2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 83/136 (61%)
Line Betting: 28/59 (47%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
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NRL Round 19 Tips and Previews
Eels v Bulldogs
Offense VOA: Eels -23.32% (14th), Bulldogs -9.88% (12th)
Defense VOA: Eels 11.26% (12th), Bulldogs 11.81% (13th)
You may have glanced at the draw, seen tonight’s battle for the wooden spoon, and thought to yourself, “seems like a good time to do my tax return”. And you know what? We don’t blame you. With just 7 combined wins between them (the Knights alone have 7 wins, and they’re coming 11th), you could easily assume that tonight’s clash will be a complete waste of time, not even enjoyed by the people involved, or their immediate families. Fair enough. But we’re here to offer a different point of view.
Sure, the Eels and Bulldogs are both suffering their way through bad seasons, but – relatively speaking – they’re both in reasonably good form (we acknowledge that “good form” for either side is probably just losing by 1-12, but they’ve both at least hit that mark in 2 of their last 3 games, AND they’ve both won a game within the last month. That’s not bad, right?!). Despite possessing two of the most disappointing offenses of 2018, they’ve both scored 11 tries in their past 3 games, courtesy of an uptick in line breaks; the Bulldogs LBVOA over their past 3 games has improved from -13.50% to -3.25%, while the Eels have seen an even more significant improvement, jumping from their season average of -22.19% (dead last) to +5.79% over the same period.
For Parramatta, that’s an improvement that can be rationally explained – it’s a period in which they’ve finally seen the return of Jarryd Hayne, Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman from various absences, and Clint Gutherson switched to fullback (in short, their spine and backline is finally at full strength). It’s a popular opinion these days to hang shit on Hayne for being rubbish, but he remains the most dangerous ball runner in the Parramatta squad, and the effect he has on their attack is undeniable (he’s only played 8 games, yet ranks 2nd on the team in line breaks, and 5th in try involvements).
For Canterbury, it’s a bit more surprising though. Their improvement has coincided with the removal of their best attacking player (Moses Mbye), as well as the supremely-gifted Aaron Woods. Trying to explain their improvement is not as easy. There’s been so much change over that period – Will Hopoate has taken over at fullback, Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King are the new halves, while Rhyse Martin has been a revelation in the second-row – it can be hard to determine where to attribute the responsibility. Let’s take a look.
For a start, it’s NOT the halves. Since being united three weeks ago, Lewis and Marshall-King have combined for just 2 tries, 2 try assists, 1 line break, and 2 line break assists between them. Those would be average numbers for one NRL quality half over that period, let alone two (for comparison, Corey Norman – who’s apparently so shit that the Eels don’t even want him back next year – has 1 try, 3 try assists and 3 line breaks assists over the same period, by himself). So that’s out. Next, Hopoate has been excellent at fullback. He’s been rolling along making solid contributions from the back; there’s just one problem with that theory though – as good as he’s been, it’s hard to argue that he’s been better than Mbye. Hopoate has made more assists (per game) than Mbye, but also makes significantly less line breaks and tackle breaks, so at best, that’s probably a wash.
Which finally brings us to Martin. Like Hayne for Parramatta, Martin’s numbers over a short period of time are impressive. Besides his obvious feast of tries against the Raiders a few weeks back, Martin ranks 2nd on the team for line breaks (despite having played just 7 games), and has the 2nd highest metres-per-carry among Bulldogs forwards. We love Martin. We just don’t love pinning our hopes on a second-rower tearing it up.
If both sides have a superstar out wide, the difference is likely to come from the spine – and if that’s the case, it’s not even a contest. The Eels’ playmakers mightn’t have been great this year, but they’ve been looking alright lately – which is more than could be said for their Bulldogs equivalents (Hopoate excepted).
Our tip: Eels