisbane Broncos Form Guide
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