The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions, Round 1: Who will hit the jackpot in Vegas?


NRL tipsters, the season is nearly upon us with the Greatest Game of All kicking off with the most unusual round of all-time.

Manly take on the Rabbitohs in Las Vegas on Sunday (1.30pm AEDT) followed by the Roosters up against the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium in front of what is expected to be a crowd of more than 30,000 in NFL heartland. 

The rest of the round will be completed from next Thursday onwards with six more matches.

Who’s going to win? Who’s sliding down the ladder this year, who’s on the way up? We’re here to help with our expert panel of tipsters who will do their best to steer you in the right direction. 

The Roar experts of AJ Mithen, Mary Konstantopoulos, Mike Meahall Wood, Paul Suttor and Stuart Thomas have run the sandhills and crunched the data in the off-season to ensure they are in tip-top shape for their tipping mission.

And as always The Roar of the Crowd will be up against them to keep them honest in the race to be crowned the top tipster for 2024.

Here’s how the experts see the opening round unfolding.

Stuart Thomas

Sea Eagles, Roosters

The two points will definitely not be staying in Vegas after the opening two matches of the season and Manly will be the first on the board in 2024. As something more of a gut feel than anything, I’m concerned by the Bunnies halves; still under the impression that organisation is lacking at times up against the better teams. 

If Luke Brooks and Daly Cherry-Evans click, the mob from the insular peninsula might well be on to something this season.

The Chooks will beat a hung-over Broncos to open the season. Selwyn Cobbo is a big gamble as a replacement for Herbie Farnworth in the centres and could take some time to adjust to the role. I like the duo of Spencer Leniu and Lindsay Collins up front for the Tricolours and feel the Roosters have a clear advantage off the bench. A little bit of guesswork in Round 1 however!

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Mary Konstantopoulos

Rabbitohs, Broncos

It’s always hard to predict winners in Round 1, but given that the South Sydney Rabbitohs sit in my top four, and the Manly Sea Eagles sit outside my top eight, I’m picking the Bunnies. 

I think that the new Sea Eagles halves will take some time to gel and that the Rabbitohs will be looking to make a statement after their disappointing end to season 2023. 

Fingers crossed South Sydney’s decision to train on a smaller field, helps Alex Johnston find the try line at Allegiant Stadium.

Both the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos feature in my top eight so this should be an exciting contest. Both teams are stacked with superstars and it’s the game I am most looking forward to on the weekend. 

I’m particularly excited for the fullback battle; my prediction is that James Tedesco will begin to transform his game this year as he gets a little older and Reece Walsh to be just as explosive as he was in 2023.

Nick Wasiliev

Rabbitohs, Broncos

After how long the Vegas Round has been talked about, we sit here, ready to rock. It still doesn’t feel real, but it will come early afternoon on Sunday. Here’s hoping all the hype in Vegas delivers a good first crowd, and they’re all not distracted after big nights on the Strip!

All Jason Saab trolls aside, one of these games is not like the other. The Sea Eagles and Bunnies come into this match in similar circumstances: talented squads that crashed and burned last year, plus a pretty uninspiring preseason. 

How the Sea Eagles put 60+ on this Bunnies outfit still doesn’t cease to amaze me, but hey, that’s what trials are for, and they sure didn’t set the world on fire against the Roosters and Broncos. Despite a backline reshuffle, the Bunnies should get the job done here.

The Broncos look solid, coming off the Pre-Season Challenge well and seemingly picking up where they left off last year. This clash will undoubtedly be the game of the weekend, and although the Chooks do have a settled squad (despite Angus Crichton’s omission), I see Brisbane just having more class and more momentum to hit the ground running this season.

Paul Suttor

Rabbitohs, Broncos

South Sydney are ripe for the picking here if Manly bring their A game to Vegas. Jack Wighton is suspended, Cody Walker is underdone and Campbell Graham won’t be sighted for a few months.

But as much as there has been plenty of talk about how Luke Brooks is going to slot into a complementary role alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, it’s a case of believe it when you see it before being sure that it’s going to work.

The Roosters also seem a bit distracted this off-season – a few more roster changes, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves suspended yet again, no Dominic Young. It all adds up to the Broncos winning by a decent margin.

Selwyn Cobbo looked strong in the centres during the trial against the Cowboys but it was a virtual Queensland Cup-strength opposition team that day.

AJ Mithen

Rabbitohs, Broncos

We’re back! Sort of. Off we go to the USA which regular Roar readers will know is something I’ve been going on about here for years. It’s easy to death ride these games and I disagree with how the NRL’s framing the game as gambling content, but I reckon the USA its a great push forward. 

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Enough editorialising, you’ll see that on Mondays this year. The first win in Las Vegas will be the Rabbitohs over the Sea Eagles, who do tend to play fast on hard surfaces early in the year. Bunnies are too good up forward and will have the ball to the backs faster. 

The next tip depends on how the games are refereed- will they be free flowing open attack types? I don’t think they’ll be grinders, that’s not a show. And that puts the roosters at peril against a Brisbane team who want to open up the throttle. I don’t write the Roosters off completely, I just don’t see them scoring enough points. 

Mike Meahall Wood

Sea Eagles, Broncos

Manly v Souths should be a belter, and I’d like to give an informed, sensible tip to start my defence of The Roar’s Tipping Title from 2023, but to start the year, I’ll just be backing my Northern Beaches Boys blindly.

Bronx v Chooks is harder to pick, but I reckon the Broncos are probably more suited to the smaller pitch and the Roosters burned everyone in Round 1 last year, so I’ll be taking BrisVegas in Las Vegas.

Stuart ThomasNick WasilievMary KonstantopoulosPaul SuttorAJ MithenMike Meahall WoodThe CrowdManlySouthsSouthsSouthsSouthsManly?RoostersBroncosBroncosBroncosBroncosBroncos?

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