NRL Round 1 Recap: Underdogs Start Strong While Contenders Fizzle

NRL Round 1 Recap: Underdogs Start Strong While Contenders Fizzle

Round one of the NRL 2024 is finally over, and it was a tumultuous one. The competition took longer than usual to complete its opening round courtesy of a trip to Las Vegas last weekend, and it’s just as well. We’re only eight games into the NRL, and already the natural order has been given a thorough shake up.

We break down all the big talking points from round one of the NRL, looking at the good, the bad and the ugly of the competition’s opening round.

News Insights

  • Wooden spoon contenders Raiders and Dragons begin year with a win.
  • Panthers, Broncos and Warriors suffer surprise losses.
  • Racism allegations mar successful Las Vegas foray.

The Good: Raiders and Dragons Look to Be Competitive

There’s nothing worse than having one or two sides that everyone beats up on in the NRL. It waters down the integrity of the competition, makes for bad watching and a tough time for fans. Heading into 2024, many were predicting that both the Canberra Raiders and St. George-Illawarra Dragons would be punching bags for the rest of the NRL.

Thankfully, it seems that won’t be the case this season. Both sides recorded two of the more impressive wins of the round, showing that they’ll be more than competitive.

The Raiders began on the road against the Newcastle Knights, who had won 10 in a row last year before losing in the semi-finals to the Warriors. However, they were unable to continue their form in 2024, with Canberra putting together a strong performance to dispatch the home side 28-12 on Thursday night.

St. George-Illawarra also took to the road and came away victorious. The Dragons squared off against a Titans side predicted to do well this year, but well and truly asserted themselves. With five tries to one, the Dragons made sure they started 2024 successfully, winning 28-4 in Queensland.

The Bad: Panthers, Broncos and Warriors Fizzle

Unfortunately for some of this year’s title contenders, not every club began successfully. 
Ahead of the NRL kicking off in 2024, betting sites had the Penrith Panther and Brisbane Broncos as the two sides most likely to win the title. However, both suffered opening losses in round one. Brisbane were abroad in Las Vegas, where they faced third-ranked title hopes the Sydney Roosters and went down 20-10. Penrith also came up against contenders, on the road to the Melbourne Storm where they lost 8-0.

The New Zealand Warriors were also predicted to do well this year, having made the last four in 2023. Hosting the Cronulla Sharks in Auckland, they failed to capitalise on a sold-out home crowd, however, losing 16-12.

Despite these results, bet365 still rates the Panthers and Broncos as the top two favourites to take out the grand final this year. Odds for the clubs are 4.00 and 4.75 respectively, while the Warriors sit at 19.00 and seventh favourite.

The Ugly: Racism Dominates Headlines After Las Vegas

Last weekend saw round one start with a bang in Las Vegas, with the NRL heading to the United States in an attempt to grow the sport. While a crowd of 40,000 and two brilliant games were a big tick in the box for the competition, allegations of racism have marred the aftermath.
Rooster’s player Spencer Leniu alleged uttered a racist slur, calling Bronco’s player Ezra Mam a “monkey” during their Las Vegas match. While this is ugly enough and has no place in the game, what’s worse is the way the NRL has handled the incident. 

Nine days later, and the powers that be are still yet to put the affair to bed. This has left the rumour mill swirling, with the latest accusations being that Leniu himself was a victim of racism from other Broncos players before his confrontation with Mam.

Regardless of the ins and outs of the incident, the fact that it is still dominating headlines more than a week later is a shame for the NRL. The success of engaging the American audience has been well and truly overshadowed, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth instead of what should be celebration.

Round one of the NRL has finally come to an end, with several surprising results. The Raiders and Dragons impressed, while the Panthers, Broncos and Warriors all made underwhelming starts to their campaigns. With the exception of an ugly incident in Las Vegas, it was a fantastic start to the season.