The following are previews with betting tips for Finals week 1 of the 2023 NRL season. Best bets for the round are also provided.
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The 2023 finals series will kick-off with a blockbuster clash between arch-rivals in Brisbane and the Storm, but with their last win over their Victorian rivals at Suncorp Stadium coming all the way back in 2009 – Brisbane will need to beat history to earn another rest. The Broncos’ last start loss to Melbourne should have little bearing on this result given the majority of both clubs’ squads were rested last week.
Brisbane have recalled all their starters with a full-strength squad. Kevin Walters has made a bold selection move to drop Corey Oates, with Jesse Arthars coming onto the wing, while Keenan Palasia has snagged a bench position. Similarly, Melbourne will name their full-strength 17 with all their superstars coming back in after a rest last week.
While the Storm may lack the star power of past teams, they boast one of the best spine combinations in the competition to lead a team bursting with big-game experience. Brisbane have earned the best attacking record in the competition, but it will be their defensive resolve that proves decisive in this game. This match could go either way, but expect the big-game experience within this Melbourne line-up to get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Storm H2H @ $2.45 (Picklebet)
The Warriors have achieved a remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes, easily placing inside the top-four and giving their squad an opportunity to rest a number of stars in their last-start loss to the Dolphins. They will face a massive test against the reigning premiers as Penrith firm for a third consecutive trophy after flexing their premiership credentials with a powerful last-start victory over North Queensland.
The Warriors will welcome back captain Tohu Harris and bench-forward Jazz Tevaga from injury in a massive boost for their team. A number of stars will come back into the squad after they were rested last week, with the club in the fortunate position of fielding a full-strength 17. Meanwhile, Penrith are unchanged after choosing not to rest any stars last week, although Ivan Cleary has had the luxury of resting players at different times leading into the finals.
Warriors fans will be hoping the inside knowledge of rookie head coach and former Penrith assistant Andrew Webster will give them an edge over the competition leaders. While the Panthers may be below their best in the absence of dynamic five-eighth Jarome Laui, expect them to capitalise on their opposition’s lack of finals experience. With big-game players across the park and plenty of finals games under their belt, expect Penrith to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Warriors +16.5 @ $1.91 (bet365)
The Roosters have done an admirable job to salvage what would have been a woeful year for the club, winning five consecutive games to finish the season and giving themselves great momentum for the finals. They will face a Cronulla squad who have similarly resurrected their season after the loss of key players in Dale Finucane and William Kennedy but after dropping out of contention last year with consecutive losses despite their second-placed finish, the pressure is on for the Sharks to make a mark in this finals series.
The Tri-colours will be sweating on the fitness of star centre Joey Manu, who could drop out late if he cannot pass a fitness test. Corey Allen will come into the squad as cover if he is ruled out in an otherwise unchanged squad. Meanwhile, Cronulla will be similarly waiting to determine William Kennedy’s fitness as he works back from a hamstring injury in what would be a massive boost to the Sharks. Coach Craig Fitzgibbon has named an unchanged 17 after his squad’s last-start victory over Canberra.
Missing Dale Finucane, Teig Wilton and Will Kennedy, Cronulla are below their best and the constant injury disruptions to their squad this season has resulted in inconsistent form from the Shire club. Despite talismanic halfback Nicho Hynes returning to his best, the Roosters will have enormous confidence after their impressive last-start win to end South Sydney’s season. Trent Robinson will face off against his old assistant coach, but expect the finals experience of Robinson and his veteran squad to get them over the line. Roosters to get the win.
Betting Tip: Roosters -1.5 @ $2 (Unibet)
After facing another failed season, Newcastle mounted one of the fiercest comebacks in recent history, winning nine consecutive games to finish the season sixth on the NRL ladder, securing an important home-final. They will face a struggling Raiders squad who limp into the finals despite their woeful for and against of -137. With consecutive losses at the hands of Cronulla and Brisbane, the Raiders lost key middles in Corey Horsburgh and Josh Papali’i to suspension and injury and will need to work overtime to contain the Knights.
Newcastle will benefit from the return of Kayln Ponga, Jackson Hastings and Lachlan Fitzgibbon to their starting squad at fullback, halfback and second-row respectively, although with Ponga still under an injury cloud, expect the Raiders to mercilessly target the talented custodian. For the Raiders, Sebastian Kris will also be absent due to suspension, with James Schiller joining the wing as cover. Otherwise, Ricky Stuart’s 17 is unchanged, with Ata Mariota and Hohepa Puru facing a big task to cover Horsburgh and Papali’i.
Expect a desperate, gritty physicality from the Raiders as they go into this match as underdogs. Newcastle’s form will see them installed as heavy favourites and they should be well placed to meet Canberra’s rugged style of play head-on. Expect a tough contest but the playmaking class and form of this Newcastle squad should prove the difference. Knights to get the win.
Betting Tip: Knights -12.5 @ $1.92 (Picklebet)
Warriors +16.5 @ $1.91 (bet365)