2020 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: 70/96 (73%) (Last week: 7/8)
2019 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: (64%)
2018 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: (58%) Line Betting: (46%)
2017 Season Results:Head-to-Head Tipping: 66% Line Betting: 55% (NOTE: If this is your first visit to the site, be sure to click here for an explanation of what we’re all about.)
- Sea Eagles
- Both the Dragons and Roosters dropped selection bombshells on Tuesday, with halves Corey Norman and Kyle Flanagan both dropped for the first time this season. In both cases, the desire for change is understandable – the Dragons’ offense ranks a lowly 11th in the league, while the Roosters LBVOA over the past three weeks (-33.55%) would be good enough to place them 3rd-last in the competition. That being said, the consequences of the changes are likely to be felt differently for each side. At the Dragons, Norman’s role is that of the primary attacking playmaker. He’s responsible for the majority of the team’s attacking kicks (and as a result, is 9th in the NRL for forced drop-outs), and his frequent touches in positive field position see him 3rd in the team for try involvements (behind Matt Dufty and Zac Lomax). Removing Norman will fundamentally change the side’s attack, and likely result in the side reverting to Ben Hunt as the go-to man, with Adam Clune in a complimentary role. Whether or not that change is a positive remains to be seen, and your view is likely to be shaped by how positively you view Hunt (or if you just can’t stand Norman). At the Roosters though, Flanagan plays a clear second fiddle to Luke Keary, and is only the primary option for long kicks. Whether or not he deserves to be dropped is debatable (we’d argue that after a quiet opening to the season he’s really blossomed since the resumption), but regardless, replacing him with Lachlan Lam is unlikely to move the needle very much – this is Keary’s team, and their fate remains firmly in his hands. For what it’s worth, we’re of the view that the Roosters’ lack of recent production is instead tied to a decline in dominance of their forward pack, and we don’t see any obvious reason why that’s likely to have improved (if anything, with the mid-week scratching of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, it’s likely to have gotten worse). For this reason, though we’re tipping the Roosters to get home, we’re expecting it to be significantly more competitive than the current odds would suggest.
- Speaking of curiously-priced underdogs, we’d love to know what makes the bookies so confident in the Sea Eagles. Since losing Tom Trbojevic in Round 6, they’ve offered absolutely nothing offensively, averaging under 3 tries per game, with a LBVOA of -16.49%. Though we’d subjectively agree that Cade Cust is a better 6 than Lachlan Croker, it’s difficult to back that up with numbers, with Cust having produced just a single try assist and zero line break assists in his 5 matches so far. So if you’re backing Manly, you’re doing so on the notoriety of their D – and to be honest, that hasn’t been that crash hot lately, either. After conceding 3 tries or less in all of their opening six matches, they’ve now conceded 4 or more in 4 of their last 6, including a last-start walloping in which Penrith laid the blueprint for how to attack the Sea Eagles’ umbrella defense. Adding further questions to the Eagles’ D is the loss of the ginger menace, Brad Parker. In Parker, Manly have one of the better defensive centres in the league, with Parker having conceded just 4 line breaks and 3 tries all season (compare that to, say, Moses Suli, who’s allowed 7 and 5, respectively, while playing 2 fewer games). He’ll be replaced here by Tevita Funa, who’s only previous start at centre was in the side’s 40-22 hammering at the hands of Cronulla. Like in the match above, we agree that Manly are generally speaking the better side, and likely the safer bet; but do they deserve to be overwhelming favourites? Honestly, probably not.
- On a related note, can we finally put to bed the myth that Jake Trbojevic is the best lock forward in the game? Going head-to-head against Penrith lock Isaah Yeo, the gulf in class was obvious. While Emperor Plod Trbojevic turned in another 7 metres-per-carry effort (“Kneel before Plod!”), Yeo was once again outstanding, averaging almost an extra 3m per hit-up. This isn’t a fluke – Yeo has outplayed Plod consistently across the season. Amongst all eligible lock forwards this season, Yeo ranks 9th in metres-per-carry, 1st in line breaks, and 2nd in tackle breaks. Our mate Plod, meanwhile, is 37th, 4th and 31st. Now, Plod’s supporters love to scream, “but he’s a ballplayer! Having Plod is like having an extra half!” Please. Plod has all of 2 line break assists on the season. The only way that would be like having an extra half, is if that half were Lachlan Lewis. And before you point to his defense, we’ll stop you right there – he makes just 3 extra tackles per game, but with a lower tackle efficiency (93% v 95%); has conceded an extra line break; and also has an extra error, for good measure. So let’s just call a spade a spade – Yeo is better than Trbojevic, and deserves both his rep jerseys. We hope this clears that up.
- Though Anthony Seibold keeps assuring us all that the Broncos are apparently playing “much better”, last week marked the 3rd week on the trot in which they’ve conceded 7 or more line breaks in a game, and the 5th such occasion this year (indeed, there’s an argument to be made that on that side of the ball, they’re actually getting worse). We’d agree that their offense looked significantly better against Cronulla, but that should be taken with a grain of salt – at this point, just about everyone who plays the Sharks has a field day with the ball. Against the Rabbitohs, their pitiful defense will be subjected to another high-end offense, and will have to keep pace without key playmaker Anthony Milford. The return of David Fifita helps, but unless they’ve got another half a dozen of him out the back, they’re in a world of strife here. Wayne Bennett will be licking his lips at the opportunity to drop the hammer on the man who replaced him.
- We don’t expect the Storm to lose, but it’ll be worth observing how their offense looks this weekend without both Cameron Smith and Ryan Papenhuyzen. It shouldn’t need to be terribly good – their defense is the best in the league, while the Bulldogs’ O is 2nd-worst; to be perfectly honest, we’d be shocked if Canterbury get to 10 points. But nonetheless, with Smith in the twilight of his career, this week may provide a glimpse of what their future holds, and what a Cameron Munster-led offense would look like.
- We would have backed the Knights this week anyway – we made the point last week that in our view, Newcastle are being consistently underestimated – but the loss of Harry Grant for the Tigers is devastating. Grant has been a revelation this season, providing 9 try involvements, 6 line break assists and 5 try assists for Wests. That’s a lot of production to replace. Worse, with Jacob Liddle still sidelined with injury, that leaves certified non-hooker Moses Mbye to fill-in at dummy-half – a move that will compromise the quality of service provided to the side’s halves. Grant is probably the one player the Tigers could least afford to lose, and hopefully is absence is a short one.
- While the rugby league world continues to be enthralled by the Raiders’ three-game winning streak without star hooker Josh Hodgson, it’s about time we put those performances into perspective. They haven’t been winning due to anything they’ve done offensively – they have just 3 combined line breaks over the past fortnight, and a LBVOA of -41.56% since Hodgson went down (for comparison, this week’s opponent, the Panthers, have made 3 or more breaks in all but one match this season, and possess the 2nd best LBVOA in the league). No, they’ve been winning because their defense has improved considerably – something that has nothing to do with Hodgson whatsoever. If we had to guess, we’d say the absence of serial liability Curtis Scott for two of those weeks probably helped, as did the opportunity to defend against a North Queensland team missing three quarters of its starting spine (in a game being played in a monsoon). Here, they’ll have no such luck. Scott and his bewildering decision-making is in, and the Raiders’ brittle right edge will be tasked with trying to defend the NRL’s most potent attacking left edge (the Viliame Kikau/Stephen Crichton combo, that has 53 tackle busts, 21 try involvements and 17 line breaks between them). The Raiders will need to find something special if they’re to survive that mismatch; and even then, they’d also need to find a way through one of the league’s premium defenses. Penrith to win, and we fancy they’re a good shout for 13+.
- The clash between the Titans and Cowboys has the potential to be very interesting, if only because of both sides’ propensity to concede points. Here, we’ll find the league’s 4th-worst and 2nd-worst defense going head-to-head, which should – in theory – lead to a potential avalanche of points. But where are those points going to come from? For their part, the Titans are bringing the league’s worst offense to the table, having exceeded 16 points just twice all year. Their issues lie with their spine – the dreadfully mediocre Ash Taylor is their only player with more than 2 line break assists all season, and even he has only mustered 6. However, the Cows come with issues of their own. Scott Drinkwater and Valentine Holmes have been their two most effective attacking weapons, and both remain sidelined with injuries. Our hope is that the return of Michael Morgan offers the Cowboys a little bit of something, otherwise this match could easily descend into a frustrating 80 minutes of watching both sides butchering opportunities.
- Even by their own shockingly low standards, the Sharks’ defense was pitiful last weekend, leaking 9 line breaks and 26 points to a Brisbane side who’ve won just 1 of their last 10 games. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Cronulla’s defensive deficiencies is that they somehow are still in the Top 8. For better or worse, Cronulla just keep on winning, and they do it by scoring an absurd volume of points. After last week’s win, the Sharks have now managed to score 20+ points for 7 weeks in a row, a period in which they’ve racked up 40+ on 3 separate occasions. They were slow to get going this season, but at this point their offense is absolutely humming. Our issue with Cronulla though, is that it has to be – yes, they’ve scored 20+ for seven straight weeks (and 8 games, total), but they’ve also leaked 20+ points in 7 separate games. Through 12 weeks, Cronulla average 22.8 points conceded per game – winning matches with a defense that bad simply isn’t sustainable. Which means that either their defense needs to get better, or losses may be just around the corner. We’re not exactly huge believers in the Eels, but having just seen Cronulla get shredded by Brisbane, we feel like we have to give them the benefit of the doubt here. But the Sharks’ future is in their own hands, and if they can find a way to make their defense even remotely competitive, their offense is that good that they could easily make a deep run into the finals.