THE 16 NRL clubs have made their offseason trades and all believe they have a chance at taking out the NRL premiership, but what teams have set their expectations too high?
The NRL is known to be one of the toughest leagues in world sport and although we are under the belief that anything can happen throughout the course of the season, there aresides that are in the middle of the road which might not win the competition, but that doesn’t mean punters can’t make money off them.
We we look at the ‘pretenders’ for the upcoming NRL season and discuss what teams will struggle to win the title, but could also provide punters with some good betting opportunities as well. We have listed four teams in this category which are all at good value to make the playoffs.
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The pretenders – Cronulla Sharks
The Cronulla Sharks have been knocking on the door over the past few seasons and have battled through some controversial off-field distractions, but the simple fact is that they have never won a premiership and we’re not sure that winning culture has been instilled in their current line up.
Coach Shane Flanagan will rely on Paul Gallen’s leadership again this season, but he was involved in those off-field incidents and we question just how important he is as a captain. His record as a captain in State of Origin is horrendous and we wonder if he’s no more than a battering ram at this stage in his career.
The Sharks will have the likes of Ben Barba, Sosaia Feki and Gerard Beale in the backline, who can all spark a magic play when they need to, but over the course of the season they will need to play consistent football and we don’t think they have it in them.
They are currently $15 to win the Grand Final which is way too short for our liking. They are a chance at making the playoffs and that’s where the value resides. Sportsbet are offering $1.80 to make the top 8 and they have set their season wins total at 11.5.
In order to make the playoffs we believe the Sharks will need to win at least 12 games and that option is a good multi-bet inclusion at $1.67, but as for their title hopes are concerned, we would look elsewhere for better value.
The Penrith Panthers find themselves in the middle of the pack after missing the playoffs last season and we don’t think they have recruited well enough to turn that form around.
The current $17 (CrownBet.com.au) chances have their usual playmakers in Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace, but whether they can stay healthy is an impending question and there just isn’t enough strong strike power for those players to be useful.
James Segeyaro is the shining light from dummy half and we expect a good season for him. His ability to read the defense is top quality and he should pose a problem for many NRL defenses, but as a team the Panthers don’t look to have a solid base.
In a league where improvement often takes a few years, the Panthers look a top contender to miss the playoffs at $1.72 with CrownBet.com.au.
Penrith kick off their season when they play the Canberra Raiders on Saturday, March 5, where they are $2.20 underdogs.
It is odd to have the Canterbury Bulldogs in the pretenders list, but they have lost some fire power this season and many punters believe a tilt at the premiership is a big hurdle to overcome.
We don’t necessarily agree with those summations as the Bulldogs ended last season with five straight regular season wins and that momentum can transfer to the upcoming 2016 season. The Bulldogs are currently $15 at Sportsbet.com.au to win the title and $1.62 to make the top 8 which should be a good bet.
They did lose big man Frank Pritchard to Super League, but they retain the likes of Sam Kasiano, David Klemmer and James Graham to bolster up that forward pack and we’re excited to see their backs in action as well.
Moses Mbye is in for a big season and if fellow half Josh Reynolds can keep his head screwed on this season, they look to possess a potent backline with the Morris brothers hanging out on the wings.
A sneaky bet would be to take the Bulldogs as the top NSW team at $6.50 with Sportsbet. They will have to topple Manly and the Roosters, but both teams should have their struggles in the regular season.
The Parramatta Eels are on the same line as the Bulldogs at $15, but we can’t have them winning the title this season.
The Eels are a team that people love to look at on paper, but they continue to disappoint on the field and punters get burned. One week they look like world beaters and the next they look like cellar-dwellers, and even though they have some exciting talent in their team, they aren’t premiership winning players and that’s what you need to win.
Kieran Foran is a big addition to the squad and his toughness will be a great asset to a team that often lacks heart. Adding Michael Gordon was a good move, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets injured – it happens almost every year.
They do have the likes of try-scoring machine Semi Radradra and improving playmaker Corey Norman, but as we stated, their team always looks good on paper, but they just don’t gel on the field.
Sportsbet are offering short odds that the Eels will finish higher than 12th on the ladder – that option is paying $1.30, but we think taking Radradra to be the top tryscorer at $6 is a more exciting betting option.
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