Punters can get this round off to a good start by backing Canterbury in Thursday Night Football.
Des Hasler’s side look one of the better bets of the weekend at ANZ Stadium as they host an injury-ravaged North Queensland outfit.
The representative round didn’t do the visitors any favours as champion playmaker Johnathan Thurston sustained a shoulder injury and is out of action for this game. On the plus side, coach Paul Green does potentially welcome back Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville which will definitely boost their attacking stocks should they line up.
North Queensland are going into this off the back of a 20-point loss to Parramatta a fortnight ago while the home side are starting to hit some form with a six-point win over Canberra at this venue.
FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
Hasler is famous for getting his teams to fly under the radar and this year is no different.
After a torrid start to the season in which his future was being question, CANTERBURY has gone on to win four of their past five games with the only loss being against the West Tigers in Round 8.
Their improved defence has been a big key to their recent success with an average of 11.2 points being scored on them in their past five games.
The doggies have the fourth-best defence in the competition but despite that there aren’t many people talking about them on a weekly basis, which is exactly what Hasler wants.
North Queensland’s finals hopes may be dashed already.
Already losing co-captain Matt Scott for the season as well as having several big names out of action throughout the opening nine rounds, the loss of Thurston is a huge blow for them.
Another thing that is a big indication that they are on a downward spiral is their poor home record. Usually brilliant at 1300Smiles Stadium, they have lost three and won three at the venue this season. In the past few years a game in Townsville usually resulted in a valuable two points but the venue isn’t the fortress it has been known to be.
That is a bit of an issue considering they’ve only played three on the road so far this season and with more road trips than home games to come, the Cowboys are facing an uphill battle to build momentum in the middle to latter stages of 2017.
The Cowboys will take some confidence in this one as they aim for five straight wins over Canterbury.
Bookies have them as outsiders ($2.40 @ bet365) but should they score the upset it will be the first time in 17 years that they’ve been able to notch five straight over the boys from Belmore.
In more recent times these matches have been close contests with three of the Cowboys four wins being by eight points or less with the exception being the 36-nil blowout they enjoyed at 1300Smiles Stadium in Round 20 last year.
It is interesting to note that North Queensland haven’t played at Homebush since their 2015 Grand Final win over Brisbane, however, are riding a four game winning streak at the ground which is a record for them.
Just get on the Bulldogs here.
Topbetta has them at $1.65 and that is good enough for us. Despite losing Josh Reynolds for five weeks with a hamstring injury, Hasler has the talented Matt Frawley to call upon whereas Green will be missing Thurston far more and doesn’t have anywhere near a suitable replacement with all due respect to John Asiata.
Canterbury are 4-1 at home this season and have shown a real liking for playing at ANZ with three wins from four at the venue this season.
They will field a near full strength line-up and with the Cowboys being poor away from home in 2016 (4-8), we aren’t convinced they can get an upset here. It is worth noting that their two away wins this season have both been in Queensland against the Broncos and Titans.
Margin players are advised to look for a Canterbury 1-12 win ($2.88 @ bet365) with four of their five wins being within the two converted try range.