NRL Tips & Game Previews | Finals Week 1 | 2021

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MrG’s Game Handicaps for this round

-10.5 Storm v Eagles – Sunshine Coast
-12.5 Roosters v Titans – Townsville
-12.5 Panthers v Rabbits – Townsville
-5.5 Eels v Knights – Mackay

Recommended Bet List

Bet 2 units Eels-Knights under 45.5 $1.90
Looks a scrappy game where points and high game points looks very hard to find, Eels now missing experienced confident #9, Knights look to be lacking fluent combination

Bet 2.5 units Win all up Storm $1.37 x Roosters $1.26 x Panthers $1.23 / $2.12
Looks the right angle through the weekend, these three do look clear outright winners and priced accordingly

BB – Indicates Best Bet

Any longer term plays that have been recommended in prior weeks will be listed at the base of this message

Individual Game Tips

Storm, Roosters, Panthers, Eels

Game Preview Notes

Notes – Finals Football:

Finals Facts

  • 16 of the last 20 Premiers have won the comp off the back of finishing top 4, winning week one and having a week off into their Prelim final game (and then winning)
  • 11 of last 13 Premiers were one of the Top 2 defensive sides that season – this year Panthers and Storm (same as last year)
  • 6 of the last 7 grand finalists who had played 4 weeks straight, have lost
  • No Origin or International Rep #7 or #6 – No Chance
    In the last 41 years 39 of the 41 Premiership winners had a rep (Origin or International) #7 or #6

Key Winning Criteria

  • Top 4
  • Top 2 best defence
  • Win Week 1 then Week off
  • Origin or International Rep #7 or #6

Overall Record

Coaches Head to Head

Bellamy 15 Hasler 17                    
(Storm have won 8 of last 10 games)

Robinson 2 Holbrook 0                 
(Roosters won last 7 straight)

I.Cleary 9 Bennett 14                    
(Panthers have won last 5 straight)

Arthur 2 O’Brien 0                         
(Eels won last 3, Knights won prior 4)

-10.5 Storm v Eagles – Sunshine Coast

Ground: Sunshine Coast
44.5 Total Points (market position)

Excellent match up to start the weekend. These two teams met just a few weeks ago in Rd21 with a closing market line of 10.5 and a Storm victory by 10, 28-18. Storm have won 8 of the last 10 head to head but overall longer term Hasler does have a very good record v Bellamy and Storm. Sunshine Coast and night game also become influential factors, the Storm are undefeated here winning 9 from 9, and a night game here can present light dew and dampness at this ground and so likely slow down at times a wish to spread the ball (or offer more error) and likely play into the Storms hands of defensive focus.

As always Bellamy is meticulous with his finals campaign planning, post Origin resting and rotating players if and as need be along with those who might be carrying injury and they now present here in what looks all but perfect shape for September. Munster has had a knee clean out, big Nelson given time to get over some nagging injury and then get some game time back through recent weeks, Papenhuyzen and Grant working back into match fitness and some quality form through recent weeks. They now present here with 4 quality ins that didn’t play in that last game v Eagles, Papenhuyzen, Kaufusi, Asofa-Solomona and Kamikamica. The inclusion of Asofa-Solomona and Kamikamica is key through the middle as it then means they have 4 big bodies and the luxury or rotation, while big Nelson’s role can’t be highlighted enough, playing the 2nd or preferably 3rd play on the back of already good yardage runs he has such a big body he draws multiple defenders and then creates and leaves room on the back of a quick play the ball for the likes of Grant, Munster or Papenhuyzen to make play. I expect Munster to play, but the final bench line up will be interesting, does Bellamy go with his normal favoured approach of Grant + 3 forwards and so leave Hynes out, or with the benefit of moving Smith back to the back row retain Hynes and still be able to use him as an extra forward if necessary or have the luxury of giving Munster an early rest in he wants to. A nice problem to have.

The Eagles also have a strong line up and come off some attractive form, but some concern for mine over bashing up bottom table sides for the most part and a 0 from 4 record season to date against the top4 sides. There was a lot to like about how they looked to play the Storm last time, trying the build some go forward yardage and then attempt quick running edge shifts using Turbo and trying to target in particular the Storm’s right flank with Garrick coming up with two tries. Bellamy likes to play a very compressed defence and challenge you to be good enough to either get to the edge and or around them, sounds far easier than it is in execution and as the Eels showed a few weeks ago you also need a platform of strong yardage and quick play the balls to allow you the extra space and time to then execute this. But with the Storm back at all but full strength compared to the Eels game and or the Rd21 game and this being a semi final match up against one of the best defensive systems we have seen for mine a much tougher assignment this week.

With the Storm back to pretty much full strength and 4 ins from the last match up I am 10.5 between them. The Eagles have strike, but would need to be at their very best with another blinder from Turbo and key games from DCE and Foran, it also becomes a concern with the late out of Croker who has played #9 very well this season. This time last season Bellamy rested players leading into the finals and then went bang, he had them very well prepared and up for the assignment. They ran home strongly over the Eels in the second half week 1 (from 12all half time to a 36-24 result) and then smashed the Raiders and the Panthers in the first 40 of each of the following games (leading 24-6 and 20-0). Finals results are normally driven by quality defence and I’m certainly with the Storm on that here, they have been 13.7 a game season to date and the Eagles 20.5. Storm at full strength, have the experience, a quality defensive system and key strike players when it matters, do look very hard to beat here.

-12.5 Roosters v Titans – Townsville

Ground: Townsville
46.5 Total Points (market position)

Roosters do look very well placed here. While they have been found out when up against the top4 sides even with their well documented long list of injury outs they have still shown the quality of system and performance when dropping back to the next level and below, as they do here against a mid table opponent. They also get 3 possibly 4 on field key ins this week with the return of 3 forwards (including Waerea-Hargreaves and Radley) and likely more play time and influence from Sam Walker ( expect he plays in front of Lam, of comes on to replace him and play a fair chunk of the game).

The Titans have done well to have made the semi finals but this does look a reach for them. key recent changes have certainly improved them, young Campbell at #1 is a rare attacking talent (but still has some major defensive issues) while Peachy at #6 looks to have added some nice balance. But their record is 0 from 7 v Top4 teams and 1 from 17 v Top8 teams, so they certainly have struggled against the to 7 if not the top 4 or so teams, and I would certainly count the Rooters on the fringe of that. They have been leaking 26 a week over the season and only a few weeks ago had 34 v Storm and 36 v Rabbits put through them.

Roosters just look too strong here, I am somewhere close to the market line, certainly think something like 12 to 16 looks right.

-12.5 Panthers v Rabbits – Townsville

Ground: Townsville
44.5 Total Points (market position)

The Panthers very much like the Storm look well prepared and at full strength and ready to hit their finals campaign. They have everyone on deck now, Cleary has been super the last few weeks and playing as good as he has been (and that is a very high level), Fisher-Harris is back in the middle and he is very key to their forward match up muscle, Kikau now starting and they have some further match fitness and game time into Pangai Jnr. They went within a win of the minor premiership and sit with a top 2 seeding, they have been 5 and 1 of their 6 games v Top4 (and 11 and 1 v Top8) which speaks well enough for the quality of form that they have been in for most of this season.

The Rabbits have not been quite as lucky and Mitchell is a very significant loss. Firstly he is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 try or try assists per game, that is a big hole to replace due to his quality. They then have to patch up the replacement at the back and then also have a back three capable of handling the high spiral bomb that Cleary is kicking so well at present and just peppering opponents back men with, in particular the number he did on this opponent just a few weeks ago. While not much has been made of it to date, Reynolds also had a limp and leg injury of sorts 10 days ago, so they would dearly hope that he is over this.

The match up through the middle is good. The Rabbits whacked them through the mid field a few week ago and did the job very well, created quality yardage, dominated the physical battle and gave themselves some room to play with and then scored two tries. But the Panthers come here stronger in this match up, so this looks more even. While the Rabbits were harshly done by with a 11-2 penalty count against them that night (and we have a different ref here) they also forced too many errors.

Again I think the market is pretty much spot on and that something like 12 to 14 looks the right handicap, and if the Panthers are at or near their best as they look to have been build up to then they look very hard to beat and likely to be winning by that sort of margin. It’s finals footy, and Bennett knows September very well, maybe he can pull something out of the bag, but the Panthers have looked to have had their measure and with no Mitchell and the forced changes taht that then implies it is hard to see them mounting a sustained 80 minute campaign to beat this Panthers defence.

-5.5 Eels v Knights – Mackay

Ground: Mackay
45.5 Total Points (market position)

Looks a scrappy style of game from the outset for many reasons. Firstly the Eels, aside from #9 do look to get a good team list back but the dummy half issue has to be significant with them now to play a makeshift player on the back of losing their two two choices with injury. That has to put them very much on the back foot with the combination and fluency of 9, 7 and 6 and general overall play. Eels have been 2 and 7 v Top4 and 5 and 7 v Top8 and have won their last 4 straight against the Knights, and do look best suited when dropping back to this mid table level.

The Knights likely without Klemmer and play Mann in the centers which I’m not convinced works. Their forward line up is strong and with their 9, 7, 6 and 1 all in plus Best on the left edge they have their best possible chance of causing an upset here. They are just 3 and 9 v Top8 sides and have struggled to knock up quality wins at that level, any key scalps and over recent months and lacked real fluence and combination even when getting all the right people back and playing together. Should have lost v Titans, close to major upset loss to Bulldogs, their attack has lacked all sorts of cohesion and fluency and strike while under any sort of attack pressure their defence has not been hard to crack (and leaks 24 per game season to date).

The Eels best rating is their game only a few weeks ago over the Storm, high quality win and well earnt, if they can bring something like that they win. Knights have lacked any real stand out win or rating over recent months and on the back of early to mid season wins have had enough in the bank to end up where they are, but the last 6 weeks has been poor. As I said, just looks a very scrappy disjointed game, if the Eels can have go some combination and timing into their work out of #9 and around the ruck then I favor they can get away with the business here. Not a game I like, I did think the total points looked to high.

Longer Term Recommended Bet List

Bet 5 units Storm-Panthers Grand Final Quinella $2.75
On numbers the Storm or Panthers are now an approx 95% chance of either winning the premiership and likely now the clearest stand out top 2 and likely Grand final quinella pairing that we have seen for many many years. On numbers and reality the Eagles are now for mine the only real chance of challenging these two into that final game but would likely then have to win two or three games at their best to make the GF. We already have Storm outright to win comp as a futures bet, rather than hedge with the Panthers I think the better option and value right now is to take the quinella option now a week prior to the finals starting when we still have approx 10 teams taking up some % of the market and so this price much higher now than in a week or weeks to come.

Bet 6 units Storm to win Premiership $2.60
Clearly now the benchmark and the one to beat, Panthers likely to have longer term injury questions over Cleary (shoulder) and Luai (knee), Storm have key depth, confidence and quality combinations

Bet 3 units Eagles to make Top 4 $5.00
Think the price is way too high, Eagles have a very soft run home with only 2 games vs Top 4 contenders then a further 10 vs bottom 8 sides/contenders. Clearly they are very reliant on the fitness of Tom Trbojevic which is factored into the odds and my bet, but if he plays most of these games they give this a huge shake

Bet 3 units Raiders to miss Top 8 $2.00 Topsport $1.95 Tab
Lost 5 straight and should have been beat by 16th placed Bulldogs last week, not a happy crew from everything I hear, think bottom of the 8 gets very competitive in second half of the yr and have to take them on

Bet 4 units Panthers Minor Premiers $3.30 Topsport
Market is also available at Tab and Sportsbet $3.00
Undefeated after 3 rounds, quality longer home record and have depth in key positions, my numbers right now suggest they now appear as $2.00 chance

Bet 5 units Titans top QLD team $1.77 Topsport
Market is also available at Ladbrokes $1.75 and Sportsbet $1.67
We have a small interest speculator on Titans Top 4, think this is a positive way to cover our stake longer term. Three way contest, what we are betting is the final table position between Titans and Cowboys and I’m confident on the Titans progression late last yr (won last 5 games), key signings, positive off season + quality coach that this is the right play. Should Cam Smith turn up mid season as I expect then icing on the cake!

Bet 6 units Storm Top 4 $1.85
Looks an excellent longer term anchor bet, Bellamy’s record of top 4 finishes each season is unparalleled, as is his ability to replace players and bring his team back to the top. They will win near 90% of home games (Melb or Sunshine Coast), have near the best D once again and likely finish top two.

Bet 3 units Broncos most losses $5.00
Expected / rate them closer to $2.00, this price looks very very generous. The squad is weaker than last yr (and they finished with the spoon), start the season with key injury outs, question mark on whether Coach is up to this task and have a hard draw.

Bet 2 units Titans to make Top 4 $4.50
Think the Coach is quality, started to put his imprimatur in them late into the season with some very positive and exciting play/results. They have purchased astutely, top 4 might be a reach (you can save top 8 at $1.85 if you wish) but I just see a) lot of up side and b) a comp with potential long tail. They look the team with the flashing red light for me this season. There is some $5.00 available in some places.

Market Odds Comparison – a quick link to assist with the available odds across many possible providers – nrl-odds-comparisons

Staking: The recommended units bet is indicated next to each bet in the above bet list. The base bet is 1 to 5 units (and is also a reflection of confidence. Everyone chooses to bet in different bet sizes, from differing betting banks (the personal funds they put aside for betting). Some will bet $20 per bet, some $200 per bet. So as to keep things simple and clear for everyone to follow we then talk in bet units. Our advice is to decide what size betting unit is likely to work for you and call this your betting unit, remembering that you may have approx. 5 to 10 units of recommended outlay per week per sport and that you also run the risk of losing.

Game Notes Preparation: FYI, with the introduction of Thursday night games in recent years it is now near impossible with the work and list of things that I chose to do to have all game previews written and finished until late in each week or early Saturday am. With the final team lists not announced until Tuesday afternoon, which I then re rate against (current performance, key ins and outs / final team lists and then look to handicap each up coming game then consider a range of form and match up factors towards final potential bets and written game previews. In short with team lists announced late Tuesday that then leaves two days to work through these tasks. I will focus the first preview notes at any game that has a recommended bet so that any key factors and reasoning is then known in advance, and then be working through each game there after in order of day and time (from Thursday onward).

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NRL Tips Previews Sports Betting

MrG’s game previews and analysis for this weeks round of NRL are listed above. Each NRL Preview and Sports Betting Tips message thread will normally open on a Wednesday and list any early game ratings and thoughts. It will be updated each day and then detailed game by game Previews, Ratings and final Bet List will be published online by 8am on the morning of the first game of the round (Thursdays). All subscribers can also receive all key information and updates by direct sms message.

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