This year’s Rugby League World Cup has come with its fair share of storylines to follow. From the Tongans bolstering their squad to the change in eligibility rules, the 2017 season may throw up some entertaining contests.
Australia – What’s not to love about the current Kangaroos squad? With the New Zealand side gutted and Tonga lacking true halves, the Kangaroos should be waltzing to victories. Their top tier depth is simply unmatched and at $1.20 odds will be a formality. The Aussies did lose in 2008, so keep an eye out, strange things can happen.
England – The English are quietly confident coming into this one with Wayne Bennett coaching the side. The English will likely be the side meeting the Kangaroos in the grand final after narrowly missing a grand final berth in the previous Four Nations Grand Final. Led by the Burgess Brothers, and names such as Widdop, Hodgson and Whitehead, this side is stacked with talent from our land down under and from the English Super League.
Tonga – Tonga is here to ruin the party. The island nation boasts a number of high profile NRL stars with Hopoate, Tupou, Lolohea, Jennings and a host of other stars. The biggest inclusions however, were Taumalolo who opted to represent Tonga over New Zealand and was closely followed by Andrew Fifita who turned down a Green and Gold jersey. This team will be limited by their halves. But if their halves click the platform laid by the forwards and athleticism of the outside backs will have them odds on in most contests.
Player of the tournament – Cameron Smith
Can you look past Cameron Smith? Didn’t think so. Smith will be marshalling these Kangaroos throughout the tournament.
He knows this will be his final world cup so not only will he be putting in 100%, when it comes time to deciding who the award should go to, the narrative of Smith’s amazing 2017 season being capped off by a player of the tournament honour will be too hard for the panel to overlook.
Top Try-Scorer – Dane Gagai
Gagai showed us how lethal he could be in Origin. His play with Newcastle was simply stifled by a below average team. Being on the end of backlines movements with all-star names throughout will really utilise Gagai’s finishing abilities.
His closest competition is Holmes who for all intents and purposes should be next in line. I see Gagai being in the richer vein of form and at the higher odds, definitely worth a penny or two.
By Nik Hatzi