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NRL 2018 Season Preview

The excitement is building at TipBetPro as we close in the start of the 2018 NRL season, and our third from a betting perspective.

Following the breakout year in 2016, last year was a bit disappointing, but we have not let this deter us. In fact we have redoubled our efforts, downloaded even more player statistics, crunched a lot more numbers and are now set for 2018 with a brand new algorithm!

Before we see what we think, where does Sportsbet have the teams?

So what does the new model tell us about the year ahead and who are we expecting to dominate?

Our analysis is below with some minor (and in the case of the Dragons) major disagreements with the Bookies!

The Top 4 – Storm, Cowboys, Roosters and Dragons…...wait.....Dragons!

Storm - Last season 1st – Premiership odds 6.00

No one goes back to back! The big three has become the big two, and the big two are getting on a bit. But still, we can’t go past last year’s stand out team.

Replacing Cronk is obviously key, and it will be interesting to see how the Storm cope and just as interesting how Cronk goes at the Roosters. Brodie Croft looks a talent, as shown against the Knights last season, but with 5 games under his belt, it’s maybe too much to ask……or maybe not?

As well as Cronk, the Storm have moved on some talent in the likes of Tohu Harris, and Jordan McLean, but welcome some sizeable replacements. No opposition will be looking forward to Sam Kasiano coming on late in the game.

Ryan Hoffman returns for his third stint at the Storm and another Kaufusi joins from the Cowboys. There is the loss of new signing Sandor Earl for the season but otherwise the Storm have a clean bill of health.

Expect them to challenge once again.

Roosters – Last season 2nd – Premiership odds 5.00 joint favourites

The love of a good woman (Cronk), rather than a quick shag with a dog (Pearce), could be all that the Roosters need to return to the top. When you add the most exciting player in the comp, in James Tedesco, surely the Roosters will challenge.

We agree with the bookies that they look the goods, but just not as sure fired as they are stating. Dog shagging aside, Pearce is a loss, as are his fellow Knights bound colleagues in Aidan Guerra and Connor Watson. With Michael Gordon off to the Titans, who is going to do the kicking?

Depth is another possible issue for the Roosters, as illustrated by Luke Keary’s broken jaw in pre-season, but all up, Cronk and Tedesco is pretty exciting.

Apparently they have the easiest draw (source, which will also help!

Cowboys – Last season 8th – Premiership odds joint favourites

Last season’s finals surprise package.

On paper they haven’t done much in the off-season, with the leading recruit, Jordan McLean joining from the Storm, and some exciting prospects in Ponga and Kaufusi leaving.

But it’s not the new recruits which are the big news, it’s the return from injury of JT and Matt Scott which give the Cowboys the lift to see them challenge, assuming those old legs (and shoulders) can get through another season.

Dragons – Last season 9th – Premiership odds 19.00

We know, we know. Why do we love the Dragons so much? They couldn’t even make the 8 last year. Well it’s tricky to explain, but in virtually every stat they excel, other than the one which counts, wins! They had a better scoring difference than everyone but the Storm and Broncos last year, but just couldn’t close out games.

Enter Ben Hunt, a near 200 game veteran, Australian and State of Origin runs under his belt, and maybe, just maybe something still to prove. Add in James Graham, and we can see an improved Dragons this year.

That all said, they have lost Josh Dugan, Joel Thompson and Russell Packer and depth is maybe an issue, so injuries, and lack of them are key.

Expect a few bets on the Dragons once again!

Making up the 8 – Broncos, Sea Eagles, Eels and Knights

Broncos – Last season 3rd – Odds 12.00

The Broncos seem to always put up a decent team, and are always there or there about.

In terms of recruitment, Jack Bird, a young gun, is a big coup, although he may be missing in the early rounds due to injury. Matthew Lodge is a gamble, a big one.

Going the other way is a fair bit of talent, including Ben Hunt, Tuatau Moga, Herman Ese’ese, Benji Marshall, Jai Arrow and Adam Blair.

The squad looks a bit thin, but then again, there’s plenty of talent coming through and the England coach is pretty handy.

Sea Eagles – Last season 6th – Odds 26.00

We see the Sea Eagles doing about the same again.

They have said good bye to old warriors in Lawrence, Matai and Stewart and welcome some new blood in Sipley, Gosieski and Croker (not the good one).

Always good for a punt, they can be temperamental, so could be outside the 8 as easy as they are in it.

Eels – Last season 4th – Odds 13.00

The Semi train has left the station, and in doing so, has left a sizeable hole. Can a Hayne plane fill the gap?

Other than Hayne, who let’s face it is a gamble, Kane Evans joins from the Roosters in an otherwise quiet off season.

Can they make the 4 again? We think not, but you just never know….

Knights – Last season 16th – Odds 31.00

The Knights have spent much of the past few seasons getting spanked. Respectful spankings though given their inexperience. The youngsters have done them proud and last season started to see the emergence of a decent team.

The off-season has been busy. Very busy.

The arrivals and departures are too many to mention, but the ins look like out weighing the outs, with a potential shot at the 8. A lot will rest on the Roosters recruits, Pearce and Guerrra, with some other handy additions in Ponga, Moga, Lillyman and Heighton.

The late move out of Hodkinson to the Sharks is a potential blow.

Knocking on the door – Panthers, Sharks, Raiders and Rabbitohs

Panthers – Last season 7th – Odds 13.00

The Panthers were a lot of pundit’s favourites last year and we never quite believed it. After the first half of the season we started to think we knew it all. Whilst the Panthers season improved, and the pundits started to look like they were right, our season did not.

James Maloney is the big name addition and there is no doubt he will add some extra spark, but whether the spark is as bright as the departing Moylan is arguable. Moylan heads a few outs, including Bryce Cartwright’s recent move to the Titans.

We still have them on the cusp of the 8 rather than the top 4 but you never know.

Sharks – Last season 5th – Odds 15.00

We have loved the Sharks as they lead our betting charge in 2016. But as they have started to decline so have we. So are we right to have them outside the 8?

Joshua Dugan and Matthew Moylan are two high class recruits and we are surprised the Sharks are not rated higher. But losing Maloney, Bird, Beale and others tips the scales towards the 8 and lower.

Don’t be surprised if Moylan fires, that we will be revising our outlook.

Raiders – Last season 10th – Odds 21.00

The Raiders disappointed last year. They would have expected to finish higher and as it stands we have them repeating 2017 rather than 2016.

For us it’s not so much who has come in or out, but Josh Hodgson’s knee injury which has them outside the 8.

Does Ricky have one more season?

Rabbitohs – Last season 12th – Odds 17.00

The Bunnies are annoying. Annoyingly inconsistent. And as soon as they can’t make the 8, they win every game.

Greg Inglis’s season ending knee injury last year was a massive blow, and how he stands up, and where he plays (centre?) will shape their destiny.

Dane Gagai is a star and a big addition.

Can they make the eight? Maybe, but we’d put our money elsewhere.

Going to a long season – Bulldogs, Tigers, Warriors and Titans

Bulldogs – Last season 11th – Odds 34.00

There have been a fair few changes at the Dogs, with the arrival of Foran as Josh Reynolds moves to the Tigers. Speaking of the Tigers, the long haired shaggy bearded tiger, Aaron Woods joins, as James Graham and Sam Kasiano go the other way.

We just can’t see the Dogs doing much, but as with lots of teams, it will hinge on their new recruits firing (or not).

Tigers – Last season 14th – Odds 67.00

The Tigers have had a big big off season. They have shed their big 3, in Tedesco, Moses and Woods, have retired half their squad and then signed lots. So many we ran out of fingers.

The players coming in are a bit of a motley crew, with Josh Reynolds and Benji Marshall to provide the flair.

We thing it could be Tiger Tough for this team.

Warriors – Last season 13th – Odds 41.00

The perennial underachievers. Every year we have them challenging and every year they don’t. This year, like the bookies, we have finally decided it’s not all about talent. If you haven’t got the right mentality, you aren’t going to win. Watch them dominate now!

The Warriors have the toughest draw (apparently), travel more than any other team (they are based in another country) and have lost Beale for some time.

Adam Blair, Blake Green and Tohu Harris lead the ins.

Could be the sort of season they need. Expectations are low. They may just exceed them.

Titans – Last season 15th – Odds 67.00

The Titans have at times far exceeded expectations, and indeed before Jarryd Hayne joined were our favourite betting team. They just won when they shouldn’t.

Hayne has now left, which we think is good for the Titans.

The ins are actually quite good on paper. Bryce Cartwright is a late joiner, Jai Arrow looks decent, and they have the experience of the likes of Michael Gordon. Despite this, it could be a long season.

Do you agree? Time will tell and no doubt we'll be wrong on some, but as long as we are right on more it will be happy days.

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