Top five NRL talking points

Getty Images Sport - Mark Nolan

1. GAME OF THE WEEK

WARRIORS v SEA EAGLES (Eden Park)

The marketing types have dubbed it Get Even At Eden but, strictly speaking, that's unlikely to happen.

For starters, it's hard to see Manly handing over their 2011 crown simply for losing a first-round match on the road.

Secondly, let's face it, Eden Park is a graveyard for league in this country.

There's always plenty of optimism that "this will be the time the curse is broken", but once the game kicks off the optimism lasts about as long as a jam donut at Kim Dotcom's mansion.

In a strange twist, both protagonists from the 2011 final head into the rematch with new coaches.

The Warriors are without senior props Sam Rapira and Jacob Lillyman and workhorse lock Micheal Luck, while boom centre Konrad Hurrell and bench forward Ben Henry make their debuts. Manly had a horror pre-season, getting smacked up by Cronulla in trial and then losing the world club challenge match to Leeds.

2. CASUALTY WARD

Where to start? Aside from the Warriors' well-documented woes, put a line through Jarryd Hayne (knee, indefinite), Lote Tuqiri (thumb, Rd 4), Ryan Stig (knee, Rd 4), Tariq Sims (leg, indefinite), Luke Burgess (foot, Rd 12), Jason Ryles (hamstring, Rd 3), Joe Galavao (Achilles, Rd 2), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (lacerated kidney, indefinite), Isaac Gordon (shoulder, Rd 3), Beau Champion (finger, Rd 3), Beau Falloon (pectoral, Rd 12), Kevin Gordon (knee, indefinite) and Dan Hunt (ribs, Rd 4).

3. REF WATCH

The Warriors have landed senior whistler Tony Archer and Ben Cummins.

Archer was one of the officials who missed some key Manly infringements during the grand final - most notably the blocking of Aaron Heremaia during the key try late in the first half.

The other (major) offender, Matt Cecchin, was due to make his season bow alongside Ashley Klein last night. That was the first match for Cecchin since publicly confirming during the off-season that he is gay. Cecchin is the first league figure (not counting Gareth Thomas' brief spell with Celtic Crusaders in Super League) since Ian Roberts to openly admit he is gay.

4. SAY WHAT?

"You always go into Round 1 with a bit of confidence, but you go in with a bit of apprehension as well. You always think, 'Did we do enough of this at training during the off-season, or did we do enough in the trial?' We are reasonably happy with the position we are in, but my opinion on Saturday night at eight o'clock might be different."

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy sums up the great unknown heading into a new NRL season.

5. ROOKIE WATCH

All the noise across the Ditch is about Tigers newbie James Tedesco, who takes over the title-favourites No 1 shirt after Wade McKinnon's departure for Superleague and Tim Moltzen's switch to halfback.

Tedesco has been compared to Billy Slater by none other than, er, James Tedesco. "Slater's support play and his speed is what I base my game on," said the cocky teenage whippersnapper.

"I'm up there in the sprints at training and I've got pretty good agility off the mark."

Back in Godzone, all eyes will be on Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry, who are yet to compare themselves to any of the greats.


Topics:  nrl



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