Time for the REAL NRL action to begin!

March 5, 2020

NRL SEASON PREVIEW 2020

After what has seemed an eternity, the start of the 2020 NRL season is just over a week away. I will be providing early premiership ratings for every team based statistically on past regular season performances, finals experience, player movements/retirements/injuries, strength of a team’s draw, their potential best squad and other miscellaneous factors such as coaching/stadium changes. One factor I do not consider at all is any pre-season form, whether it be the 9s tournament, club challenges or trial matches. I find these to be almost irrelevant when it comes to the season ahead and as most supporters know, the main concern is just getting through this period injury-free. Time for the REAL action to begin!

In 2019 there was no doubt the best team all year won the competition, and deservedly so. The Roosters were one of those very talented and special teams with class all over the paddock that could just turn it on when required. However, if not for some (brief) Latrell magic and a controversial refereeing blunder, it may not have gone their way, showing just how tough it is to actually win a Grand Final. I consider this year’s competition to be of lower quality than last year with many class players retiring or heading overseas. This has slightly levelled up the competition in my view.

2020 Team Rated Prices (100% market) in order:

CANBERRA RAIDERS

Rated: $5 Ladbrokes: $7 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

The team to beat in 2020. Went very close to winning the Grand Final in 2019 and will be smarting from that defeat, hungry to avenge. They have a similar strength squad to last year and if their new English halfback settles in quickly then they will be the benchmark all year. On top of that, the Raiders have the easiest draw in the competition, especially early in the season. Definite value at $7.

MELBOURNE STORM

Rated: $7.50 Ladbrokes: $6 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

This team has the best coach in the business who always has them ready to fire early in the season. Their squad is not as strong as last year and they are developing a habit of fading during the finals, but write them off at your own peril. Their draw is ok for such a top team and with the ageless Cam Smith at the helm and swaying the refs, they will be there at the pointy end of the season. No value though.

 SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Rated: $9 Ladbrokes: $4 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

Huge effort to break recent history and go back to back in 2019. But though they still have a strong squad in 2020, they see a massive drop off in talent. Combine no Latrell (love him or hate him, he was their X-factor), no Cooper with a tough draw and the near-impossible 3-peat (mentally and physically), they are poison odds at $4. LAY of the season.

MANLY SEA EAGLES

Rated: $9 Ladbrokes: $13 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

To many, Manly were the surprise packets of 2019, showing that with a good spine (1,6,7,9) and shrewd coach, any team can go far in the NRL. And this was to despite a horror injury toll. Retaining all their key players and with a relatively soft draw, I have no doubt they can make the top 4, especially if they can sustain a better run with injuries. Value at $13.

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Rated: $10 Ladbrokes: $11 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

The mystery packet of 2020. Still a solid squad but how will they cope with the retirement of key players, particularly Sam Burgess? And no doubting his talent, but how will Latrell settle into his new environment? If they click, they have the right mix with enough firepower both in the backs and in the forwards to be a serious threat. Slightly over the odds at $11.

PARRAMATTA EELS

Rated: $13 Ladbrokes: $11 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

Much the same Eels as last year, coached by one of the best and with a phenomenal home ground advantage. A lot depends on the form of Mitchell Moses, when he is on, the Eels are on. They’ll be competitive all year and hard to beat at “Fortress Parra”. Flattered by a dismal Broncos in the finals, then smashed by Melbourne, I’m not sure they’re seasoned enough to win the Premiership. No value.

NORTH QLD COWBOYS

Rated: $13 Ladbrokes: $17 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

One of the biggest disappointments of 2019 but I think they will bounce back in 2020. With a new stadium and a soft draw, expect them to be right in the mix. Their new “JT” is the most devastating forward in the comp in what is already a solid pack. With a good half/five-eighth combo and the potential for Valentine Holmes to explode, they are the best value “roughie” at $17.

BRISBANE BRONCOS

Rated: $17 Ladbrokes: $19 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

 Another huge disappointment of 2019 considering their talent on paper, especially that dynamic forward pack. The inclusion of Brodie Croft is key and I think he will improve their chances, along with the experience gained by their younger players last year. They gave up late last year but If they switch on mentally in 2020 then no doubt can bounce back for a big season. Worth a speck at $19. 

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Rated: $31 Ladbrokes: $21 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

 High expectations in 2019 for the Knights to make the finals but they were disappointing. Once again, confidence will be high, with a new coach, good draw, slightly improved roster and one of the NRL’s future stars in Kalyn Ponga. Normally it takes at least a year for a new coach to provide improvement and their time is definitely not far off, but a fringe top 8 team only this year. No value.

CRONULLA SHARKS

Rated: $41 Ladbrokes: $17 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

 Showed potential last year and threatened to make a Premiership charge but so many negatives for the Sharks this year that I think they will struggle to make the finals. A much-weakened roster in 2020, many key players who are very injury prone (Moylan, Johnson, Graham notably), a tough draw and no home ground are going to make it very, very tough. Horrible value at $17.

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS

Rated: $51 Ladbrokes: $34 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

 At the backend of 2019 (after a dismal first half of the year, mind you) the Bulldogs were one of the best teams, beating most of the finals contenders on the back of a strong defence and Foran firing. Was this just an anomaly? Unfortunately, an improved squad and good draw are offset by Foran’s long term injury. The Dogs will be a nuisance value in 2020 but their time will come next year and onwards.

WESTS TIGERS

Rated: $51 Ladbrokes: $26 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

A very similar squad for the Tigers again this year and I think a very similar result.

No value in their price of $26.

PENRITH PANTHERS

Rated: $67 Ladbrokes: $21 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

Where to start with the Panthers? Possibly the most infuriating team of the past few years and can’t see any improvement in their squad in 2020. There always seems to be trouble at the foot of the mountains and not even a long gone Gus Gould 5 year plan could provide any relief. Cleary hasn’t been able to reproduce his outstanding rookie year and they will struggle again. $21 poison odds.

ST.GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

Rated: $67 Ladbrokes: $26 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

Another frustrating team, laden with Origin talent but unable to fire in the NRL competition, even after some good starts. With Gareth Widdop returning to the UK, I can only see another long season ahead for Dragon’s supporters. They have bolstered their coaching ranks but I doubt this will be enough to get them close to the finals. $26 no value at all.

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS

Rated: $151 Ladbrokes: $34 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

And now we come to undoubtedly the most infuriating AND frustrating team in the competition. A weakened squad (not helped by many pre-season niggling injuries) and a tough draw just adds up to another season of disappointment for the Warriors and it will be no shock to see them battling out the wooden spoon. At $34 no thanks!

GOLD COAST TITANS

Rated: $251 Ladbrokes: $101 https://www.ladbrokes.com.au/sports/rugby-league/futures-outrights

Last year’s wooden spooners, and deservedly so. There is potential improvement in this team (and they need to!) but Ash Taylor was possibly a one hit wonder and the season ending injury to Ryan James was a brutal blow for a team already lacking in talent. Very tough ask for a new coach but the only way is up. All things considered though, the $101 is still under the odds.

I’m not one to step into Premiership winning bets prior to the season starting. It is such a long and intense season BEFORE the finals even begin, with many intangibles, namely key injuries (especially if they come at the wrong time). I find more value (and safety) in having Premiership bets mid-season or even very close to finals time, predicting the value teams who will have all the momentum and a full squad heading towards the Grand Final. However, I’m happy to play a few “NRL Season Head to Heads 2020” at Ladbrokes, taking teams I think are value in the market opposed to those I think are overrated. 

Suggested bets are as follows:

  • 5 units @$1.90 North Qld vs Sharks
  • 5 units @$1.80 Brisbane vs Penrith
  • 5 units @$2.20 Canberra vs Roosters

For future reference, suggested bets on NRL matches will predominantly be at the Line with Max confidence bets 5 units, Standard bets 3 units, Speck bets 2 units, Exotic bets 0.5 – 1 unit.

Look forward to launching into Round 1 next week.

Good luck and great punting,

Punt Club NRL