VB NSW Cup Previews - Round 1

Auckland Vulcans Vs Newcastle Knights
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, March 3
Kick-off: 1.00pm (NZST) 11.00am (AEST)
Referee: Robert Bowen

Summary: The 2012 season kicks off across the ditch when two of the more fancied sides in the VB NSW Cup lock horns at Mt Smart on Saturday. It only seems like yesterday when the Vulcans hearts were broken as Jonathan Wright scored out wide for the Dogs at ANZ Stadium to deny the New Zealanders a maiden title, and no doubt it has been a long and gruelling off season for all involved. However an influx of youth from their Premiership winning Toyota Cup team sees the Vulcans well placed to make another run towards the Grand Final in 2012 under rookie coach Ricky Henry. The Knights (formerly Centurions) are back in the competition under their traditional banner and wearing the red and blue which is sure to make the traditionalists very happy. Their appears to be plenty of depth in Rip Taylor's squad this year and a top four finish will not be beyond the Knights if they can stay healthy.

Talking Point: Young Talent Time - Fisiiahi, Collier, Ikahihifo and Lousi are just a few of the young guns that will be at Ricky Henry's disposal this season and the Vulcans once again look set to be one of the true entertainers of the VB NSW Cup. If Henry can find a way to stiffen up their defence a little, the Vulcans will be one of the favourites for the title in 2012.

Prediction: The Vulcans home form was exemplary in 2011 and although the Knights look to have a very strong side, We think the locals will kick off the season with a win. Vulcans by 6.

Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers Vs North Sydney Bears
Concord Oval, Saturday, March 3
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Phil Henderson
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)

Summary: Two sides square off here that finished in the bottom half of the eight last year despite losing more games than they won. The Tigers were eliminated by the Dogs in week one of the finals while the Bears hung around a few weeks longer only to also feel the bite of the eventual premiers in week three. The two foundation clubs will both be eyeing off finals football once again in 2012 however much like a lot of the clubs in this competition, their fate may well lay with the respective health of their NRL affiliates in the Wests Tigers and South Sydney. Strong line ups will be on show at Concord Oval by both of these sides and there is no better way better way to kick off the year than with a win.

Talking Point: Speed V Size - A classic encounter awaits those that head out to Concord as the high flyer in Curtis Johnston takes on the speedster in John Grant. Much has been made of Grant's speed, and his ability to find the line as a rugby player was second to none, so his match up with Johnston looks a very interesting one. Johnston has been one of the more prolific try scorers in this competition over the past couple of years, although his speciality is more one of an aerial route rather than via the turf. Keep an eye on these two!

Prediction: Another of the tough matches to tip this round but will go with the home side in a close one. Tigers by 7

Illawarra Cutters Vs Cronulla Sharks
WIN Stadium, Saturday, March 3
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Michael Laverty

Summary: It has been on the radar for some time but finally we have an Illawarra side back playing in the Cup. The Cutters look set to debut amidst a storm of fan fare down in the