An unprecedented round of Rugby League ahead and it will be very interesting to see whether the empty stadiums have a significant impact on the results. One would assume that the home ground advantage will be somewhat nullified, particularly in those matches being moved to neutral venues. Round 2 can also be notorious for big form reversals making assessing markets even more difficult this week. Teams can often improve dramatically after shaking off a bit of rust in the opening round. Increased fitness levels and more time to settle new combinations can lead to some unpredictable results. Add to those players bouncing back to form after hurting from a week of bad press, or those feeling complacent (already) after a week of good press! Let the fun and games begin…
Canterbury Bulldogs vs North Qld Cowboys
Assessed Line: Bulldogs +2.0
Ladbrokes: Bulldogs +2.5 @1.95
Coming off a disappointing loss at home, the Cowboys will want to bounce back quickly. They definitely appear more talented on paper than the Bulldogs but will be facing a gritty team who are always in for the fight. Not enough meat on the bone to get involved here. A match just to watch from the safety of your lounge room at home.
St.George/Illa Dragons vs Penrith Panthers
Assessed Line: St.George/Illawarra +1.5
Ladbrokes: St.George/Illawarra +3.5 @1.95
Picking up from where they left off last season, the Saints were abysmal again on the weekend, losing a game they should have won. Definitely a team and a coach under immense pressure on the short 5-day backup. Conversely, the Panthers impressed in a game many expected them to lose. Penrith are normally a risk in any match as favourites, but I’ve fallen into the trap too many times of backing a decent looking St.George squad at value. No confidence, no bet.
Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Assessed Line: 1.90 each
Ladbrokes: 1.90 each
Potentially the game of the round, with two undefeated teams and an intense coaching rivalry. Broncos young guns were dynamic in the forwards last week, but they will miss Pangai Jr. Souths almost threw it away last week but will be much better for the run. This is genuinely anyone’s match and the bookies feel the same way, offering flip of the coin odds. No bet.
New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders
Assessed Line: NZ Warriors +10.0
Ladbrokes: NZ Warriors +11.5
A very impressive Raiders outfit up against a poor Warriors team who look totally devoid of points. With New Zealand further weakened by 2 players returning home, the rest of the team left stranded in Australia and having to play this one on the Gold Coast, all signs point to a comfortable Canberra win. However, I think they may show a little more pluck this week with a decent record against the Raiders and a liking for the Gold Coast. However, I’ve learned over the years that backing bad teams against good ones can be very problematic. No bet.
Sydney Roosters vs Manly Sea Eagles
Assessed Line: Roosters -1.5
Ladbrokes: Roosters -5.5
A very interesting match, with two potential top 4 teams coming off first-round losses. Both led early last week but faded late and neither will want to start the season 0-2. The Roosters welcome back Crichton this week but both teams remain relatively unchanged and I don’t see much between them. I’m still not convinced the Roosters are anywhere near as good as last year and Manly will give them a real run. Sea Eagles are a big price in this one.
Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm
Assessed Line: Sharks +5.5
Ladbrokes: Sharks +5.5
This match has become one of the great rivalries since their 2016 Grand Final encounter, usually resulting in tight, low scoring contests. This is the Sharks first “home” game but basically presents no advantage of being at Kogarah and in front of an empty stadium. No reason to believe the Storm won’t typically grind out a clinical 4-6 point win here. No value.
Wests Tigers vs Newcastle Knights
Assessed Line: Wests Tigers +1.5
Ladbrokes: Wests Tigers -1.5
The Wests Tigers are one of the most competitive sides in the comp, squeezing everything and more from their limited talent, and always pushing the top teams. Unfortunately they then often lose matches they should win and struggle against lower teams. Newcastle could be considered somewhat the opposite, “flat-track bullies”, which makes this such an intriguing affair. I think Newcastle has better talent overall and I’m happy to risk Benji producing 2 brilliant performance in a row. Knights deserve slight favouritism for mine so they represent some value at their current price.
Gold Coast Titans vs Parramatta Eels
Assessed Line: Gold Coast +6.5
Ladbrokes: Gold Coast +6.5
Parramatta shook off some rust and did enough to get the 2 points against the resilient Bulldogs last week. Gold Coast was outclassed away from home by a strong Raiders outfit. It will be interesting to see how they both handle the long break between rounds, Gold Coast 9 days and Parramatta 10 days, as this is often detrimental to teams. The Eels have a big edge in talent and should be too strong, even away from home, but the Titans have a great record against them so I doubt it will be a blowout. Betting market is spot on.
5 units Manly Sea Eagles +5.5 @1.90 vs Roosters
3 units Newcastle Knights +1.5 @1.90 vs Tigers
Total outlay: 8 units
Good luck and great punting,