1 Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings
One of the most inexperienced halves pairings of all time. Hastings is the more senior of the duo with 19 NRL games, while Nikorima is uncapped. Nikorima impressed during the pre-season and was applying pressure to Hastings as the man to partner co-captain Mitchell Pearce. Now the pair find themselves lining up alongside each other as Pearce continues his rehabilitation following his drunken Australian Day incident. Hastings has never lacked confidence, as he proved when he stepped up in several big games for the Roosters last year, but the pair need a strong performance against St Helens to allay any doubts.
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2 Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace
While the Roosters pairing are the most inexperienced, the Soward/Wallace duo can call on almost 400 games of first-grade experience. Regardless, the pressure remains the same. Soward and Wallace are under fire but have been given first crack at securing the halves spot when they start for Penrith against Parramatta on Saturday night. Wallace is returning from a second knee reconstruction, while injury and indifferent form plagued Soward last season. Already coach Anthony Griffin has replaced Wallace as captain with Matt Moylan, while it is only a matter of time before Moylan and rookie Te Maire Martin start in the halves.
Pressure is on: Jamie Soward passes for the Indigenous All Stars. Photo: Matt Roberts
3 Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker and Luke Keary
Three into two does not go, and South Sydney coach Michael Maguire will have a tough decision to make to begin the season. While Keary will be suspended for game one, Walker has an opportunity to stamp his claim. The rookie showed during the Charity Shield he can create something out of nothing and will be boosted by the steadying hand of Reynolds.
Pressing his claims: Cody Walker. Photo: Mark Kolbe
Keary and Reynolds helped end the Rabbitohs' premiership drought in 2014 but their combination is under threat. The three will play against the Titans on Saturday.
4 Dylan Walker and Daly Cherry-Evans
Throughout Cherry-Evans' five-year stint in the top grade he has had the benefit of playing alongside the world-class Kieran Foran. Now with Foran at Parramatta, he will need to be the sole organiser and general play kicker. While there is little doubt DCE can direct the team around, his halves partner Walker will be more of a running player.
Increased responsibility: Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Walker may be a novice in wearing the No.6 jersey in the NRL, but he spent the bulk of his junior career playing in the halves. He is elusive but will need to find the balance of taking the line on and utilising his great footwork.
5 James Maloney and Chad Townsend
Townsend left the Sharks after he was unable to crack a permanent spot. He returns from his two-year stint at the Warriors a more mature and complete player. Cronulla have struggled for any traction in the halves since the sacking of Todd Carney. Maloney enjoyed a successful stint of his own at the Warriors before leading the Roosters to premiership success in 2013.
New colours: Sharks pivot James Maloney. Photo: Mark Kolbe
Cronulla need to score more points and the pressure will be on these two to ensure that happens.
6 Trent Hodkinson, Jarrod Mullen and Brock Lamb
Hodkinson gets his first run in Newcastle colours when the Knights play Canberra on Saturday night. A serious thumb injury has stifled his big-money switch from Canterbury with Hodkinson delayed from full contact sessions until three weeks ago. He won't get the chance to play alongside Mullen before round one after Mullen was stood down for drinking while injured.
Work in progress: Newcastle Knights young gun Brock Lamb. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
In his place is the highly impressive Lamb, who has had a decorated junior career. With coach Nathan Brown already signalling his intentions to work towards the future, an impressive performance by Lamb could have Mullen on the back foot to start the season.