Your Expert NRL Tips for 2019

The Analysts provide their expert NRL Tips for each round of the 2019 season. There’s in-depth analysis, betting strategy and reasoning behind each of their selections.

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St George Illawarra v South Sydney

Thu 21st March. 7:50pm

Home underdogs of 4 or more in the first four rounds of the season cover at an exceptional 76% so the Saints can be bet blind here. The Dragons are in a good spot too despite losing Tyson Frizell to injury. They return to Kogarah, where they are 15-7 against the spread over the last five years including a 6-2 against the spread number as an underdog at the ground.

The Dragons have also covered 8 of 11 off a loss when playing at the ground. The Rabbitohs have covered just 3 of their last 9 away from ANZ and 5 of 13 after scoring 24 or more points. The five-day turnaround is an overrated stat by the market: home underdogs on a five-day turnaround cover at 61% since 2008.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – St George Illawarra +4.5

Canberra v Melbourne

Fri 22nd March. 6:00pm

Many of the same stats used to push the Saints this week are applicable for the Raiders. Home underdogs of 4 or more in the first four rounds of the season cover at an exceptional 76%. Home underdogs on a five-day turnaround cover at 61% since 2008. Home underdogs of 4 or more off a win also cover at 61% while the Raiders are 9-2 against the line in the spot.

Canberra have covered 6 of 8 as a home underdog over the last four years while they have conceded 10 of their last 16 after conceding 16 or fewer points. The Storm have covered just 3 of their last 12 as a favourite 2 of 9 on the road off a win of 10 points or more. The surprise inclusion of Jordan Rapana adds to the confidence.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Canberra +4.5

Wests Tigers v New Zealand

Sun 24th March. 6:10pm

The Tigers are always a lay when favoured so definitely keen to take them on here. They have covered just 9 of 28 as a favourite and just 2 of 10 when favoured off a win. The Tigers have also covered just 4 of their last 15 at Campbelltown and just 4 of their last 15 day games. Small interstate underdogs are severely underrated by the market, covering at 66% over the last five seasons.

The Warriors have covered 6 of their last 8 as an underdog away from Mt Smart.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – New Zealand +1.5

Newcastle v Cronulla

Friday 15th March. 6:00pm

Newcastle finished off last season winning just four of their last 16 games and have now shifted their best player to five-eighth and their five-eighth to fullback. They had a very good record in close games and their win total shot-up significantly, two red flags for significant improvement.

Newcastle are a take on team in 2019 for sure. Cronulla have long dominated the Knights with eight straight wins and there is no reason to expect the Sharks to drop off. They have won four straight in Newcastle and averaged 41.5 points in those matches. The Sharks have won 20 of 31 away from Shark Park when $1.90 or longer in betting. The Knights have won just 4 of 17 night/twilight home games.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Cronulla

New Zealand v Canterbury

New Zealand have opened surprisingly big favourites against Canterbury. The market has shifted notably towards the Bulldogs and will continue to move that way with key rake Issac Luke ruled out for the home team. The Bulldogs have named what can only be called a sub-optimal team with Rhyse Martin and Nick Meaney not selected for reasons only coach Dean Pay. Regardless, they are in an excellent spot. The Bulldogs have won 15 of 21 against the Warriors and 9 of 11 getting a start of 4-plus points. The key stat to note in this one though: the Warriors have covered just 6 of 21 when favoured by a try or more.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Canterbury +4.5

North Queensland v St George Illawarra

One key stat that can be bet on the blind in the NRL: small interstate underdogs. Interstate outsiders of 3.5 points or fewer have covered at 66% over the last five years. The logic is fairly sound with the small interstate underdog typically the better team and home advantage overvalued by the market.

The Dragons are in that spot this week. The Dragons have won three straight against the Cowboys and have a much more settled preparation than the Cowboys, who have question marks across their backline.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – St George Illawarra

Premiership Winner

Prognosticators started forecasting the end of the Melbourne Storm era a decade ago. They still have not found the year when the Storm have fallen off the cliff. Melbourne have won at least 14 games since 2006, played in eight of the last 13 Grand Finals and have reached the preliminary final stage in seven of the last nine years. Their downside is a Top 4 finish and a preliminary final exit so to see them topping the $8 mark in premiership betting required an eye rub and a double take.

The Storm still have Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith and they are surrounded by a plethora of talent including star half Cameron Munster, a dominant pack and a wing tandem that is as dangerous as any in the premiership. Burned by not showing up in last year’s Grand Final, the Storm will be uber-focused no going one better this year. The three times they have lost a Grand Final, they have bounced back to win the premiership the next year.

The Sharks have been written off by the market yet it is clear from their roster construction that they are all-in for one last tilt at the title. Cronulla have won at least 14 games and played finals football for four straight seasons, winning a premiership in 2016 and finishing a game shy last year. They are a team that is coming off a high base and whose roster has improved markedly with the addition of former Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson.

The loss of Valentine Holmes hurts but Johnson is an upgrade primarily because of the position he plays and the role he will have. There is a query over how John Morris will perform as a rookie coach but with a veteran side and the injection of a player with best-player-in-the-premiership upside, the Sharks are big overs.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Melbourne Storm

 BACK – Cronulla Sharks

Regular Season Winner

No team possesses more talent in the NRL than the Sydney Roosters, who have remarkably improved their squad from the team that won the premiership by bringing in Angus Crichton to the pack and adding internationals Brett Morris and Ryan Hall to an already teeming three-quarter line. The Roosters have already won the minor premiership four times in Trent Robinson’s six seasons in charge and he has not had a team with this much talent.

Defending a title is difficult but defending a minor premiership is not with seven teams repeating since 2005. The club not only has the most talent but it added the premiership know-how of Cooper Cronk last year and that sprinkling of Storm culture on such a stunning roster should not be undervalued.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Sydney Roosters to be the minor premiers

Top 4 Value Bet

Key analytics suggests no team has bigger improvement in them in 2019 than the Canberra Raiders. Ricky Stuart’s team have come off back-to-back 10th-placed finishes but in each of the last two seasons their real win total had them firmly inside the Top 8. It has been primarily an inability to close out close games that has hurt the Raiders. Canberra were an awful 3-8 in games decided by a single score last year, a record put down to both poor coaching and poor halves.

While the coaching hasn’t changed this year, Jack Wighton shifts to five-eighth to give the Raiders a more reliable halves pairing while Josh Hodgson is in line to play a full season after missing the majority of 2018. Canberra have recruited well, bringing in world class backrower John Bateman from Wigan, along with Ryan Sutton from Super League. Canberra are coming off a base as a legitimate Top 8 team and have more than enough scope if things click early to post a Top 4 finish.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Canberra Raiders to finish in the Top 4

Top 8 Value Bet

The Titans have already been heavily bet to make the Top 8 this year and it is easy to make a case that they will improve significantly. An unfashionable and typically underwhelming team who rarely attract much interest, the club may finally be headed in the right direction with some astute recruitment.

Tyrone Peachey heads the list of inclusions this year that also features Australian prop Shannon Boyd, halves Ryley Jacks and Tyrone Roberts and speedy centre Brian Kelly. More importantly though, coach Garth Brennan has cut ties with plenty of poor players including Kane Elgey and Konrad Hurrell while the halves shopping spree will put much-needed pressure on terribly overrated No.7 Ashley Taylor.

The Titans have a premier pack led by Ryan James with rep players Boyd, Jai Arrow, Kevin Proctor, Nathan Peats and Jarrod Wallace and they now have some backline talent. Gold Coast severely undershot their real win rate last year so are not starting off as low a base as many seem to think and with their improvement roster-wise, it is all systems go in 2019.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Gold Coast Titans to finish in the Top 8

Fewest Season Wins

The price available on Parramatta to claim their fourth wooden spoon of the last decade is absurdly high. The Eels have very little going their way coming off their fifth bottom-four finish of the last nine years and with the worst roster in the premiership, they are major overs.

Parramatta’s roster is a mess, highlighted by the barrow being tied to error-prone halfback Mitchell Moses. They have major issues at hooker, a lack of speed out wide and an undersized middle. They did not have the advanced metrics expected of a wooden spoon team that would indicate improvement and they have recruited exceptionally poorly for a team not in the title hunt, investing in big-money players in non-spine positions rather than focusing on player development and cost saving.

The Eels should be in a transition year. Instead they have deluded themselves into believing they can win now. It is a situation that will likely lead to a coaching change and a mid-season clean out, a perfect storm for a team that will be well in contention for last spot.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Parramatta to win the Wooden Spoon

Dally M Medal Winner

Kalyn Ponga is the clear-cut favourite heading into the 2019 season after coming oh-so-close in his first full season after a scintillating first year in Newcastle. Roosters custodian James Tedesco and Dragon Gareth Widdop sit on the next lines of betting. There is plenty of value to be found in Dally M Medal betting with three players really standing out. Cooper Cronk is the main string-puller for premiership favourites the Sydney Roosters.

Cronk is a two-time winner (both in the last six years) and seven of the last 11 winners have come from a team that made the Grand Final. Shaun Johnson looks set for a big year after moving from the Warriors to the Sharks. He is a former Golden Boot winner and behind a strong pack for arguably the first time in his career, a season of rejuvenation is on the cards. The top value selection though is Josh Hodgson at around the $41 quote.

Hodgson has a top-six Dally M Medal finish to his name and is a clear standout as Canberra’s most important player. With the Raiders expected to be sharp improvers this year and Hodgson a renowned vote-getter, he is well worth betting with plenty of opportunities to trade for a profit throughout the season.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Cooper Cronk to win the Dally M

 BACK – Shaun Johnson to win the Dally M

 BACK – Josh Hodgson to win the Dally M

State of Origin

The Blues go in heavily favoured for this year’s series after a dominant 2018 series where they won the opening two games before going down in the dead-rubber third game. Though the Blues only outscored the Maroons 52-44, they will go into the 2019 series with a significant advantage at fullback, in the halves and in the pack.

Brad Fittler brought about significant cultural and stylistic changes last season and it reaped plenty of rewards. Teams that have wrapped up the series in two games the year prior have won five of six series the following year.

Betting Strategy


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