NRL Season 2016 – Free Preview
NRL Season 2016 – Free Preview
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2015 Final Competition Table
2016 Draw Analysis
In a competition where every team does not play each other twice, let alone see various advantages or disadvantages implied (numerous 7 day or 5 day turn arounds) the final draw make up can well have an impact to any one team’s fortunes. Of note for 2016 –
- Dragons play the most number of games vs last season’s top 8 (14 games), the most number vs last season’s top 4 (8 games) and the least number of games vs last season’s bottom 8 (10 games).
- Dragons also only play one true home game (traditional home venue) in their opening 9 games, and have 3 games back to back in Queensland (Rds 5 to 7)
- Raiders have a charmed draw on paper with the least number of games vs last season’s top 8 (10 games) top 4 (4 games) and the most against last season’s bottom 8 (14 games) and bottom 4 (8 games).
- 5 teams play last year’s Grand Finalist’s in back to back weeks, Eels, Dogs, Dragons, Manly and Rabbits (Rabbits have a bye in between)
- Sharks have 14 x 7 day or more turnarounds (most of any side), zero Thursday or Friday night games and just 11 games v LY’s top 8 (Dragons, Cows, Storm & Roosters all twice)
- Manly have 3 x 5 day preps in 1st 7 weeks and play 3 games in 11 days from Rounds 3 – 5, also have 7 Monday night fixtures and play only 10 games at Brookvale
- Panthers are another who play only 10 games at traditional home ground, astounding when you look at their record from last year, worst away record in the comp with just 2 wins
- Tigers are the worst in the comp recording wins in distant away/interstate matches, play the Titans in Round 3 off a 5 day prep, also have the Warriors in Round 25, 2nd week on the road and have lost 3 of last 4 in New Zealand, last 3 over there have topped 50 points (defence is optional)
- Brisbane will need to be there or thereabouts in the closing Rounds, play 13 matches against top 8 of 2015, including 5 of last 6, on a positive, they will be finals ready if they knock over most of them
- Cowboys, equal most when playing top 8 from last year with 14, like the Dragons, they play of all them all twice
- Roosters are the 3rd and final side to play all of the top 8 twice, they have a tough run home with 7 of their last 8 against top 8 from ’15, also a tough start with a number of key outs
- Roosters also have 7 x 5 day turnarounds
- Rabbits have the luxury of not having to leave Sydney town in the opening 6 weeks
- Bulldogs are another with little travel, play outside of Sydney only 3 times through Rounds 1 – 18
- Warriors and Titans both go without a 5 day prep to Round 21
- Knights have no Thur/Fri games (no surprises there) and play 15 weekend matches
- Storm have just 1 Friday night match, but 5 games of MNF
2016 Table Forecast and Team Analysis
These ratings are finalised using a whole range of performance data across recent seasons, team list changes (gains and losses), home and away advantage/records and a forecast simulation of all results for this coming seasons based on my own ratings to finalise and forecast likely final table positions. I have used this method for a number of seasons, last year we had 5 of the 8 correct, the season prior 7 of 8. Clearly the one thing we don’t know looking forward is the impact of key injury outs.
For 2016 I have a 10% rating gap between the top of table rated side the Broncos and the bottom of table Titans (rated 16th). However, as has been the case through recent NRL seasons I have very little separating those in positions 3 to 11 (with only a spread of 2% between these 9 sides), including 5 sides all rated equal (Bulldogs, Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Warriors). In short, as we have seen for a number of years now we are in for a very competitive, close competition in particular for those sides fighting out mid table spots and a life line into the top 8.
Key Gains/Losses: Roberts (gain)
I have them rated the clear benchmark team at the top of the table, a lot can happen across 30 weeks of this premiership race but they do look the measuring stick and the team to beat. Bennett has had a year to sort out his list, over achieved last year making the grand final and had they played with some more smarts they should well have closed that out for the title. The motivation and hunger off that loss should be a nice spur as this season unfolds. It’s also rare that we see an already strong list improve itself through the off season but that they have with the addition of Roberts.
Healthy home ground advantage, professional travellers, benefit of Bennett magic, team to beat.
Key Gains/Losses: n/a
Defending Premiers, they should grow in confidence to start the season and will do so with pretty much the same quality list. To their credit they appear to also have some quality kids coming through as the next generation.
Another with a healthy home advantage plus the class of Thurston. After spending 10 years climbing the mountain and finally achieving the holy grail of a premiership (and then celebrating it for 3 months) I have some knock as to how much the hunger burns late in the season.
Key Gains/Losses: S Burgess, Cook, Cody Walker (gains) Luke, McQueen, Walker, Grant (losses)
As many defending premiers they struggled with the long haul of 2015, and while Luke and Walker are key departs they have picked up arguably the best forward in the game, a handy #9 and some additional depth for their halves.
With the return of Sam Burgess I just can’t get them any lower that top 4 to start the season, he is such a proven leader who has a quality impact on those around him. In addition they have quality at 9, 7, 6 and 1 and a proven coach. Some questions on depth but it again looks a strong competitive list.
Key Gains/Losses: n/a (gains) Hinchlciffe, Mann Grant (losses)
Another who has the obvious class in key roles, possibly the game’s best player in Smith to push them around the park, a smart coach and quality home ground advantage. Their list looks strong, plus their top 3 in Smith, Slater and Cronk will all have had the benefit of a full off season prep devoid of any rep commitments. They also get the advantage of 8 games vs bottom 4 sides of 2015 which should added to their home winning advantage should take them a long way into the top 8.
Key Gains/Losses: Maloney (gain) Gordon (loss)
The Sharks have been building their list well through recent seasons (Bird, Ennis, Maloney) adding to what was already a finals list and now a year on from the past ASADA issues I expect we see the best of them this season. Bird and Holmes are young untapped talent while Maloney adds class, experience and a quality kicking game to their mix.
Finished the 2015 season strongly winning 8 of their last 11, Bird and Holmes should only continue to improve plus Maloney looks a key in.
Key Gains/Losses: Brown, Koroisau, Myles, Parcell, Taupau, Walker (gains) Foran, Hiku, (losses)
After missing the finals and a year of turmoil on the back of sacking their coach the Eagles have made significant moves to turn over their list, shopping exceptionally well in adding 6 quality buys and some much needed depth. Add to this the class of Cherry-Evans, Stewart, Lyon and the talented Trbojevic brothers and they certainly look a competitive force once again.
Brookvale has always been a huge advantage, the key questions for this season is how new Coach Barrett gels all of these new combinations together and most notably who makes #6 their own.
Key Gains/Losses: Hopoate (gain) Hodkinson, Pritchard, Lafai, Cook, (losses)
Surely some pressure and expectation on the Bulldogs this season after an unconvincing offering in 2015 and no action of note in recruitment. Hasler has also chosen to play with a big forward list through recent seasons which also faces the question of how this unfolds with the impact of less interchange options in 2016.
Hasler has a long history of knowing what he is doing and getting his sides to the top 4 if not grand final and I have rated such potential into where I have the Bulldogs starting the season, but against this many questions across combinations (halves), attack/points and how or where they improve from 2015.
Key Gains/Losses: Sezer, Whitehead, Tapine (gains)
It’s a put up or shut up year ahead for the Raiders for mine as other than unknown injury issues there can be no excuse for them not improving significantly. They have a young talented list that has now had the benefit of top grade experience through recent seasons, have the added experience and abilities of Hodgson, Nuuausala and Soliola then the attacking skill of Austin to which they have now added Sezer, Whitehead (English rep back rower) and soon to be Knights back rower Tapine.
The Raiders need to improve their home track record but they do have a gift draw in 2016 with the least number of games vs top 8 and top 4 sides from 2015 coupled with the most number of games against last year’s bottom 4. They have purchased well, the proof now needs to be in the pudding!
Key Gains/Losses: Foran, Scott, Jennings, Gordon (gains)
Another who have turned over significant numbers across their top 30 list, notably adding 3 rep players and a quality fullback / goal kicker. Foran is a huge get, a stand out class playmaker and leader. Depth, consistency and defence proved major issues for the Eels last season and clearly Coach Arthur has gone to the market to make significant improvements, the latter two we will get to judge on the park through weeks to come.
The Coach likes to play with a big physical forward list, Scott adds experience, Foran direction, Jennings and Gordon finishing to compliment the touches of Norman and big Semi. They are also a very different offering when playing at home. Certainly look on the up.
Key Gains/Losses: Luke, Tuivasa-Sheck (gains) Tomkins (loss)
Yes they reek talent and promise, yes they have purchased well with Luke and RTS but I just can’t have them. Through the last 3 to 4 seasons we have seen all of this promise and recruitment yet zero result and on the back of their disgraceful run home to end last year’s season I just can’t see what is going to change. Let’s recap, they lost their last 8 games straight (when still in contention for a finals spot), losing 5 of those games by margins of 20 points or more!
Not for me, I want to see major improvement, especially under pressure before I reassess their chances and I doubt that will be this season.
Key Gains/Losses: J Nikorima, Copley (gains) Maloney, Tuivasa-Sheck, Jennings (losses)
I’m a big rap on the coach but gee I think he might have his work cut out for him this season. They lose 3 quality rep players, two of who play key spine roles and are then to start the season on the back foot (for up to 6 weeks) without Cordner and Waerea-Hargreaves (injury) and Pearce (likely suspension). Couple with this a difficult draw that includes a tough start to the opening 6 to 8 weeks (when missing these key outs), 14 games against last year’s top 8 sides and 7 x 5 day turnarounds, ouch!
Not for me, I think last yrs minor premiers are in for a slide and will miss the finals.
Key Gains/Losses: Merrin, Hiku, Martin (gains) Brown, Koroisau (losses)
Another I can’t improve until I see the results. After another disappointing season marred with key injury outs they have made a major coaching change and worked through significant rotation of their top 30 list. There remain questions over the Soward / Wallace combination in their halves, and their likely relationship with the new coach. Certainly they do have a list of quality young kids coming through but whether they have the direction and key experience around them remains to be seen. For mine I am also yet to be sold on Coach Griffin being the right man for the job, but time will tell.
So lots of questions, ifs and buts. If they get it all right they certainly can challenge the finals, but I’m happy to risk.
Key Gains/Losses: Packer, Mann, Lafai (gains) Merrin (loss)
The plus is Coach McGreggor has had a year to sort through his list, add some recruitment and then have a full off season of his making to improve them in their climb back up the table. Packer adds some quality up front, Lafai at his best and possibly Mann can add some much need punch to their attack. What they do face though is a tough draw with 14 games vs last season’s top 8 sides plus the most of any team in 2016 (8 games) against last season’s top 4.
The Dragons did well to sneak into the finals in 8th spot last season but I have a number of those who finished below them likely to make much more improvement into this new season (Manly, Raiders, Eels).
Key Gains/Losses: Grant (gain) Taupau, Richards, Martin (losses)
While the Tigers have turned over a high number of players across their list I can only rate the strength below where it was last season with Coach Taylor choosing to go with what he has got and the hope that a lesser known name or two might break through. Clearly there is also questions as to how the Taylor / Farah (and possibly others) relationship stands up under any likely duress.
The Tigers have attacking skill and promise in Brooks and Tedesco and experience in Farah but although willing the quality looks to fall away quickly behind this. They finished equally bottom of table last year and once again look bottom 4 bound.
Key Gains/Losses: Hodkinson (gain) Scott, Roberts, Tapine (losses)
It’s been a tough few years for the Knights and hard to see any major improvement coming quickly into 2016. New Coach Brown walks into a list with some key forward losses and just the one major gain in Hodkinson, who at least will add some direction, quality kicking game and foil for Mullen. But gee, it does look up hill from there.
On paper, at their best the Knights have a fair forward list with Snowden, the Sims brothers, Smith and Rochow leading the way plus some key backs who can play (Hodkinson, Mullen, Gagai) but overall strength and depth look a major issue. Not for me.
Key Gains/Losses: McQueen Taylor, T Roberts, Shillington (gain) Myles, Sezer, J Roberts (losses)
Like the Tigers and Knights hard to see how their list has not but been weakened with three key losses and then the injury out of Elgey. They have also lost a number of players while not stars boosted depth and some 1st grade experience in the likes of Falloon, Gordon, Ridge, Taylor, Tighe and White.
Neil Henry is a good coach but for all the obvious reasons this is the toughest gig in the comp, a list way short on class, quality and experience. Henry was able to get some belief and effort out of them last yr, and on occasions some very positive attack but for all of that they did still finish bottom 3 and I see something similar once again.
2016 Long Term Forecasts
Premiers – Broncos
Grand Final – Broncos v Cowboys
Wooden Spoon – Titans
First Coach Sacked – Andrew McFadden
Suggested Betting Interests
Broncos – to win comp (for those who took the early advice last December around the Broncos to win the comp at $6.50 we are on at the right price (now $4.50).
Sharks – to make top 4 $3.50
Raiders – to make top 8 $2.20 (was as good as $2.70)
Roosters to miss top 8 $2.20
State Of Origin – NSW to win series $2.00
NRL – MrG
Having coached at a senior level for 16 years including 3 years on the coaching staff of an NRL club Mr G is an 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. MrG is also a specialist guest contributor on all things NRL to radio Talkin Sport heard nationally across 35 stations on the 2sm and Super Network.
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