NRL – Finals Week 2 – Preview & Betting A...

Finals Week 2 Preview NRL 2012

Online and SMS Updates

Further to the positive use and feedback last weekend I will be doing a pre game update prior to each finals game through to Grand Final day. It certainly doesn’t appear as a weekend where we will have the various possibilities in play as we did last week but last minute weather and or key injury / outs may well impact in some areas. The online title message of this preview (and its content) will be updated to indicate any new update and a new sms will also be sent out. If you would like to be included in the free sms blast just drop an email request through to contact@readingtheplay.com

Finals Week 2 Bet List

Cowboys 6 units H2H  $1.90       BEST BET

If you are looking for an additional interest around the Cowboys I would suggest a spec at the tri bet over 6.5 (around the $3 mark). I will wait until Saturday to finalise but at this stage I won’t be recommending any bet options into the Rabbits v Raiders game.

Eagles v Cowboys

SFS / Moore Park: 7.45pm Friday

Opening Pricing and Lines – Eagles $1.88 / -1.5 v Cowboys  $1.95 /+1.5

Any market moves: Numerous moves in and out for both on the back of negative or positive speculation surrounding various Eagles injury issues. I expect the Cowboys price to firm through the hours leading into the game.

Fourth plays fifth. Facts and figures: Eagles come off their 6 point loss to 1st placed Bulldogs having won their prior 6 straight. They have won their last 4 at the ground and 4 of their last 5 H2H, they are 9 from 19 when conceding the start. The Cowboys have won 2 of their last 3 at the ground, have won 7 from 12 on the road this season and have enjoyed a positive record when with the + line start winning 7 of 11.

The key issue with this game is the various injury issues surrounding the Eagles and their likely final line up. Matai is an out, Lyon highly unlikely (my info remains that he will not play) Tony Williams, Glenn Stewart, Watmough and Galuvao are all carrying injuries out of last or prior weeks (as would many for all sides at this time of the year), each are expected to play but their performance may well be hampered to some degree. The Cowboys have lost Payne but are lucky to have a suitable replacement in Segeyaro.

The likely out of Lyon and loss of Matai and David Williams (season ending injury) will leave the Eagles with two reshuffled edges whichever way Toovey chooses to go which will impact on the effectiveness of their edge attack but critically leave them very venerable in defence. One of the Cowboys key strengths is the quality, combination and finishing skills of either edge in attack, at various time this year they have lead the competition for line breaks and tries on either the right or then the left sides. With Thurston and Bowen’s ability read, direction and link of their play so effectively to either edge (as they did again in dismantling the Broncos last week) the Cowboys should be playing this to their advantage.

I’m sure the Eagles will improve, they lacked composure and patience in trying to play too tough last week and offered one of their poorer performances of recent months. Cherry Evans was ordinary, Foran quite, Whare exposed; they are far better than this but a) can they get the job done across 80 mins given the various injury issues they are dealing with and b) effectively defend their edges?

The Cowboys will also play this differently through the middle which should be to their advantage. They have two big international  front rowers in Scott and Tamou and like to plough forward and play direct to provide them room off which to play. A physical game through the middle might not necessarily be what the Eagles want right now.

The Cowboys hold the aces. They’ll need some patience and composure, they’ll also need to play physically through the middle. If they do Thurston and Bowen have the guile and skill to capitalise and they should then do the business via their edges. Cowboys

Last Word: Cowboys can win. It won’t be a walk in the park as the Eagles are a quality side and will improve, but this looks the week where they are right up against it. Keen on Cowboys.

Betting Interest: No need to get to fancy, back the Cowboys H2H. If you wish you could spec them with the tri bet option over 6.5 (around $3).  

 

Rabbits v Raiders

Homebush: 7.45pm Saturday

Opening Pricing and Lines – Rabbits $1.53 / -6.5 v Raiders $2.50 / +6.5

Any market moves: Rabbits have continued to firm all week, $1.53 > $1.43. The Raiders have blown to $2.90.

Facts and figures: The Rabbits are at their best at Homebush, they’ve won 9 of their last 10 here. H2H they have won the last 3 but lost the prior 4. The Rabbits have been good when conceding the start, they are 9 from 14 with most of those games against lower placed sides where they have consistently won. The Raiders away record has been good this yr, 7 from 12, they have a 50% record at the ground (across their last 10 games), they are 11 from 18 when with the plus start but interestingly they have won their last 5 straight with the start.

Both sides lose their left centre, King for the Rabbits and Croker for the Raiders. Both are notable outs but Croker is critical for the Raiders given his points scoring record (both tries and goals).

Whichever way we dice it the Rabbits were very poor last week. Yes they were on the wrong side of the early penalty count (5-1 against) but they were also their own worst enemy with some basic errors and ordinary edge defensive reads. But, once again when facing up to a credentialed contender they again fell well short as they had done recently against the Sharks and Eagles. The concern now has to be how they mentally handle things and the pressure moving forward.

As the side finishing 3rd with a near impeccable record at the ground they should be the $1.40 favs, and on their best they should be winning but this might not be straight forward. They need quality disciplined efforts from Luke and Taylor; Reynolds and Sutton need to play more direct and stand up amongst the semi final pressure and clearly they need a very strong game from Inglis. Some ball play from Sam Burges, Luke and or off Taylor will also help their cause as last week when under the pump they fell into a very pedestrian single pass game that became easy to defend.

The Raiders have a sizeable forward offering so the battle through the middle will be interesting. They’ve relied on a simple game plan through recent months of working forward with little second phase or offload play to then allow McCrone (right), Williams (left) or Dugan some room to play to either edge.

The Raiders will also benefit from the lack of pressure and expectation. They are now not expected to win, a finals position (and home finals win) is beyond what anyone would have thought and will now be applauded whenever it comes to an end. And right now off the back of their winning run they have some belief. They are certainly a momentum and confidence team (v Storm, Bulldogs, first half last week) but they to can quickly fall apart (first half v Warriors, 15 minute period through the second half last week). If they can start well here and or get some early points things could get very interesting.

The games there for the Rabbits to lose. They come through a far stronger form line, return home, are at near full strength and have some quality game winners in Burgess and Inglis. We keep expecting the Rabbits to deliver in these big games, as yet they haven’t, this week there’s no second chance. Tipping the Rabbits but I’m not convinced that it’s straight forward. Rabbits

Last Word: Rabbits should bounce up, but rolled gold long odds on good things they are not.  

Betting Interest: The Rabbits have faltered the last 3 times when expected to aim up, now is not the time to step in.

 

Interests

All bets are listed with –

1) a confidence rating (between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest) and

2) a staking rating (up to 5 units)

For example a bet will be listed as:  Storm 4 units Line -9.5 $1.80

The number 4 represents both the confidence and staking rating (out of 5) for this suggested bet.

Staking

The total weekly bet outlay will vary each week but will be approximately 15 to 25 units. My recommendation is that you 1) settle on a weekly unit dollar outlay that suits your weekly betting bank, and then 2) bet consistently to the listed weekly recommended bets. Best Bets. An additional approach and bank is recommended to bet nominated Best Bets, either with a level stake or with the suggested unit outlay. A more detailed Staking outline and example sheet is available on request, email:  contact@readingtheplay.com

Finals Week 2 Bet List

Cowboys 6 units H2H  $1.90       BEST BET

If you are looking for an additional interest around the Cowboys I would suggest a spec at the tri bet over 6.5 (around the $3 mark). I will wait until Saturday to finalise but at this stage I won’t be recommending any bet options into the Rabbits v Raiders game.

Bet Prices: Nominated beside each bet is the price taken at the time of finalising this information (and will then be used when updating all results). Don’t hesitate to look around and obtain the best possible price and or option of your choice.

Alternative Line or Bet types: A broad range of alternate or pick your own lines or betting types are now available from all betting agencies. I chose to consider all options to suit each game and final betting recommendation, including the use of shorter and or longer lines, margins, tri bet or similar and suggest that members look to do the same so as to potentially frame your bet options to your possible advantage.

 

https://readingtheplay.com

Twitter @ReadingThePlay

Twitter @RTP_NFL

©Copyright Reading The Play 

All care taken. No responsibility accepted. Please check all information at your own discretion. Any prices quoted for suggested bets are accurate at the time of writing. For personal use ONLY. This information may not be reproduced in any way whatsoever or re-used for any purpose whatsoever without the prior written permission of Reading The Play.

 

NRL – Finals Week 1 – Preview & Betting A...

Finals Wk 1 Preview NRL 2012

Some History

There are two key factors that will influence this finals series, as it has year after year.

Representative 7 or 6

There is lots of talk about the key game breakers for each of the semi final sides, and the likely impact expected (or required) for any of these sides to turn their opportunity as a contender into a title. One interesting and key factor often overlooked is that across the last 35 years of finals footy in just about every one of those years the eventual title winner has contained and or been directed by a representative (Test or Origin) half or five eight (quality play maker).

Four sides in this year’s series have it, Eagles, Storm, Cowboys, Sharks. The Broncos could be argued as an inclusion (Wallace) but it is 4 years since that rep football. So the Bulldogs, Rabbits and Raiders face a task against history.

Top 4

I’m sure that most readers would be aware that since this finals format has been used in either NRL or AFL only one side has come from outside the top 4 to then win the title (Bulldogs from sixthspot in 1995).

Looking Ahead

The Eagles look very hard to beat and should they get through Friday nights cracker against the Bulldogs then they will be. They are laced with experience, quality and class and have shown through recent weeks that they almost have gears in their ability to do what’s required. The longer term question about the Eagles has been having climbed the mountain last year if and how strongly did the fire still burn, and certainly there have been occasions during the year where motivation and injury have looked questionable issues but as only a class act can they can smell the business end of the season and off the back of 6 straight wins are now positioned in fourth spot to mount their defence. They are at their right price ($3.00) but if they gain a week off and then passage into the final day with little injury then I’m sure that they’ll then be very very warm favourites at somewhere around the $1.40 quote.

Online and SMS Updates

Further to the positive use and feedback last weekend I will be doing a pre game update prior to each finals game through to Grand Final day. It certainly doesn’t appear as a weekend where we will have the various possibilities in play as we did last week but last minute weather and or key injury / outs may well impact in some areas. The online title message of this preview (and its content) will be updated to indicate any new update and a new sms will also be sent out. If you would like to be included in the free sms blast just drop an email request through to contact@readingtheplay.com

Update : 2pm Sunday

If you are betting in or into the two games tomorrow / Saturday I would suggest that this be done today. I understand that the Storm have at least 3 key injury concerns (Ryles, Lowrie, Chambers) with all 3 in doubt for tomorows game v Rabbits. The visitors (Rabbits) continue to firm at the + line, many places into to 2.5 now. The other information is that Thaiday will be a late withdrawal for the Broncos, he has been playing with a busted shoulder for many weeks now and I’m sure this late news will also tighten further the market pricing.

The Bulldogs continue to firm into this evenings game, H2H $2.15 to $2.05 and the +2.5 Line in to $1.80. I think this is more market adjustments with this looking a close contest, closer than the original gap of $2.15 v $1.70 especially given the Bulldogs strong public following.

I have now added an additional bet with the Rabbits H2H.

Sunday: Graham now a likely late inclusion for the Sharks, a major plus. Dugan and Williams will play for the Raiders but injured. Like the Sharks chances, think they’ll aim up here, happy to risk the Raiders as short priced favs under expectation. Adding one additional small play as 1 unit spec Sharks 13+.

As for the weekend results to date, Eagles stumbled badly and are in soem deep trouble from here on, Bulldogs did well and advance. Storm very disciplined offering, Rabbits disgraceful. Cowboys did as expected.

Finals Wk 1 bet list

Eagles 4 units -2.5 $1.95

Rabbits 3 units H2H $2.30

Rabbits 3 units +4.5 $1.82

Cowboys 4 units -5.5  $1.81       BEST BET

Sharks 3 units H2H $2.40

Sharks 4 units +4.5  $1.85

Sharks 1 unit 13+ $5.75

All Up 4 units Eagles +12.5 $1.21 x Cowboys H2H $1.47

 

Bulldogs v Eagles

Homebush: 7.40pm Friday

Opening Pricing and Lines – Bulldogs $2.15 / +2.5  Eagles $1.70 / -2.5

Any market moves: Bulldogs H2H ($2.10) and Line slight firmers

First plays fourth to open the finals, and what a cracking game this looks. Facts and figures: Bulldogs have won their last 8 straight at the ground; have won 2 of their last 6 H2H and have won 6 of their 12 games v top 8 sides. With the start the Bulldogs are 6 from 7 year to date and have won with the start (plus or minus) at 8 of their last 10. The Eagles have won 7 of their last 10 at the ground and have won 6 of 9 against top 8 sides. A further key factor in the Eagles favour is their quality away record winning 9 of 14. Conceding the start they are 9 from 18 but have won with the start (plus or minus) at 7 of their last 10.

In short I think the game is priced about right and neither side carries any significant advantage or disadvantage through key information (ground, H2H, at the spread, etc).

These two sides have played each other twice this year with two very close encounters, the Eagles winning game 1 at this ground 12-10, the Bulldogs coming from behind to win at Brookvale 20-12. I think there were a number of key factors were remembering through the second game, the Eagles had come off a bad bout of flu through their camp (and had been trounced accordingly the week prior by the Knights), Brett Stewart didn’t play and this was Glenn Stewarts first game back from a long out with injury.

Haslers influence on the Bulldogs this year has been outstanding but this is a significant test. They have had their moments through recent weeks including the questionable offering in Canberra but it’s difficult to pot anything of what they are doing. Lack of finals experience is certainly a factor also how their 7 aims up against this style of opposition defence and harassment. They have a clever mix of attacking options for the final 30 mtr zone with variations of run around or decoy plays to their left or right, they have big forwards who can tip of or off load and then the class of the little star at the back and what an outstanding year he has had.

Right now I think the Eagles come through a stronger form line and have the class and experience to stand up in a key game which will afford the winner a week off. Three of their last five wins have been over top 6 sides, each with some authority (Broncos, Rabbits, Cowboys) two of them away. Unlike the last battle at Brookvale they will arrive here better prepared with both Stewarts now run into match fitness and form and their recent offerings showing the signs of class and seriousness toward the final day that matters. What the Eagles do bring is one of if not the best defence in the competition and that will be critical in reading and shutting down the various attacking options that the Bulldogs will play.

Great contest. If the Bulldogs where playing anyone else this week I’d be tipping them, but this Eagles side is very good. I like the form line that they have come through and for mine they have the class and experience edge. Eagles

Last Word: Like what the Eagles are doing and where they might be headed. Backing their class to get them home.

Betting Interest: Happy to play the short line with the Eagles of -2.5.  

 

Storm v Rabbits

Melbourne: 5.45pm Saturday

Opening Pricing and Lines – Storm $1.65 / -4.5  Rabbits $2.25 / +4.5

Any market moves: Rabbits at the Line has firmed slightly with 3.5 the common position now (4.5 still available in some places).

Facts and figures: Storm have won 9 of their last 12 at home / ground and have a dominant recent record H2H winning 11 of the last 12; have won 8 of their 12 games v top 8 sides (but a large majority of those in the first half of the season). The Storm are 12 from 22 conceding the start year to date and a poor 2 from their last 10 with the start (plus or minus). The Rabbits have not won in Melbourne, are 6 from 12 away, are 6 from 10 ytd when with a start and 7 from their last 10 at the start.

The key to this game is where and how we chose to place the recent form offerings of both sides up against the obvious hurdles that the Rabbits face.

The Storm have really struggled post Origin and but for their outstanding start to the season might well be very lucky to start this finals series from a top 4 spot. Yes they have won their last 5 but a closer look through their last 4 poses many questions as to the quality of that run. They could and should have come up second against the Titans and the Sharks (Titans led comfortable yet lost 3 key players with injury only to falter, the Sharks blew a two try margin with a last minute loss), they scraped home in Brisbane (questionable video try decision) and then took forever with a mountain of ball and advantage to beat a very disappointing and injured Tigers last week. They could well be limping off the back of a 1 and 9 recent record, not a 5 week winning streak. The sharpness of their attack execution is not there, they’ve lost the dramatic influence of Slater due to his injury, they lack a couple of dominant forwards and defensively they keep getting found out on either the edge of their ruck or their outside edges. Form mine their form has questions all over it and the yare a huge risk, priced on old form and past stats.

The Rabbits have some reasonable form but for mine far more upside and potential. Clearly they have come up short against this opponent and in Melbourne and their recent record when they’ve been asked to step up against top of the table contenders has been shallow (Sharks, Eagles), but I think they get their chance here against an opponent who is struggling. The Rabbits are close, and I think against some issues we might see them stand up here. They have attacking strike at 9 and 6, world class at 1, Sam Burgess and Taylor capable of hurting the Storm on the edges and they have quality wingers who can trouble them where they have already had some problems. Anything near their best and I’m sure they can win here. They come through a tough win last week in Newcastle at a another venue where they have had a terrible record and did so against a Knights side up for their old boys weekend.

I don’t like the Storm’s current form and I think they are very poorly priced on past deeds, the ground and H2H advantage but not their current form. Happy to back the Rabbits here to show us what’s been promised. Rabbits

Last Word: Some risk on the road but the Rabbits form should give this a real shake.  

Betting Interest: Bet the +4.5 line, I think they can win outright but let’s take the insurance as well.

 

Cowboys v Broncos

Townsville: 7.45pm Saturday

Opening Pricing and Lines – Cowboys $1.43 / -7.5  Broncos $2.85 / +7.5

Any market moves: Broncos on the drift, the more  common Line is 6.5.

Facts and figures: Cowboys have won 8 of their last 12 at home / ground and 3 of their prior 4 H2H, have won 6 of their 11 games v top 8 sides. They are 7 from 13 at the minus start and have covered the line (plus or minus) at 7 of their last 10. The Broncos have limped into September having lost 6 of their last 7, they have won 5 of their last 6 at the ground and 5 of 12 away this season. With the start they are 3 from 6, but importantly at the start (plus or minus) they are only 1 from their last 10.

The Cowboys have Scott back (rested last week) and return home off a positive Sydney win. If there is a side in the bottom four who can play deep into September then it’s certainly the Cowboys, they have an excellent mix and balance of size, skill and speed with then the direction and class from Thurston and Bowen. They play this ground well and will have the added advantage of a full home crowd in support. There is a lot to like about the form of the Cowboys through their last 4 games, they were close to the Eagles at home then have won key away games when under some pressure at Wollongong and Cronulla.

The Broncos form speaks for itself through the last 2 months with the combination of Origin and inexperienced youth taking its toll on their season. Yes they do come through a pretty tough form line (Eagles, Storm, Bulldogs, Raiders) but they are somewhat like the Storm in struggling with their execution and ability to run out a game (on three of those occasions run down through the second half). Their attack has been very poor with only 3 occasions in their last 9 games where thay have managed more than 14 points and while Griffin has looked to sharpen up their attack through recent weeks with either changes or rotation at 6 and 1and the introduction of some early tackle ball shifts it is still delivering more of the same. On the back of all of this their confidence looks at an all time low.

The games the Cowboys to lose. They have been unlucky not to finish in the top four, the Broncos have been lucky to have been asked to play this weekend. I’m sure the Broncos will look to start well and try and put themselves into the contest but if the Cowboys can weather that opening period they have the ball movement and kicking game to work the Broncos over. Cowboys

Last Word: Cowboys at home in good form should be too strong.  

Betting Interest: Happy to play the line out to -6.5, the safe option would be -5.5.

 

Raiders v Sharks

Canberra: 4pm Sunday

Opening Pricing and Lines – Raiders $1.60 / -4.5  Sharks $2.35 / +4.5

Any market moves: The more common Line point is 3.5 although 4.5 is about.

Facts and figures: Raiders are 6 from 12 at home / ground and have won 4/7 H2H, they are only 4 from 11 against top 8 sides. When conceding the start the Raiders are a poor 2 from 6, they are 7 from their last 10 at the start (plus or minus). The Sharks have won 7 from 12 on the road (including an early season win in Canberra), have won 6 of 11 against top 8 sides (including Storm, Eagles and Rabbits) and have won 11 of 14 with the start, but across their last 10 are only 4 (plus or minus).

If we were to just dice this game up on what looks the suggested recent form then the Raiders would look the obvious, and they’ve been priced accordingly. But I think this game has a number of additional twists and turns to it the major one being the mental approach and strength of either side. The Raiders have shown us a number of times through recent months their difficulty to handle the pressure of expectation – well they are going to have that here in spades as the obvious favourite in front of a full home ground. I think they also run a significant risk this week of mentally having ticked off their achievement in making the semi finals (and 6th position) when least expected (and written off but weeks ago. There were signs of this last week when with results going their way prior to their Warriors game (and their finals position then assured) they dropped their bundle to trail a weak Warriors side 22-6 into half time. What was very obvious was the complete lack of attitude and intensity, in particular in defence. That they turned this position around into the second half didn’t rate with me either, as the Warriors offering was one of the lowest I have watched for many years with through one period them conceding 4 tries on consecutive sets of 6 (three of them sets of play straight from kick offs). Lastly I wonder about their preparation through recent days, coming off a distant away game and returning I believe last Tuesday (shortening their preparation week). I think they are a huge risk.

The Sharks are another who have limped through recent months on the back of numerous injury issues, winning only 2 of their last 9 games but I think they have things made to measure here to give one final shout for the season. They aimed up through prior weeks (Storm, Rabbits) before I think last week having their eyes more on this upcoming semi final that a game that could do nothing more for them as they couldn’t advance on the table. They will get Graham back (key in), possibly Gardner and unlike the Raiders I think there mind set has been about aiming up as best they can in the finals, not just making it. They have a good record against the Raiders, especially in Canberra (winning 6 of their last 8 here) and importantly Coach Flanagan has show us a number of times through the last two seasons that when required he can get them right up to perform. They’ll like the underdog status and having been written off, I think they’ll treat this like a grand final of sorts and really give this just about everything they have left.

The Sharks strength is their defence and willingness to arm wrestle and grind, if they can get into that grove they’ll frustrate the Raiders which will build further pressure on them. I think the Sharks have one big effort left in them and this is it, I think their opponents are a huge risk of having already been spent. Sharks

Last Word: Keen on the Shark, I think they’ll aim up and cause the upset.

Betting Interest: I’ll be playing this both ways, H2H and then with the line start of +4.5.

 

Interests

All bets are listed with –

1) a confidence rating (between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest) and

2) a staking rating (up to 5 units)

For example a bet will be listed as:  Storm 4 units Line -9.5 $1.80

The number 4 represents both the confidence and staking rating (out of 5) for this suggested bet.

Staking

The total weekly bet outlay will vary each week but will be approximately 15 to 25 units. My recommendation is that you 1) settle on a weekly unit dollar outlay that suits your weekly betting bank, and then 2) bet consistently to the listed weekly recommended bets. Best Bets. An additional approach and bank is recommended to bet nominated Best Bets, either with a level stake or with the suggested unit outlay. A more detailed Staking outline and example sheet is available on request, email:  contact@readingtheplay.com

 

Finals Wk 1 bet list

Eagles 4 units -2.5 $1.95

Rabbits 3 units +4.5 $1.82

Cowboys 4 units -5.5  $1.81       BEST BET

Sharks 3 units H2H $2.40

Sharks 4 units +4.5  $1.85

All Up 4 units Eagles +12.5 $1.21 x Cowboys H2H $1.47

 

Bet Prices: Nominated beside each bet is the price taken at the time of finalising this information (and will then be used when updating all results). Don’t hesitate to look around and obtain the best possible price and or option of your choice.

Alternative Line or Bet types: A broad range of alternate or pick your own lines or betting types are now available from all betting agencies. I chose to consider all options to suit each game and final betting recommendation, including the use of shorter and or longer lines, margins, tri bet or similar and suggest that members look to do the same so as to potentially frame your bet options to your possible advantage.

 

NFL – American Gridiron   > started this week, Preview now online

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Complimentary Previews and Betting Recommendations will be provided online for the opening weeks of the season, further information will be advise through the coming days.

 

Twitter @ReadingThePlay

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©Copyright Reading The Play

All care taken. No responsibility accepted. Please check all information at your own discretion. Any prices quoted for suggested bets are accurate at the time of writing. For personal use ONLY. This information may not be reproduced in any way whatsoever or re-used for any purpose whatsoever without the prior written permission of Reading The Play.

Round 13 Preview & Betting Advice NRL 2012

 

Round 13 Preview NRL 2012

 

Titans v Cowboys

Gold Coast : Friday 7.30pm

Titans have won their last two away (Bulldogs, Knights), return home but their record here is very poor winning just 1 of their last 13. Cowboys remain on the road with their second away game, they are 4 from 6 away this yr and have won all four outside of Sydney. H2H, the recent record between the two of them is pretty even. The quality of the Titans form is a little tricky to read; it is winning form and that will breed further confidence however the Bulldogs looked very flat and off their game 3 weeks ago, the Knights then just plain soft last weekend with questionable substance in a number of the tries the Titans scored. Back at home this game should tell us a lot more. Cowboys have won 3 of their last 4, they were close for a long time last week (Tigers) in what looks a strong form game. With them sitting in the middle of a congested top half of the ladder, they’ll be keen to head into their bye next week in winning form. The Cowboys best is a few levels above anything that we have seen from the Titans and I expect them to aim up to that again. Cowboys

Last Word : Cowboys are yet to lose two games back to back, anything near their best should be good enough here.

Betting Interest : With the Cowboys back to back on the road this is not  a game that I intend playing in, but the best options would be the Cowboys at the short line.

 

Eagles v Dragons

Brookvale : Friday 7.30pm

I would suggest a lot of caution with this game. It’s got more twists and turns to it than it looks. Brookvale is a significant advantage for the Eagles having won 13 of their last 14 here, but they have lost their last 4 straight and 12 of their last 15 H2H against the Dragons while the Dragons away record has fallen away dramatically through the last 12 months having now won only one of their last 11 on the road (and that was by one point). Further still the likely line ups and readiness to play for the home side has just as many questions over it, the Eagles have the two Stewarts playing their third game in nine days, King, K Foran and Watmough returning from injury and they lose Matai (and remain without D and T Williams). I’m not sure how strongly the hunger burns with the Eagles this year having climbed the mountain in 2011. Their depth looks decidedly thinner as well and these issues were again on show last weekend in their poor offering against the Panthers. For the time being I’d take them on trust. They may well win here but $1.45 rolled gold good things they are not. The Dragons have their own issues, their attack lacks quality leadership up front, an insistence in playing sideways and too few points on the scoreboard. They too are desperately looking to rediscover some quality winning form. A game best left alone, the Eagles might be good enough to get away with this at home but given the numerous issues that they are currently wrestling with a Dragons upset would not surprise. Eagles

Last Word : Eagles, only because it’s at Brookvale.   

Betting Interest : The only bet options you could entertain is to be taking the Dragons with a line like +8.5.  

 

Raiders v Tigers

Canberra : Saturday 5.30pm

The Raiders may well be lucky and have a cold and miserable evening at home and the return of Dugan and Ferguson in their favour here as right now they appear to need anything they can find to be working for them. They have lost five of their last seven at the ground and 7 of their last 8 H2H while the Tigers have enjoyed a good run at the ground themselves winning their last four here. Dugan is a key in for the Raiders, and they have bitten the bullet and named him at 6 which could well prove a positive move as he does have class and could well sharpen their attack especially on their favoured left side. More importantly they need to be doing something about their defensive problems on that same side (left) where Croker and the combinations inside and outside of him (which continues to change) have struggled, the Rabbits another to expose and exploit this last week. Sadly, they continue to leak near 30 points a week which you can’t win with.  While the Tigers have won their last five straight I would only rate their last three halves as having had any semblance of quality but there is that improvement and they are also better for the return of key players. The Tigers at their recent best should have a kicking game and field position to play the Raiders under consistent pressure. They’ve also the attacking smarts to create some opportunity through the middle and or pepper the Raiders left edge. The Raiders have to be very desperate at 4 from 11, their effort two starts back against the Eagles showed some grit and promise but they have to be taken on trust. Visitors look the obvious. Tigers

Last Word : Tigers should win, but I do expect the Raiders to improve at home and with the return of Dugan.

Betting Interest : Not a  game I want to bet on, but the Tigers look the way if you want to play.

 

Bulldogs v Rabbits

Homebush : Saturday 7.30pm

Great contest on Saturday night which should attract a big support crowd and atmosphere. The Bulldogs have a few hurdles here; Eastwood is out and there is some doubt over Kasiano (but expected to play). They are off a Monday night back up, off the physical Roosters and into their third game in 12 days.  Although winning well enough through the second half last Monday night I did think it was quite noticeable that the big Roosters forwards had made considerable yardage through the middle, and in turn had physically given the Bulldogs a fair working over which I think sets them up to be quite vulnerable here. There is a lot to like about what they are doing, in particular the quality of their attack, but they may also carry some tired bodies into this. The Rabbits also come through a strong run of form winning their last four, with Inglis in sensational touch, they have the skill at 9 and 1 to open the tempo and speed of this game up to their advantage. There is an issue of some lazy defensive periods where they drop their concentration and they’ve been good enough to get themselves out of trouble a few times but it is something that they do need to change. Regardless of the games billing I think the Bulldogs are a major risk this week. I also like the Rabbits recent attack and they’ve shown a liking to lift for these key games (Sharks, Cowboys). I think they can aim up again. Rabbits

Last Word : Good contest, Rabbits might get their opponents at the right time.  

Betting Interest : Happy to back the Rabbits here H2H.  

 

Warriors v Storm

Auckland : Sunday 2pm

I don’t think the Storm get everything to suit here. If there has been one side who has troubled them through recent years it has been the Warriors, the record evenly split at three each through their last six, importantly the Warriors now hold a healthy home ground advantage having now won nine of their last 10 here. As we know the Warriors have a big physical pack of forwards (and support bench) and when focused on the task can dominate through the middle and set themselves up winning positions, again witnessed through their first 40 minute domination (or rag doll) effort over the Tigers two weeks ago. But, as we then saw, they can be prone to dumb errors which invite their opponent back into the game. From half time onwards the combination of two penalties and two handling errors saw the Tigers then dominate possession with 12 of the first 14 sets of 6 with the ball and an 18 point turn around. The Storm are troubled when worn over through the middle. They fell into a mid field slug out against the Warriors a number of weeks ago in Melbourne and it wasn’t until late that they then got the upper hand, they now have four key forward outs which has really thinned their forward list of size and depth (Norrie, Manu, Proctor and Greenfield all out) and I think left them very vulnerable. I think the Warriors hold the key to this game; they are at their best at home, they have the physical list to make an impact and set themselves up, they just need to retain their composure and discipline for an 80 minute effort. I think they can, their recent scalps here includes the Broncos and Rabbits. There is always some degree of risk with them but I’m game this week. Warriors

Last Word : Warriors discipline is always a risk but they have a considerable forward advantage here which I think will get them home.

Betting Interest : Best way to play the Warriors is with a line start, I suggest you take something like +7.5, you might want to also spec the value with H2H price.

 

Broncos v Knights

Brisbane : Sunday 3pm

Keen on the Broncos here. They come off three defeats but will return to full strength with key inclusions of Thaiday and Hodges. They have a 9 day turn around off their Origin and away games and importantly play at home where they have an imposing record (winning 12 of their last 14). They have won eight of the last 13 H2H v the Knights, the last three straight, while the Knights have lost their last three at the ground and have a 41% away record. Clearly the Knights are in a lot of trouble at four from 11, leaking near 30 at most of their recent starts. Worse still, the majority of the tries that the Titans scored against them last weekend looked incredibly soft. Buderus for mine looks to be again carrying injury (if indeed he plays). They are down on confidence, distant away game, against a side that can hurt you with ball play and shift. I think the Broncos will go bang here and make a bit of a statement, when in the right mood they can blow an opponent away very quickly (Dragons, Raiders), I expect something similar here. Broncos

Last Word : Broncos look the best of the round, I think they’ll win well.

Betting Interest : The margin 13+ or a similar line look the right plays (already heavily supported), it may well get ugly.  

 

Eels v Sharks

Parramatta : Monday 7pm

We were close with the Eels last week and they certainly got their chance but even at home this looks a far tougher assignment. At home the Eels have been poor losing seven of their last eight. They’ve also lost six of their last eight against the Sharks while the visitors have won five of their last six at the ground. While the Eels were close last week I have a number of concerns out of that game. Firstly the let down of having built themselves up, getting so close but still no result; their poor attack execution has to be a worry, they had enough ball and field position to win three games yet had no idea what to do with it. Also, it looked to my eye that Hindmarsh was carrying a leg injury of some sort through the back end of that game. If they were to lose him prior to or during this then the task gets even harder. Sharks came off a rich vein of form (including the Storm) with a poor, flat effort against the Rabbits prior to their bye. I have no doubt that that will have sharpened them up for this. Importantly they get Gallen and Carney back, the latter will improve their kicking game and attack options and I’m sure he’ll be out to play well off the back of his disappointing Origin offering. The Sharks defend well, they have a long, quality kicking game, a smart attack play with ball play and off loads, all of which I think spells trouble for the Eels this week. Some weeks are not the right week to get a particular opponent, I think that’s the case here. Sharks

Last Word : Keen on the Sharks, I expect them to aim up and be back in winning form.

Betting Interest : Like the Sharks at what for mine looks a short line.

 

Recommended Bets

3 units Rabbits H2H $1.85

4 units Warriors Line +7.5 $1.67

4 units Broncos Margin 13+ $1.91          BEST BET

4 units Sharks Line -5.5 $1.91          BEST BET

4 units Broncos Line -7.5 $1.47 x Sharks  H2H $1.50

4 units Broncos Margin 13+ $1.91 x Sharks Line -5.5 $1.91

 

All recommended bets are listed with –

1) a confidence rating (between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest) and

2) a staking rating (up to 5 units)

The total weekly bet outlay will vary each week but is likely to be approximately 20 odd units. My recommendation is that you 1) settle on a weekly unit dollar outlay that suits your weekly betting bank, and then 2) bet consistently to the listed weekly recommended bets.

Best Bets. An additional approach and bank can be used to bet nominated Best Bets, either with a level stake or with the suggested unit outlay.

 

Results : Year To Date

All Bets

2012 Bets Winners % Units Bet Units Return Profit / Loss POT %
YTD 67 30 44.78% 198 225.30 27.3 13.79%
R 12 6 2 33.33% 23 12.72 (10.28) (44.70)%

Best Bet

2012 Bets Winners % Units Bet Units Return Profit / Loss POT %
YTD 10 9 90% 41 64.73 23.73 57.88%
R 12 1 1 100% 4 6.56 2.56 64.00%

POT = Profit On Turnover                  A full table of week to week results is available on the website.

Bet Prices: Nominated beside each bet is the price taken at the time of finalising this information (and will then be used when updating all results). Don’t hesitate to look around and obtain the best possible price and or option of your choice.

Alternative Line or Bet types: A broad range of alternate or pick your own lines or betting types are now available from all betting agencies. I chose to consider all options to suit each game and final betting recommendation, including the use of shorter and or longer lines, margins, tri bet or similar and suggest that members look to do the same so as to potentially frame your bet options to your possible advantage.

 

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Preview Season 2012 NRL

 

What an interesting  pre season build up we have into 2012, almost unlike any other! The premiership title winners lose their coach within days of their success, their grand final opponents also chose to make a change and we see the 2010 Dally M winner sacked! Wayne Bennett has moved to the Newcastle Knights and in total almost half the 16 clubs start the season with a new head Coach (Eagles; Dragons; Warriors; Knights, Bulldogs; Rabbits and Panthers).

Let’s cast an eye and opinion over each club as we preview the new season.

Brisbane Broncos

Additions: Luke Capewell (Titans), Petero Civoniceva (Panthers), Nick Slyney (Cowboys)
Losses: Darren Lockyer (retirement), Denan Kemp (rugby union – mid-season move – Dragons), Shea Moylan (Storm), Shane Tronc (retirement), Justin Hunt (Rabbitohs), Nick Kenny (retired)
2012 Coach: Anthony Griffin

Broncos Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 3 24 18 0 6 2 511 21.3 372 15.5 40 139
2010 10 24 11 0 13 2 208 21.2 535 22.3 26 -27
2009 6 24 14 0 10 2 511 21.3 566 23.6 32 -55

Market Prices: Premiership Title $11   Top 4 $2.75    Miss 8 $2.50    Wooden Spoon $34

A very interesting year ahead for the Bronc’s post Lockyer. Griffin did a very good job in his first year, most notably improving their defence quite dramatically (dropping them from conceding 23 a game to 15), but 2012 will certainly test him as life without a superstar playmaker will be very different for them all (they’ve only won 28% of their games without him in the past!). Does the Knights post Johns, Roosters post Fittler and so on ring a bell?

Clearly they have done very well through recent years to bloody their next generation, with significant positive results and have rightly backed that squad into this year while letting Petro return for a benefit season. I think they still have a question if not weakness at 9 and they now need a suitable replacement at 6, they’ll need quality outcomes in these two key roles to be a major contender. I also have a question over their attack, for much of 2011 they were somewhat one dimensional and that was with Lockyer who either called or played near every play. I’m certainly not convinced that the changes into 2012 will be as easy as most think.

Certainly the Broncos will be competitive, but for mine I expect them to be a level or two under their 2011 effort. The NRL is a long tough competitive season, as it wears on I’ve no doubt they’ll be many moments if not results where the missing Lockyer gold polish would have been the difference. It’s just not something that you replace that easily.

Bottom half of the top 8.

Play: Although competitive are not a top 4 play for mine.

 

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Additions: Des Hasler (Eagles) James Graham (St Helens), Luke MacDougall (Saracens), James Gavett (Warriors)
Losses: Jamal Idris (Titans), Michael Hodgson (retiring), Ben Roberts (Eels), Andrew Ryan (retirement), Chris Armit (Panthers), Mickey Paea (English Super League), Aidan Sezer (Titans), Gary Warburton (Celtic Crusaders, ESL), Junior Tia-Kilifi (Panthers), Brad Morrin (retired), Michael Lett (released), Grant Millington (Castleford)
2012 Coach: Des Hasler

Bulldogs Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 9 24 12 0 12 2 449 18.7 489 20.4 28 -40
2010 13 24 9 0 15 2 494 20.6 539 22.5 22 -45
2009 2 24 18 0 6 2 575 24.0 428 17.8 38 147

Market Prices: Premiership Title $11   Top 4 $3.10    Miss 8 $2.20    Wooden Spoon $26

Well, well, well, look what the offseason dragged in! An outstanding coup with the signing of Hasler, and then his influence to bring with him his entourage of high quality support staff. Hasler has matured into an outstanding coach imo, his rebuilding of the Eagles so quickly back into a premiership winning club, and then the quality of their year in 2011 certainly testament to this (the rank stupidity in how in the hell he was ever allowed to leave we’ll deal with later). If I was a betting man I have no doubt that he will deliver a premiership to the Bulldogs at some stage in his tenure.

So what of 2012? They’ve been an underachieving list for the last 2 years (9th and 13th), even though backed by a preparedness to spend and purchase, that poor performance is an attitude issue and I’m sure Hasler will have shaken this right up in preparation for the new season. James Graham is a quality acquisition but the new coach will be working with a list not of his making so it might well take a year to massage it into the shape that he wants. 6 is certainly an issue and they need a much better offering from Hodginson at 7, they have a class 9 who I think with the new influences leading him forward plus the captaincy will only blossom. If Hasler can bring the best out of Pritchard and Eastwood, and consistently, then they will be well on their way.

The crystal ball question is how quickly the improvement comes. For mine they’ll be on the up curve this year, they’ll be very competitive most weeks and sit somewhere on the bottom half of the 8 for much of the season. I think they’ll also continue to stir things up of the field making a number of key signings as the year unfolds toward 2013 and beyond. If you are a Doggies supporter I’d strap yourself in for the ride, ensure you have a membership and look forward to the fun years ahead.

Bottom half of the top 8.

Play:  On the improve but no betting options of appeal.

 

Canberra Raiders

Additions: Shaun Berrigan (Warriors)
Losses: Alan Tongue (retirement), Josh Miller (Dragons), Daniel Vidot (Dragons), Danny Galea (Panthers), Matt Orford (released)
2012 Coach: David Furner

Raiders Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 15 24 6 0 18 2 423 17.6 623 26.0 16 -200
2010 7 24 13 0 11 2 499 20.8 493 20.5 30 6
2009 13 24 9 0 15 2 489 20.4 520 21.7 22 -31

Market Prices: Premiership Title $26   Top 4 $7.00    Miss 8 $1.43    Wooden Spoon $9

The Raiders are an enigma. They pulled everyone’s pants down in 2011, including their own, after promising so much with the quality of their late run home in 2010. Yet they were then error ridden with the ball most weeks through 2011, most times pathetic in defence leaking an average of 26 points each week (30 points or more on 7 occasions), terrible stuff. They won only 6 games, with only 4 at home a venue which in the past had been a significant advantage.

I just can’t see where the improvement is coming from. Aside from their positive run home in 2010 their offering through the last 3 years has been consistently poor (winning just 20 of 63). They’ve the same coach, same list, as a Raiders supporter one would hope they don’t continue with the same problems. One would also hope that they’ve had a very positive offseason, done some significant work on their attitude and technically on their defence. Time will tell.

A fit and in form Campese will certainly improve them, and at their attacking best the Raiders are a pleasure to watch, but it’s their attitude and defence that they need to have really done some work on and be getting right to make any sort of improvement into 2012. For mine I can’t see it, I have them pegged as a bottom 8 side, probably somewhere around 12th spot.

Middle of the bottom 8.

Play:  No Interest, leave well alone.

 

Cronulla Sutherland Sharks

Additions: Mark Taufua (Knights), Jeff Robson (Eels), Sam Tagataese (Titans – mid season), Bryce Gibbs (Tigers), Andrew Fifita (Tigers), Jon Green (Dragons), Isaac De Gois (Knights), Ben Ross (Rabbitohs), Todd Carney (Roosters)
Losses: Luke Douglas (Titans), Kade Snowden (Knights), Taulima Tautai (Eels), Ryan Tongia (Wakefield), Dean Collis (Wakefield), Tim Smith (Wakefield)
2012 Coach: Shane Flanagan

Sharks Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 13 24 7 0 17 2 428 17.8 557 23.2 18 -129
2010 14 24 7 0 17 2 354 14.8 609 25.4 18 -255
2009 15 24 5 0 19 2 359 15.0 568 23.7 14 -209

Market Prices: Premiership Title $21   Top 4 $7.00    Miss 8 $1.43    Wooden Spoon $7

I’m a rap for the coach, under difficult circumstances he’s done an excellent job to date and he was handed a lemon that was all but squeezed dry! He made major changes (positive) to their attack patterns in 2011 and it was obvious that week in week out they came with a different plan for each opponent. They were a touch unlucky early in the yr with a number of near misses (Eagles, Knights) but their reliance on Gallen and thin depth again wore them down as the season unfolded.

Douglas and Snowden are key losses, and while they have been active in signing a number of players and rotating their list other than Carney their arrivals still look somewhat thin on real class and quality. Carney is the key to where they head in 2012; there’s no doubting his ability, let’s hope for all concerned that his mindset is similar to his start up at the Roosters when performance was very important to him. Given that he is running short on ‘next’ options I’m happy to be backing him in, and certainly everything I hear suggests that his training and approach to date has been first class.

I have them pegged as competitive, and on the up but a touch of luck will be the difference between mid table or bottom 4. Flanagan employs a good work ethic, they turn up more often than not, but they need Carney right and a few more around he and Gallen to step up consistently for their table climb to happen.

Improvers, somewhere around 8th to 10th.

Play:  No Interest, there’s no market to suit them. 

 

Gold Coast Titans

Additions: Jamal Idris (Bulldogs), Luke Douglas (Sharks), Nate Myles (Roosters), Beau Henry (Knights – mid-season), Beau Falloon (Rabbitohs), Beau Champion (Storm), Phil Graham (Roosters), Aidan Sezer (Bulldogs)
Losses: Preston Campbell (retirement), Nathan Friend (Warriors), Anthony Laffranchi (St Helens), Brad Meyers (retirement – mid-season), Esi Tonga (Eels), Sam Tagataese (Sharks – mid season), Joseph Tomane (ACT Brumbies), Will Matthews (Dragons), Mat Rogers (retirement), Luke Capewell (Broncos), Clinton Toopi (retirement), Shannon Walker (rugby union)
2012 Coach: John Cartwright

Titans Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 16 24 6 0 18 2 363 15.1 629 26.2 16 -266
2010 4 24 15 0 9 2 520 21.7 498 20.8 34 22
2009 3 24 16 0 8 2 514 21.4 467 19.5 36 47

Market Prices: Premiership Title $34   Top 4 $8.00    Miss 8 $1.30    Wooden Spoon $6

Interestingly enough these were my pre season thoughts on the Titans in early Feb 2011.

I think there’s a fair chance the bubble might burst this yr for the Titans. They’ve stuck with the same list pretty much for 2 yrs now, yet in each of the last two semi final series they’ve been shown up as slow, tired and not in the same league as those that mattered for the business end of season stuff. They have also had imo a decent share of luck, forever winning most of the close games, or many with little margin.

A few weeks into the season we backed them at $13 for the spoon, the rest as they say is history.

So what’s changed? They are another with high list rotation, a couple of solid workers for their pack (Douglas, Myles), Idris has potential but he has a long way to go yet to be a star top grader; Champion is capable but not stand out class. Friend, Campbell and Laffranchi leave considerable holes, they still need to settle on a quality 6; still carry some aging players and they need to hope that the promise shown to date in the young 9 can blossom. Of even greater need is a return by Prince to his best, week in week out, he’s a class act and regularly relied upon to lift a rather average outfit.

Maybe their list is a little stronger than last year, it would need to be, but it still looks well short on high class quality with their 7 their only star game breaker. They struggle on the road, their home track is not as tough a challenge as it once was for visitors, no thanks I’ll be happy to be laying them again this year. Bottom 6 contender.

Bottom 6.

Play:  No Interest, no value in the obvious nonperformance options (missing the 8 or Spoon).  

 

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Additions: Ben Farrar (Catalan Dragons)
Losses: Des Hasler (Bulldogs), Will Hopoate (Mormon mission), Shane Rodney (Harlequins, Super League), Michael Robertson (London Harlequins)
2012 Coach: Geoff Toovey

Eagles Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 2** 24 18 0 6 2 539 22.5 331 13.8 40 208
2010 8 24 12 0 12 2 545 22.7 510 21.3 28 35
2009 5 24 14 0 10 2 549 22.9 459 19.1 32 90

Market Prices: Premiership Title $9   Top 4 $3.00    Miss 8 $2.25    Wooden Spoon $17

Dear oh dear, talk about being asleep at the wheel. You can dress it up whichever way you wish, but for a club to have managed the negotiations and contract extension with an already title winning coach and then likely contender (2012) as unprofessionally as the Eagles management did through the second half of last year is just disgraceful. Numerous Eagles supporters would probably (and rightly) add a few additional choice statements! I still shake my head to think that such an outstanding year could so quickly turn to you know what, within days of a premiership celebration.

And now for 2012. With the off field backbone of the place ripped out (head coach, assistant coach, mind coach and conditioning coach, amongst others) the title holders have a rookie coach and new support team. Off field they obviously have a dysfunctional board and management team, including a rookie CEO. Thank goodness the players can play! Then to start their year they have a trip to England then their first 4 games away from Brookvale, they could well be in some trouble right from the outset.

As Jack Gibson often said, winning starts in the front office, yet apart from that mess they’ve also had all of their highly successful coaching staff exit. I would be happy to bet London to a brick on that further troubles await them in 2012, be that board room, management, poor performance or retention issues (they have a long list of quality players off contract), and more than likely all four. For their players to be able to play, let alone carve any success out of all of this will be a miracle and only elevate them further as an outstanding outfit. But for the fact that they do have a quality playing group they might be able to hang on somewhere around the bottom few of the top 8, but 2012 aint going to look anything like 2011 and they’ll be plenty of value picking the right games to be laying them.

No thanks. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . . .

7th or 8th, just. A bigger slide would be no surprise.

Play:  No Interest, even the bookies have them short to miss the 8!! 

 

Melbourne Storm

Additions: Ryan Hoffman (Wigan), Jack Afamasaga (Racing Club Lescure Arthes XIII – mid-season), Shea Moylan (Broncos), Jason Ryles (Roosters), Michael Greenfield (Dragons), Will Chambers (Qld Reds, Rugby)
Losses: Adam Blair (Tigers), Chase Stanley (Dragons), Beau Champion (Titans), Atelea Vea (Dragons), Robbie Rochow (Knights), Troy Thompson (retirement), Adam Woolnough (retirement), Dane Chisholm (Tigers)
2012 Coach: Craig Bellamy

Storm Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 1 24 19 0 5 2 521 21.7 308 12.8 42 213
2010 16 24 14 0 10 2 489 20.4 363 15.1 2 126
2009 4** 24 14 1 9 2 505 21.0 348 14.5 33 157

Market Prices: Premiership Title $9   Top 4 $2.25    Miss 8 $2.50    Wooden Spoon $34

Obviously it’s been a few years of considerable change and rotation at the Storm, following on from their Salary Cap scandal issues in 2010. With all of that dislocation and rotation Bellamy did an outstanding job to again have them competing in 2011 as a top of the table contender. Yes they have the advantage of world class individuals in 3 critical positions (Smith, Cronk, Slater) but with all of their comings and goings Bellamy was able to a) reinvent a number of tried and tested players, and b) pull together a competitive team prepared to put in each and every week. And amongst this has been the emergence of a number of youngsters through their system like Widdop, Duffie, Nielsen, Proctor and Bromwich.

Their short coming in 2011 was up front, and although not everyone was able to expose it most weeks of the season it came home to roost when it mattered at seasons end with defeats to the Eagles, Roosters and the Warriors led through their middle. Blair is a significant loss, but they’ve added Ryles and Greenfield, quality big forwards who I’m sure will be another two to blossom under Bellamy and the system that he has in place, just like many before them. Hoffman and Chambers are two further positive acquisitions to the list, making them for mine a stronger offering than last yr.

The Storm finished minor premiers in 2011 and I see nothing short of a similar result again in 2012. They win 80% of their home games, win more than most on the ‘road’ each season (65% to 75%), and year in year out Bellamy consistently coaches one of the best defence offerings in the competition (look at their defence averages year on year). A quality list and coach delivering these sorts of results book you a top 4 spot more often than not and then offer you the opportunity to give September a real shake and I’m sure this will be the case again in 2012.

I think the icing on the cake for the Storm this year will be a real hunger for an official title. There would be real disappointment and hurt with how they fell out at seasons end last year, on top of the dramas of the year prior and their stripped titles. The premiership window only stays open for so long, I expect them to be better than last and very driven toward the end goal.

Top 2, team to beat in 2012.

Play:  Anchor bet for any longer term plays. Play them for the Premiership title, Minor Premiership and Top 4.   

 

Newcastle Knights

Additions: Wayne Bennett (Dragons), Kade Snowden (Sharks), Timana Tahu (Panthers), Darius Boyd (Dragons), Robbie Rochow (Storm), Alex McKinnon (Dragons), Danny Buderus (Leeds), Adam Cuthbertson (Dragons), Daine Laurie (Panthers)
Losses:  Cory Paterson (Cowboys – mid-season), Beau Henry (Titans – mid-season), Keith Lulia (Bradford Bulls), Isaac De Gois (Sharks), Cameron Ciraldo (Panthers), Antonio Kaufusi (Harlequins), Adam MacDougall (retirement), Ben Rogers (retirement), Mark Taufua (Sharks), Steve Southern (Wakefield), Josh Ailaomai (Roosters), Dan Tolar (retirement), Shannon McDonnell (Hull  KR), Con Mika (Hull KR)
2012 Coach: Wayne Bennett

Knights Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 8 24 12 0 12 2 478 19.9 443 18.5 28 35
2010 11 24 10 0 14 2 499 20.8 569 23.7 24 -70
2009 7 24 13 0 11 2 508 21.2 491 20.5 30 17

Market Prices: Premiership Title $9   Top 4 $2.75    Miss 8 $2.25    Wooden Spoon $34

What an exciting time for the Newcastle area and all Knights followers. First the arrival of Nathan Tinkler and his wealth, then the signing of Wayne Bennett, the beefing up of their development and coaching programs and the renovation and upgrade of their home ground. Look out folks, the new power house of the NRL has awoken!

And expect the improvement immediately into 2012! Bennett got to work pretty quickly during the second half of last year fine tuning the existing list and then buying key class and depth to begin rebuilding his top 25. With 8 top grade signings, in particular Buderus,  Snowden, Boyd and Cuthbertson coupled with what was already a healthy squad the foundations are now in place for Bennett to build, and that he will.

The Knights will be big improvers this year and I’m sure play finals footy from a top 6 or better position. Rick Stone had already done an excellent job moving them forward into last year (8th) and will play a key right hand role in assisting Bennett, a rare but very positive initiative. Their key signings has only strengthen them further and with Bennett’s polish and their healthy home ground advantage (likely to be full on each occasion) and significant community following success awaits. And success will arrive!

Top 6, top 4 highly likely.

Play:  Happy to play the long term Top 4 option, they are a real player in 2012 and should go close to doing so from a position at the pointy end of the table.   

 

North Queensland Cowboys

Additions: Cory Paterson (Knights – mid-season move), Kane Linnett (Roosters), Luke Harlen (QLD Residents), Robert Lui (Wests Tigers)
Losses: Willie Tonga (Eels), Leeson Ah Mau (Dragons), Will Tupou (Western Force, rugby union)
2012 Coach: Neil Henry

Cowboys Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 7 24 14 0 10 2 532 22.2 480 20.0 32 52
2010 15 24 5 0 19 2 425 17.7 667 27.8 14 -242
2009 12 24 11 0 13 2 558 23.3 474 19.8 26 84

Market Prices: Premiership Title $17   Top 4 $4.25    Miss 8 $1.85    Wooden Spoon $15

The Cowboys were one of the big improvers in 2011, jumping from 15th to 7th (and a touch unlucky not to have secured a top 4 spot). After a major shake up of their list at the end of a very poor 2010 (rotating at least 16 of their top 25) and changes to their coaching, support and conditioning staff the then necessary improvement came. They started the year strongly and went on to win 9 of their first 12 games to sew up a finals spot while also reestablishing their home ground advantage winning 9 of 12 in Townsville. Their other area of significant improvement was in their defence, dropping a whopping 8 points a week off their prior year’s efforts.

They’ve looked to strengthen their list a little, with Patterson (mid 2011), Lui and Linnet helpful additions, while they’ll certainly look forward to a full season’s contribution from Tate. Clearly they are very reliant on the direction and influence on Thurston, as one would with a world class playmaker, but they do play with a big physical pack featuring a class front rower (Matt Scott) and an emerging star in backrower Tariq Sims.

I’d expect further improvement from the Cowboys off the back of their positive efforts last year, but this year may well prove to be a more competitive offering than 2011 and so make it somewhat tougher to be a finals contender. If they can maintain their home advantage and again win 9 or 10 of those 12 games they’ll be well on their way to a top 8 spot.

Top 8

Play:  Nothing of interest, after playing finals last year they are well found in the current markets.   

 

Parramatta Eels

Additions: Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs), Ben Roberts (Bulldogs), Esi Tonga (Titans), Joseph Paulo (Panthers – mid-season), Willie Tonga (Cowboys), Taulima Tautai (Sharks), Jake Mullany (Tigers), Daniel Penese (Dragons)
Losses: Jeff Robson (Sharks), Anthony Mitchell (Roosters – mid-season), Paul Whatuira (retirement), Joel Reddy (Tigers), Carl Webb (retirement), Chris Hicks (retirement), Chris Walker (retirement), Tom Humble (Tigers), Daniel Mortimer (Roosters), Etu Uaisele (Panthers)
2012 Coach: Stephen Kearney

Eels Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 14 24 6 1 17 2 385 16.0 538 22.4 17 -153
2010 12 24 10 0 14 2 413 17.2 491 20.5 24 -78
2009 8* 24 12 1 11 2 476 19.8 473 19.7 29 3

Market Prices: Premiership Title $15   Top 4 $4.00    Miss 8 $1.85    Wooden Spoon $13

Kearney has now had over a year to access what needs to be done and how to lead them forward. He has made some significant signings with Sandow, Roberts and the Tonga brothers headlining his list changes, with these 4 to obviously slot into the key attack roles at 7, 6 and center. Certainly on paper it is a far stronger list than they 12 months ago. Hopefully this will see a more positive approach to their attack, away from the near robot and highly structured pattern that they played through 2011 which yielded only 16 attack points a game, that won’t win you many (and it didn’t). Yes they had a high number of close defeats last year, but to be frank I think much of this was of their own doing. With Sandow, Roberts and Hayne there is now on paper additional attacking strike power.

I think one of the key questions about them aiming up is their forward list. It’s workman like, can get the job done, but they certainly don’t dominate their opponents and on numerous occasions during 2011 they were the one being dominated. They need big seasons from Poore and Shackleton, hope that Hindmarsh and Smith still have something significant to offer and that a few of their youngsters might be able to take that next step. I still think they are one or two international quality forwards short on what’s required to be a top of the table contender. Also, off the back of a number of poor years their home and away records are terrible, in particular their offering at Parramatta Stadium where their win record has fallen from previously winning 7 of every 10 to more recently just 3.

The Eels are tricky to access, they promise much and don’t deliver. They desperately need the new 7 and 6 combinations to work (but they’ll also provide some defensive challenges); they need everything to gel quickly with all of their key positional and pattern of play changes. Most importantly they’ll need their forwards to aim up and lead the way, about which I have considerable doubt. Off the field they need some professional leadership and stability. They should be improvers in 2012 but I want to see it week in week our for some time before I believe it. Maybe mid table.

High risk, but maybe around 9th or 10th.

Play:  They’ve been a terrible betting proposition for a number of years, I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole. 

 

Penrith Panthers

Additions: Ivan Cleary (Warriors), Junior Vaivai – mid-season (Rabbitohs), Cameron Ciraldo (Knights), Chris Armit (Bulldogs), Clint Newton (Hull KR), Danny Galea (Raiders), Ryan Simpkins (Titans), Geoff Daniela (Wests Tigers), Junior Tia-Kilifi (Bulldogs), Etu Uaisele (Eels)
Losses: Matthew Elliott (released), Timana Tahu (Knights), Trent Waterhouse (Warrington), Joseph Paulo (Eels – mid-season), Matthew Bell (Tigers), Petero Civoniceva (Broncos), Daine Laurie (released), Adrian Purtell (Bradford), Shane Elford (retirement)
2012 Coach: Ivan Cleary

Panthers Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 12 24 9 0 15 2 430 17.9 517 21.5 22 -87
2010 2 24 15 0 9 2 645 26.9 489 20.4 34 156
2009 11 24 11 1 12 2 515 21.5 589 24.5 27 -74

Market Prices: Premiership Title $26   Top 4 $7.00    Miss 8 $1.43    Wooden Spoon $7

Massive change at the Panthers in what looks likely to be a work in progress project across a couple of years. No stone has been left unturned with this overhaul, from front office direction (Gould) and administration through to coach, support staff and a considerable list shake up. I’m sure all of this is what was required given they’ve looked a sleeping giant with a massive junior base, but I’d suggest that there’s likely to be a period of pain before success.

And what for 2012? A very tough year ahead I suspect. They were a bottom 4 side last year and have now lost Waterhouse, Petro and Bell from their forward list, on the back of losing Pritchard the year prior. While they have signed a list of replacements it would fair to say that many are journey men who have been team players as opposed to stars or game breakers to date. But my guess is that Gould and Cleary know that 2012 and 2013 need to be years of considerable list rotation and change while they try to access where they are, re gig their payment structure, purchase astutely and try to fast track their junior development. If they can compete let alone climb the table through this period then they will be doing very well but they might also struggle. I think the later in 2012.

Bottom 4, looks a tough road ahead. Without luck they’ll give the Spoon a real shake.

Play:  Spoon would be the bet option, but they’ve been well found there at $7, but it’s not likely to get any better. 

 

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Additions: Michael Maguire (Wigan), Matt King (Warrington Wolves), Luke Burgess (Leeds – mid-season), Justin Hunt (Redcliffe), Ryan Carr (Redcliffe)
Losses: Chris Sandow (Eels), John Lang (retirement), Junior Vaivai – mid-season (Panthers), Shannan McPherson (Super League), Beau Falloon (Titans), Luke Stuart (retirement), Rhys Wesser (retirement), Ben Ross (Sharks)
2012 Coach: Michael Maguire

Rabbits Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 10 24 11 0 13 2 531 22.1 562 23.4 26 -31
2010 9 24 11 0 13 2 584 24.3 567 23.6 26 17
2009 10 24 11 1 12 2 566 23.6 549 22.9 27 17

Market Prices: Premiership Title $15   Top 4 $4.00    Miss 8 $1.85    Wooden Spoon $15

The big change here is the coach, with the arrival of Michael Maguire. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that he’ll prove to be one of the clubs best signings of the last 10 years and will be the key influence in them finally positioning themselves for semi final success. Maguire arrives with a quality grounding spending many years as the right hand assistant to Bellamy before achieving premiership success in his own right in England, turning around the fortunes of Wigan (premiership title in 2010). He’s technically very astute, organized and will bring a firm disciplined approach that is just what this list now requires. Most importantly I expect his greatest influence will be in improving their defence, leaking 23 a week does not cut it for any semi final aspirant and I’m sure this has been a major off season focus.

The loss of Sandow is an issue, especially after a number of years of blooding and developing the kid but there certainly appears a quiet confidence that Reynolds has the ability and class to measure up, time will tell. They’ve a big pack, they’ll be very physical, and they’ll make a habit of hurting sides on either edge, and or slightly wider. 2011 saw a period of weeks where their list was riddled with injury but it did provide the opportunity to unearth a number of quality youngsters who certainly aimed up and gained some valuable experience which should only now strengthen their depth into this season’s campaign.

I expect the Rabbits to be the other big improvers in 2012 (along with the Knights). When we look closely at their list through recent seasons they’ve been significant underachievers and should well have troubled the September series through each of the last 3 seasons. The arrival and influence of Maguire, addition of King, change of strength and conditioning program and the maturing with experience of a number on their list all points toward them now aiming up. Long suffering Rabbits fans have much to be excited about.

Big improvers, certainly Top 8, the Top 4 would be no surprise.

Play:  The true believers should certainly be playing the $4 to make the top 4 option, I think they’ll give that a decent run! 

 

St George Illawarra Dragons

Additions: Chase Stanley (Storm), Will Matthews (Titans), Jeremy Latimore (Warriors), Leeson Ah Mau (Cowboys), Atelea Vea (Storm), Josh Miller (Raiders), Daniel Vidot (Raiders), Denan Kemp (union/Broncos)
Losses: Wayne Bennett (Knights), Darius Boyd (Knights), Jack Bosden (Roosters), Jon Green (Sharks), Mark Gasnier (retirement), Peni Tagive (Roosters), Alex McKinnon (Knights), Daniel Penese (Eels), Adam Cuthbertson (Knights), Michael Greenfield (Storm)
2012 Coach: Steven Price

Dragons Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 5 24 14 1 9 2 483 20.1 341 14.2 33 142
2010 1** 24 17 0 7 2 518 21.6 299 12.5 40 219
2009 1 24 17 0 7 2 548 22.8 329 13.7 38 219

Market Prices: Premiership Title $15   Top 4 $3.10    Miss 8 $2.20    Wooden Spoon $21

There are many issues and influences that force certain cycles of success (or non success) on any club and I have the Dragons pegged into 2012 as moving through a difficult period post the “Bennett cycle”. There is probably no more difficult assignment than to take over from Bennett, he’s clearly a master coach – the benchmark and leaves a significant void when moving on. New coach Steve Price has had a very good grounding to now make his own mark, but gee he looks on a hiding to nothing here.

The list rotation and change since the heady days of their premiership title all but 1 season ago are massive; Costigan, Jeremy Smith, Saffy, Cuthbertson, Green, Gasnier, Boyd, Greenfield and the promising youngsters Bosden and McKinnon. That’s a lot of quality and depth with what appears on paper a very thin list of additions. They’ve still the nucleus of a competitive side but certainly with what looks less muscle and grunt up front, they’ll miss the strike power that Gasiner and Boyd offered their attack while with the high number of persons moving on one would now have to seriously question their depth.

A positive for Price in 2012 will be that he should have a fresher group to work with, without the additional travel and rep commitments that burdened their campaign in 2011. They’ll have no pre season England tour and less rep and Origin disruption, whether they are then the same quality to compete at the same level as recent years is another question. A further positive is that they do hold a significant advantage when playing at either home ground and under Bennett they improved considerably on the road.

Looks a tricky year ahead for the Dragons. With what looks thinner depth and quality they’ll need a good run of luck with injury. With a shorter list of quality players they’ll also need each of them aiming up nearly every week to be winning. Price also has the task of stepping into Bennett’s void and leading in his own right. Plenty of challenges for mine, they’ll be competitive but I think sliding a little and somewhere around mid table. Missing the 8 would not surprise.

Mid table 7th to 10th.

Play:  Way too many questions to be resolved to consider any betting options.   

 

Sydney Roosters

Additions: Anthony Mitchell (Eels – mid-season), Jack Bosden (Dragons), Peni Tagive (Dragons), Adam Henry (Warriors), Josh Ailaomai (Knights), Daniel Mortimer (Eels), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZ union)
Losses: Nate Myles (Titans), Mark Riddell (retirement), Daniel Conn (retirement – mid-season), Kane Linnett (Cowboys), Phil Graham (Titans), Todd Carney (Sharks), Anthony Watts (Widnes, UK), Jason Ryles (Storm)
2012 Coach: Brian Smith

Roosters Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 11 24 10 0 14 2 417 17.4 500 20.8 24 -83
2010 6* 24 14 0 10 2 567 22.7 542 21.7 32 25
2009 16 24 5 0 19 2 382 15.9 681 28.4 14 -299

Market Prices: Premiership Title $21   Top 4 $6.00    Miss 8 $1.60    Wooden Spoon $8

My how a year can be a long time in the NRL. The Roosters went from feather dusters and Spoon holders in 09 to Grand Finalists the following year under Brian Smith. As quickly as the positive turn had occurred it then fell apart in 2011 with a long disappointing season littered with numerous off field issues, a long injury toll, poor results, 11th position and the sacking of their Dally M player (Carney). That’s one hell of a cycle across just 3 seasons!

Smith has quietly gone about a major list overhaul through the last two years and has chosen to enter 2012 with a very young and relatively inexperienced list with only 3 or 4 top grade players aged over 25. Quite a number of youngsters have been blooded into 1st grade through the last 18 months, and off the back of their U20’s successful run last year key individuals from that team plus a couple of new signings make up the balance of their top 25 squad. Jack Bosden is a positive addition, he looks a very talented backrower and has been groomed through the last few seasons at the Dragons ready to make his mark in the top grade.

Their half and playmaker Pearce carried much of the responsibility for their offerings last season, they desperately need to resolve a successfully solution at 5/8 and have a few additional players step up to the mark as quality 1st graders for them to make a difference in 2012. Boyd Cordner and Martin Kennedy are two who were dogged with injury last year who have considerable talent and are ready to take that next step, while Jake Friend’s improvement last year’s points to him again being one of their best. Under Smith they have made their home ground a key advantage (and a positive out of 2011), winning 73% of their home games at the Stadium in both 2010 and 2011.

There has to be considerable risk across a long competitive season going with such a young and inexperienced squad and for that reason I can’t have the Roosters pegged anywhere else but as a bottom 8 team looking to improve. If they can resolve their key playmaking role at 6 and a number of their talented youth can star quickly then they could be quick improvers, but the downside with such inexperience is that’s it’s a long, hard, competitive year that can quickly bring you undone – I think it will. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see them struggle and tread water in the bottom 4.

Bottom 8

Play:  Way too much risk to entertain any longer term betting options with the Roosters. 

 

New Zealand Warriors

Additions: Brian McLennan, Nathan Friend (Titans)
Losses: Ivan Cleary (Panthers), Lance Hohaia (St Helens), Brett Seymour (Hull FC), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons), Aaron Heremaia (Hull FC), Joel Moon (Salford), Adam Henry (Roosters), Shaun Berrigan (Raiders), Isaac John (Wakefield)
2012 Coach: Brian McLennan

Warriors Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 6* 24 14 0 10 2 504 21.0 393 16.4 32 111
2010 5 24 14 0 10 2 539 22.5 486 20.3 32 53
2009 14 24 7 2 15 2 377 15.7 565 23.5 20 -188

Market Prices: Premiership Title $11   Top 4 $3.10    Miss 8 $2.20    Wooden Spoon $26

I really like the look of the Warriors and their chances in 2012. Beaten Grand Finalists they lose Cleary as coach but have gone with Brian McLennan who comes to the role with significant experience and success. He coached the Kiwi’s national side for a number of years with success, including their upset Tri Nations final 24-0 result over Australia in 05 before 4 successful years at Leeds (including 2 Super League premiership titles). I think he’ll be just the right person to continue on the positive development of their talented list as they look to win that elusive title, most notably I think he’ll sharpen their attack execution and really play to their key strengths.

Off the back of a very good development program Cleary has done a very good job through recent years, blooding the right mix, purchasing astutely and building success. They’ve improved their ‘road’ record to a very respectable +50%, including regular wins at tough venues like Melbourne, fine tuned and tightened their defence each year and improved their attack.

It’s no surprise that they finished top 6 last year, and where then able to ride that run as they did (although marred with the touch up from the Broncos in wk 1) as they have a well balanced list; a big physical pack, a smart ball player in Maeto and then the exceptional skill and talent of Johnson and Locke. Nathan Friend is a further positive signing and he’ll fit in very well and add some quality direction and work rate at 9.

The finals series experience of last year should prove a real benefit to this list into the new season. They also have a number of key stars on the up, plus an array of talent and depth coming through out of their successful U20’s who have won their title two years running (plus their reserve grade made the grand final). This must set them up for a very successful period where a premiership title should not be beyond them.

Top 4 contenders who should give September a real shake again this year.

Play:  $3.10 looks a nice long term interest for the Top 4. 

 

Wests Tigers

Additions: Adam Blair (Storm), Joel Reddy (Eels), Matthew Bell (Panthers), John Grant (Eastwood, rugby union), Tom Humble (Eels), Dane Chisholm (Tigers)
Losses: Bryce Gibbs (Sharks), Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Mark Flanagan (St Helens), Jake Mullaney (Eels), Todd Payten (retirement), Wade McKinnon (Hull FC), Geoff Daniela (Panthers), Robert Lui (Cowboys)
2012 Coach: Tim Sheens

Tigers Pos P W D L B For Av. Agn Av. Pts Diff
2011 4 24 15 0 9 2 519 21.6 430 17.9 34 89
2010 3 24 15 0 9 2 537 22.4 503 21.0 34 34
2009 9 24 12 0 12 2 558 23.3 483 20.1 28 75

Market Prices: Premiership Title $8   Top 4 $2.10    Miss 8 $2.75    Wooden Spoon $34

How close can one get to the big dance, yet not arrive? Just ask the Tigers after two close misses in back to back years, missing their Grand Final opportunity by 1 point in 2010 (Dragons 13-12) and then 2 points in 2011 (Warriors 22-20). So after two consecutive Top 4 finishes (and disappointment) the Tigers now have to reload and go again.

Coach Sheens has made some tough decisions in rotating his list; he continues to make way for the young talent coming through their program while adding some quality buys (most notably Blair) to strengthen their depth. The retention of Moltzen after looking like heading to the Dragons is a nice plus; Blair is key as an international front rower he will add some real physical presence and power to their offering.

There are many reasons why the Tigers are rated as real contenders. They’ve a list littered with some 11 internationals, class in so many key positions (most notably 9 and 6), have a high quality title winning coach and importantly have a preparedness to play an attack focus that can beat if not crush their opponents while Leichhardt and Campbelltown add to their cause as home grounds providing considerable advantage. The disappointment and hurt of being so close through the last two years should well drive them a little harder toward the holy grail in 2012.

Lot to like about the Tigers. Top 4 again for me, and all the potential to give that big dance a real shake this year.

Play:  Certainly look a major player in 2012 but they are well found in all markets and there’s no value playing the odds on offer. 

 

Summary

The Contenders

I rate the Storm as the team to beat into 2012, with the Warriors and Tigers as the other two likely top of table contenders. I’m confident that we’ll see these 3 sides set the pace for most of the year and create the form line that matters for the competition.

The Big Improvers

Knights will be big improvers, certainly top 8 and with luck might well push the top 4. I expect the Rabbits to be the other big improvers, another I think will play finals this year, and another who would not surprise to do so from up toward the top 4.

Mid Table Jam

Looking for luck! Broncos, Cowboys, Dragons, Eagles, Bulldogs Sharks and Eels are the teams who all look likely to be competitive and with luck should well be fighting out the remaining spots into the top 8. I certainly have major questions over the Dragons (list quality and depth); Eagles (rookie coach, new staff, off field management issues) and Eels (have huge improvement to make from 14th spot).

And then there were 4!

And so that leaves the Raiders, Titans, Roosters and Panthers. Each of them finished in the bottom 6 last year (Raiders 15th, Titans 16th, Roosters 11th and Panthers 12th) and although there can be some argument for any one of them that they might improve I’m happy to retain a knock for each side. I’m sure the Spoon winner (16th spot) is amongst them, if I had to have a stab right now I’d nominate either the Panthers and Roosters as the two most likely.

Update 10th Feb. I have decided to spec the Titans again for the Most Losses / Wooden Spoon bet option. They were terrible last yr, I’m not convinced that they have bought well nor that their problems of last yr will have turned around and certainly any of the noises that I hear suggest the same. With a draw that includes the Cowboys (A), Storm and Warriors (A) in their first 3 weeks I think the current $7 on offer might well be the top of the market.

Interests

The Storm are my anchor bet for any pre season long term interests. If they open their season in the form I expect and don’t lose a key player with major injury it’s hard to see them being priced any better during the season than what is now on offer. I’ll play the two title offers now available being Premiership ($9) and Minor Premiership ($7) and anchor most of our outlay on a return from them making the Top 4 ($2.40).

The other two sides who look some value to make the Top 4 are the Warriors ($3.10) and the Knights ($2.75). In fact I think the current price on offer for the Warriors is way overs and will shorten quickly as the opening weeks unfold.

If you just wanted two bets to anchor and follow year long I’d be backing the Storm and Warriors for the Top 4.

Update 10th Feb.

I have now spec’d the Titans for the Most Losses / Wooden Spoon bet option. They were terrible last yr, I’m not convinced that they have bought as well as everyone thinks nor that their attitude problems of last yr will have turned around and certainly everything I happen to hear suggests that it hasn’t. With a draw that includes the Cowboys (A), Storm and Warriors (A) in their first 4 weeks I think the current $7 on offer might well be the top of the market.

Suggested pre season bets are:

1st Feb.

Storm 10 units Premiership Winner $9 (NSW Tabsportsbet)

Storm 10 units Minor Premiership Winner $7 (NSW Tabsportsbet)

Storm 40 units Top 4 $2.40 (Sportsbet)

Warriors 30 units Top 4 $3.10 (NSW Tabsportsbet)

Knights 20 units Top 4 $2.75 (NSW Tabsportsbet)

10th Feb.

Titans 20 units Most Losses / Wooden Spoon $7 (Centrebet)

 

O)ur first weekly preview for 2012 will be published on the Thurday morning prior to the opening round (Thursday March 1st).

 

 

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