MANLY SEA EAGLES VS SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
It is hard not to be all over the under in both Vegas games but the pick certainly looks to be the opener. The dimensions of the field are certainly a factor here with the pitch set to be six metres narrower and five metres shorter.
The in-goals will also be notably shorter. Season openers also tend to go under. The under has hit in 13 of the 16 Round 1 games the last two seasons while night games in the opening round have gone under at nearly 64% across the last 16 years. This total is expected to drop until kickoff.
BACK UNDER 42.5 at $1.60 or better
SYDNEY ROOSTERS VS BRISBANE BRONCOS
The Vegas double-header ends with what shapes as a clash between two teams likely to contend for the premiership. The difference in betting is surprising. The Roosters aren’t traditionally fast starters – they have won just one of their last six first round games – but underdogs cover at 58% in Round 1.
The Roosters have also had the best of this matchup recently with five wins in the last seven clashes. A Broncos Grand Final hangover would not surprise while the Chooks seem all-in for 2024.
LAY BRISBANE at $1.90 or shorter
NRL SEASON PREVIEW
NRL PREMIERSHIP | BEST BACK
BACK: Penrith Panthers at $3.00+
This is best back for Premiership. Penrith are in rarefied air here as they look to become the first team since the famous St George team that won 11 straight to win four premierships on the trot. There is certainly no reason they cannot. While they have lost Stephen Crichton and some solid backups, this Panthers team that has lost just 16 games across the last four years and brings into the season the most formidable roster. They sit at least a tier above any other team and no team can lift for September football like the Panthers. They are almost certain to finish in the Top 4 with their 2-5 record in close games suggesting they will improve on their regular season win total, setting them up for the best possible September run.
NRL PREMIERSHIP | BEST VALUE
BACK: Sydney Roosters at $7.00+
This is best value for the Premiership. The only team with a roster anywhere near as stocked with talent to the Panthers is Trent Robinson’s Sydney Roosters. There remain some questions on the backline and the team’s ability to score points but there is no more formidable or deeper pack in the premiership this year than that of the Tricolours. The Roosters recruited magnificently, bringing in Dom Young and Spencer Leniu, and they are as well coached as any in the premiership. The Chooks are all in for 2024.
NRL PREMIERSHIP | BEST LAY
LAY: Brisbane at $7.00 or shorter
Best lay for the NRL Premiership. The list of losing Grand Finalists to return and win a premiership has been exceptionally short in the NRL Era: Melbourne have achieved the feat three times, most recently in 2017, and Penrith, when they won the first of their titles. Most suffer from a shocking hangover. Parramatta missed the finals after losing the 2022 Grand Final. Brisbane severely overachieved last last year, they have lost key figures Herbie Farnworth, Tom Flegler and Kurt Capewell and are unlikely to have the dream injury run they enjoyed last year.
NRL TOP 4 | BEST BACK
BACK: Melbourne Storm at $2.20+
Melbourne has really been undervalued this season. While they are a club with no depth, they have an outstanding spine (arguably best in the premiership) and a very good starting 13. They made the Top 4 last year, a place they have finished in 11 of the last 13 years. Melbourne are not the dominant force they were only a few years back but they remain an elite team.
NRL TOP 4 | BEST VALUE
BACK: Cronulla Sharks at $3.00+
Cronulla’s draw is the best in the NRL and is so good that the difference between the number of total wins from last year they face and the second team is the same as that between the second easiest and toughest draws. It is a historically easy draw and the Sharks with their roster and starting base will be right in the mix for a Top 4 berth.
NRL TOP 4 | BEST LAY
LAY: Brisbane Broncos at $2.80 or shorter
Brisbane are a team to be against this year. They overshot their real win tally by nearly two full victories and they went 4-2 in close games so last season’s finishing spot was overinflated. With so many losses and a likely regression in injury luck, it would not shock to see the Broncos fall out of the Top 4.
NRL TOP 8 | BEST BACK
BACK: Cronulla at $1.50+
Cronulla are the most undervalued team in the premiership this year and are far more likely to finish inside the Top 4 than they are to miss finals. The Sharks have a stable team with no changes to their best 13 but more importantly they have been blessed with the kindest of draws, where they are the only team in the competition to play teams from last year’s Top 8 nine times. Cronulla are not missing the finals this year with even a below-average injury toll.
NRL TOP 8 | BEST VALUE
BACK: Redcliffe Dolphins at $2.25+
Wayne Bennett has done a magnificent job building the Dolphins into a force that will be contending for a finals berth in just their second season. They have recruited magnificently, bringing in Tom Flegler to an already tough back and Herbie Farnworth and Jake Averillo to massively upgrade the club at the centre position. They can build momentum with a kind early season draw. Huge overs.
NRL TOP 8 | BEST LAY
LAY: Newcastle Knights at $2.50 or shorter
Newcastle managed to get hot over the backend of last season to make the finals but they are not a team that should return to the finals. They have lost top tryscorer Dominic Young. Their halves situation is a mess. They had a great run with injuries last year. This just seems like a run built on a very fragile and unsustainable base.
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