NRL Season 2021 | Bottom of the Table Forecast

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MrG provides our NRL Tips Previews and content each week for our Reading The Play NRL subscribers. Further details on our NRL offering here

Here MrG has a look at who he thinks anchors down the base of the NRL table for much of the coming season, and why he has been all over the Broncos to finish 16th! As the new NRL Season for 2021 fast approaches MrG has provided a series of previews toward then publishing his detailed Season Preview.

Broncos

BroncosForecastFinishedWonD AgainstD Av.Differential
202116     
2020816362431.2-356
2019281148920.3-57
2018461550020.8+56

Coach: Kevin Walters

Player List

Lost: Fifita, Ofahengaue; Bird; Boyd; O’Sullivan; McCullough

Gains: Asiata; Mead; Copley

Preview Thoughts

Let me open by saying I have been stunned (happily) that the markets have had the Broncos assessed as a $5.00 chance for the spoon / most losses through recent weeks. If they are not a $2.20 or there abouts chance I give up – and yes they are a bet!

The list management by the executive and coaching staff over the last few years has been diabolical, plummeting from 6th position to the spoon in two seasons, and having looked to have a highly promising list of kids coming though to now looking like they are walking around in circles in the dark with a blindfold on. They lost David Fifita (and a few others) and so out of whack is their cap now for this season they have had to patch up fringe positions with fill in players long past their best at this level.

After all the drama through the last two years Seibold was finally shown the door and now Kevin Walters gets the gig, but all but handed a hospital pass as I’m sure it will take at least 2 years to reshape the list and performance.

They will start the season without Hass and play a likely 10 or so weeks without arguably their best back and try scoring strike in Staggs. They need stability and some consistent play at #9 and #7 (the Croft experiment hasn’t worked); Milford has been terrible at #6 for the last three seasons (and progressively getting worse) and who now longer term does the job at #1? Coates looks a star, Oates now looks to be moved into the back row (does this then diminish what was left edge scoring power?). They’ll need the best out of Pangai, Carrigan and Flegler and hope that Lodge can stay injury free and perform.

Over the last three seasons their defence has gone from conceding 18 a week to 31.. If you want a measuring stick then compare that to a Bellamy coached side at the Storm who each season (for 15 or more seasons..) concede between 12.5 to 14 pts a week, or any top 4 side each season who are somewhere around 14 to 16 per week. The Broncos need three new sandpits out the back at Red Hill to get this into shape and it’s not going to happen this season. And in attack how the once mighty have fallen, now to less than 14 pts a game, and some weeks last season looking all but devoid of what or how to execute.

Their Away record over recent years is now shocking, putting even further pressure on them as a unit as to cop sizeable and or regular losses when away for half the season sure as hell shoots through the confidence of your young potential players. Two years ago they won 4 of 12 Away games, and closed out the season with two hammerings in Sydney conceding 30 to the hapless Bulldogs and then 58-0 to the Eels. This then compounded further last year with just 1 Away win from 10 games, lucky this didn’t get more embarrassing due to the Covid interruptions. For so many years this club set the gold standard in Away travel professionalism and winning record, now you could all but bet against them any Away week.

Looking a little deeper at their draw also then highlights two key points (and further negatives). Firstly their Away draw, they face > Titans, Storm, Rabbits, Eels, Cows, Eagles, Roosters, Dragons, Raiders, Panthers, Knights, Sharks – you’d be very hard pressed to pencil them in for more than 2 wins against that list? But a bigger factor then is that against the 6 sides around whom I think the top of the table winning form will come from (the pointy end) they play these teams 13 times! (they play some of these teams twice, some once). For comparison the Dragons play these same teams 9 times, the Bulldogs just 7 times. For a team that finished 16th last season and are looking to get themselves up off the canvas and rebuild they have one hell of a task against the draw (on paper) that they face this season.

Oh. And as for the Home record, well clearly when finishing 16th with 1 Away win its also not pretty – 2 wins last year. For a club that used to average 35,000 to a home game and a (past) longer term home win record of circa 7 out of every 10 (or 70% on average most seasons) – they now certainly look days of old!

The Broncos are the lowest rating I have had for a team at the bottom of the table to start a new season in 10 years. Much of that is to do with these two recent years, but it looks a big mess to clean up. Maybe Walters is the man, I’m not convinced but hopefully he brings some calmness and unity as a starting point. But after all of the dust has settled on the coaching changes and what is now their player list I can’t but mark them down further as a rating position. And that’s without factoring in with any further harshness the Away record and horrible draw. If they avoid 16th spot Kevin Walters deserves a gold medal.


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Dragons

DragonsForecastFinishedWonD AgainstD Av.Differential
202115     
20201112745222.6-74
2019615857523.9-148
2018671547219.7+47

Coach: Anthony Griffin

Player List

Lost: Aitken; Saab; Sailor; Graham; Frizell; Host; K Sims

Gains: Bird; Alvaro; Ellis; Faamausili, McCullough

Preview Thoughts

Even with the new coach there just looked to be lots of question marks all over this, and they are another that I have marked down a little further on the end of 2020.

Including the last season departures of Lafi and Graham and now the recent long term injury to McInnes there is a 9 person change around on their list from one season to the next without imo any credible signings. Included in this the major loss of Frizell, it is now a much weaker playing list than last season. Bird as we know can play, but unfortunately he has been dealing with a busted body for three seasons now and so poses as a wait and see proposition. Aside from this there is then the internal hope that either a number of their younger ones begin to shine or that some of the older more experienced ones who have been disappointing through recent seasons aim up and perform under the new coach, but overall it looks a weaker starting point than a year ago.

Certainly performance and quality questions in key roles at #9, #7, #6 and possibly #1. Lets hope that the space and freedom that Dufty was finally provided with late last season is enhanced this year, he has speed and looks an attacking weapon and strike from the back that they so desperately need. Dragons fans would also be hoping that the past relationship of Griffin, Hunt, McCullough and Norman (at Broncos) can come to the fore here and shine, off the back of very disappointing offerings in 2020 Hunt and Norman will be under significant focus.

I’m not a huge fan of Griffin as a coach, for mine his general communication and attack execution (in particular last red zone attack set up and play) has left a lot to be desired, he was propped up at the Broncos by an outstanding Lockyer and then at the Panthers by some quality individual talent – and in both instances regardless of how one wants to spin it (winning percentage) he was shown the door at both clubs. He’s had the benefit of a few years away from the game and hopefully for the RedV army can now find his feet here and guide their performance upward.

Defensively they have regressed through each of the last 3 seasons, with a new coaching staff start I’m sure that will have been a key focus. Notably tho their attack has been painful to watch through the last two seasons, seemingly obsessed with flat sideway and or block play execution and an inability to score points, struggling to muster just 18 most weeks for the last two seasons. It to I’m sure has seen some focus and overhaul. Of what comes of all of this will be interesting to watch.

The Dragons Home and Away record has been poor through each of the last two seasons and very much that of a bottom of the table team, even their once highlight record at either of their two Home grounds has evaporated.

I expect this season that we will see a log jam of teams fighting it out for mid table positions (6th downward) all competing for the likely final spots in the top 8 and so it looks very difficult to see how a side like the Dragons on the facts of what we know climb rapidly up the table. Even without trying to be harsh I have marked them down further on where I had them finish last season on the basis of their list changes and or questionable key player form. It’s going to take a significant make over and reinvention for them to be anywhere toward the mid table mix, and I expect a least 12 months away.


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Bulldogs

BulldogsForecastFinishedWonD AgainstD Av.Differential
202114     
20201315350425.2-222
201915121047719.8-151
20181212847419.8-46

Coach: Trent Barrett

Player List

Lost: Foran, Cogger, Lafai, Holland, Montoya, Remis Smith, Tolman, Sue

Gains: Flanagan, Cotric, Allan, Hetherington, Waddell

Preview Thoughts

While there has been plenty of positive talk and happenings in and around the Bulldogs across the offseason it is also hard to see (or rate) them that much higher into 2021 than where they have been. There is improvement, but it is off what was a very low base.

They have the coaching change with Barrett and additions of Flanagan, Cotric and Allan into their backline, notably they hope with significant influence from Flangan at #7. But this is also a list that has sat at the wrong end of the table for a number of years, struggled to ball play and or score points and consistently leak plenty.

Barrett will now have far more experience for this assignment a) having been a head coach at the Eagles (along with then all of the scars that might have gone with the job), and b) then a positive stint as assistant coach directing the attack at the Panthers. I think the later has the potential to help him a lot here, many of his attack plans and execution at the Eagles was in my opinion well thought out as then was much of his work in polishing things at the Panthers. In now taking over a team list that could hardly but points on most weeks through recent seasons (14 a week last year) his restructure and direction will be desperately needed. Defensively tho there will also need to be a lot of work, concentration, attitude and or just the quality of personal they have worked with through recent seasons performed poorly consistently falling away in games and overall across 2020 were conceding 26 pts per week.

One thing that should be to their advantage this season is that they will have a lot of games in Sydney, and of this a lot of games at Homebush. They also have a far softer draw than some of those around them at the bottom of the table (like the Broncos) with just 7 games against those who I expect to be making up the winning, pointy end of the table (by comparison the Broncos have 13).

Does Allan play #1, and stand out? Is Cotric in the centres? Who partners Flanagan in the halves (Averillo) and with what success? Who makes #9 work? Averillo shows much promise, Barrett will be looking for him to have a break out year. Still many questions across the quality and depth of their overall list, but some positive steps for the coming season while they also look to recruit further into 2022.

They look a work in progress but with some likely green shoots. I’m sure the focus this season is around getting much of their foundations right, but which ever way we slice it the Bulldogs still look for now a bottom 4 contender.


NRL – MrG

Having coached at a senior level for 16 years including 3 years on the coaching staff of an NRL club Gerard Condon is a long term avid student of the game. He’s coached sides to win titles at a senior level, run the football arm of a successful district club, managed professional players and worked in various development roles, so it’s fair to say the game of Rugby League is certainly in his blood and supports an experienced and unique offering.

Mr G’s NRL previews and betting tips combine this knowledge and ‘read’ of the current weekly form with a statistical and betting analysis to provide his followers with a unique and successful approach. He spends hours each week watching and reviewing each and every game assessing the strengths and weakness of the form to then weigh against that of the betting markets. His previews and betting tips have been published on the internet via two sports forums for 7 years prior to his public offering through Reading The Play. Full details on our NRL offering here

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