The VB NSW Cup kicks off on Saturday with 6 games, followed by two games on Sunday. With a wealth of NRL talent available, the opening round is sure to be an exciting one.
Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors @ Hunter Stadium
Despite wowing us with his brilliant Auckland Nines form, Knights star Jake Mamo couldn’t force his way into the NRL squad, and alongside the likes of Chanel Mata’utia, Sam Mataora and Clint Newton, must bide his time until he gets an opportunity. The Warriors have named recruit Matt Allwood in the centres alongside the experienced Dominique Peyroux for this clash.
Newtown Jets vs Wests Tigers @Henson Park
A new association with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks means the likes of Nathan Gardner, Blake Ayshford and Kyle Stanley will run out onto Henson Park in the famous colours of the Jets, who finished a disappointing 10th in 2014. The Tigers side is highlighted by the return to Australia of Josh Drinkwater, a talented playmaker who spent time with the London Broncos in late 2014 after losing his way at the St George Illawarra Dragons. A few good games in the NSW Cup could earn Drinkwater a recall to the NRL.
Wyong Roos vs Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles @Morrie Breen Oval
With the Roos now the feeder team to the Sydney Roosters, they have been able to name a couple of handy forwards in Willie Manu and Lagi Setu for their clash with a Sea Eagles side that won just six games in 2014. David ‘Wolfman’ Williams will skipper the Sea Eagles from fullback, with the highly-rated Brayden Wiliame in the centres.
Mt Pritchard Mounties vs Illawarra Cutters @Aubrey Keech Reserve
Two sides who finished the 2014 regular season in 5th and 4th respectively clash here with both sides naming formidable line ups. Talented youngster Jack Ahearn is the fullback for Mounties who also boast Sam Williams as halfback and captain and Joel Edwards in the second row. The Cutters have a backline that must be the envy of most teams, with Charly Runciman, Justin Hunt, Peter Mata’utia and Euan Aitken lining up for the Cutters. Add the likes of Kris Keating, Nathan Green and Craig Garvey, and the Cutters have a very formidable line up.
Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @Pepper Stadium
Such was the dominance of the Panthers in 2014 (20 wins from 26 regular season games and a grand final victory) that much will be expected of them in 2015. Their side features a number of talented youngsters including centre Waqa Blake and winger George Jennings, younger brother of Michael. Adam Docker is another good young player who will be looking to impress NRL coach Ivan Cleary early in the season. Corey Thompson’s excellent 2014 form wasn’t enough to keep him in the NRL for the 2015 opener, while another fringe NRL player Chase Stanley will need to show some good form to force his way into a talented Bulldogs NRL backline.
Wentworthville Magpies vs North Sydney Bears @Ringrose Park
Parramatta Eels recruit Adam Quinlan starts the year in the NSW Cup but he has the talent to play at NRL level and his bid to play for the Eels starts against a Bears outfit that endured a woeful 2014. With no recognised NRL-level players, it’s hard to see the Bears improving much in 2015, but they could surprise with new Rabbitoh Nathan Brown, fresh from his move from the Tigers, named at prop.