CAN WE TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY?
DRAGONS AND WARRIORS
New Zealand and St. George Illawarra are out to 4-0 records for the first time in each of their respective histories – but is it too early to consider them genuine premiership contenders?
The Warriors ($14 @ bet365) are still value to win the premiership while the Dragons have tightened up dramatically since the start of the season when $17 was being shopped around by most bookies. The Red V is now $7 (@ Ubet) to win the Grand Final.
New Zealand thrashed the Roosters at Allianz Stadium which gave them their fourth straight over the tricolours while the Dragons were too good for too long against an up-and-down Knights outfit in Wollongong.
Each side has some tough games coming up in the next few rounds and that is when we will see exactly how they shape up in the premiership race, however, if you jumped aboard either team early you are definitely sitting pretty at this point.
Up next: Warriors ($1.95) are slight outsiders at home against the Cowboys. As for the Dragons they are one of the shortest priced favourites of the week at $1.33 when they take on Souths.
You can never write off a team with Cameron Smith and Billy Slater in it, however, Melbourne were once a shadow of their former selves in Round 4. They travelled to Shark Park and faced a side without Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan but they were held tryless in a 14-4 defeat. Already this season Melbourne were held tryless for at least one half (by Wests Tigers) and although they no longer have Cooper Cronk, are still blessed with a number of talented players including Cameron Munster.
It appears as though Melbourne, along with the Cowboys, are just two sides that are struggling with the strict crackdown by referees on the rules. Both of last year’s Grand Finalists have been underwhelming through the opening month so it may pay to stay off them until they show a lift in form.
Up next: Melbourne ($1.35) are short to avenge their defeat to the Tigers in Round 2 while the Cowboys face the unbeaten New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium as $1.85 favourites.
Surely a side that is stacked with talent the likes of Jordan Rapana, BJ Leilua, Blake Austin and Josh Papalii can’t find with the wooden spoon – or can they?
The Raiders are now 0-4 for just the third time in their history. Punters who still want to back Canberra to make Top 8 can secure $6 @ Crownbet but beware – just five of 22 teams since 1998 that have gone 0-4 have recovered to make the finals.
No doubt the loss of classy hooker Josh Hodgson has hurt them in the opening month but the English international isn’t due back until well into the season and by that point, finals could be all but gone for Ricky Stuart’s men.
UNFASHIONABLE TOP EIGHT
DRAGONS, WARRIORS, PANTHERS AND TIGERS SHAKE THINGS UP IN THE OPENING MONTH
Are we set to see some big teams miss out on the top eight this season? Judging by the opening four rounds of the NRL then the answer is yes!
St.George Illawarra, New Zealand, Penrith and the Wests Tigers make up the top four while in the bottom half of the eight we see Manly, Melbourne, Sydney Roosters and Souths. Four of last year’s finalists (Cronulla, North Queensland, Brisbane and Parramatta) are currently on the outside looking in.
While it is way too early to speculate on the make of the top eight after 26 rounds, if what we have seen so far this season is any indication, some big teams will be forced to watch finals footy from the sidelines this season.