SYDNEY ROOSTERS and PARRAMATTA
We are tipping Sydney Roosters to be 2018 NRL premiers. Nick Politis has once again pulled a masterstroke by securing one of the biggest names in the game in Cooper Cronk. Think back to when he snared Sonny Bill Williams – they won the title that season (2013). Not only has Politis managed to grab the Australian halfback but he also managed to persuade NSW fullback James Tedesco to Bondi. On paper the chooks look good for a top four spot at a minimum and if they didn’t at least go one better than last season, where they made the prelim final, then questions of coach Trent Robinson have to be asked.
One team that represents value in the winner market is Parramatta. With a full preseason under his belt, young half Mitchell Moses will be all the better for the experience of guiding his team to the finals last season having switched mid-season from the Tigers. Of course, coach Brad Arthur also has Jarryd Hayne to call on with the Dally M winner set to play in the centres.
Best Bet: Sydney Roosters ($5)
Value Bet: Parramatta @ $13
North Queensland will benefit from having Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott back from injury. Their side nearly pulled off a fairytale by coming from eighth to make the Grand Final last season, only to fall to Melbourne in the decider. With their co-captains back in action as well as the addition of Jordan Maclean to the side, it looks a near certainty that the Cowboys will feature prominently again.
The Stgeorge Illawarra Dragons have been one of the best teams in the offseason from a recruitment perspective, grabbing the signatures of Ben Hunt and James Graham. Hunt is a huge upgrade on Josh McCrone and his combination with captain Gareth Widdop will be key to the Dragons chances. Graham will add some experience and steel to an already impressive forward pack. The only concern for them is the fragility of the outside backs from a defensive perspective.
Parramatta, also at $3, looks a nice bet in this market.
Best Bet: North Queensland @ $1.75
Value Bet: Stgeorge Illawarra @ $4.25
WESTS TIGERS and NEWCASTLE
Wests Tigers represent the best value to make the top eight. No one is expecting much from Ivan Cleary’s men despite the fact they have recruited heavily with their two big-name signings being the return of former Golden Boot winner Benji Marshall along with five-eighth Josh Reynolds. Their problem in the halves has been solved so now it is time for Luke Brooks to stand up. He will have a better forward pack to work with too after the signings of Russell Packer and Ben Matulino among others.
Newcastle has probably been the most active when it comes to recruitment with names such as premiership winners Mitchell Pearce and Aiden Guerra, Connor Watson, Kalyn Ponga and Tautau Moga arriving in the Hunter, Nathan Brown’s men have to be respected. Throw in the mix of youth that benefitted from getting first grade experience last season and the Knights at $2.50 look a nice bet.
Best Bet: Newcastle @ $2.50
Value Bet: Wests Tigers @ $5.50
Something is not right at the foot of the mountain. You never want your team having dramas in the offseason and that is exactly what Penrith have had with the sudden departures of Bryce Cartwright and Matt Moylan. If rumours are true they aren’t the only ones preparing to leave Penrith either.
The signing of two-time premiership half James Maloney will ensure that the Panthers won’t finish last, however, taking the $2.40 for Penrith to miss out on the finals looks a smart bet at this early stage.
Best Bet: Penrith @ $2.40
We aren’t falling for the Warriors again. Every year they look like a gun team on paper and every year they disappoint. The signing of Blake Green should do wonders for the side and his combination with Shaun Johnson will either make or break the Kiwis finals chances. Other new faces including Tohu Harris, Adam Blair and Peta Hiku. Can Stephen Kearney get the best out of this team? We seriously doubt his ability at this stage considering his track record at club level.
Best Bet: New Zealand @ $9