The 2014 NRL season kicks off tonight at ANZ Stadium with the now traditional clash between historic rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters. Another large crowd is expected after just under 60,000 fans attended the final regular season game in 2013 as the Roosters came out on top in a shootout for the minor premiership.
Souths coach Michael Maguire is already facing a dilemma over team selection. He had originally planned to pair Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary in the halves this season, moving regular five eighth John Sutton to lock. However Keary is out with a long term injury so Maguire has to decide whether to bring Sutton back to his usual spot, or play Dylan Walker alongside Reynolds.
It places a lot of pressure on 19 year old Walker if he gets the nod, but his inclusion in the halves will bring extra pace to Souths’ attack. If Keary’s absence was only for a couple of games then it would be an easy choice for Maguire to stick to his original plan, but as it will be at least half of the season he may well be tempted to go back to what has been a successful pairing of Reynolds and Sutton in the last two seasons.
Souths are looking to bounce back after the crushing blows of losing one game short of the Grand Final in each of the past two seasons. With Tom Burgess also out of a few weeks with a foot injury, they have some early season hurdles to overcome as they take on both of last season’s grand finalists in the opening two rounds.
While there is the potential for a disrupted start to the season for the Rabbitohs, things could not look much more different for the Roosters. They are set to go into the opening round missing only one player from their victorious Grand Final squad – the retired Luke O’Donnell. They will also be on a high following their win in the World Club Challenge against Wigan.
As with all NRL fixtures at ANZ Stadium this season, travel via train to and from the stadium is included with all advanced ticket purchases. Fans attending the game will also be among the first to try out the new free Wi-Fi network at the stadium.
Thursday 6th March, ANZ Stadium Homebush 20:05
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters