2021 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 137/184 (74%) (Last week: 5/8)
2020 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: (74%)
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
- As one of the most predictable seasons of NRL draws to a close, we finish with the most peculiar round of the tipping season. With many of the playoffs spots settled, we’re left to sift through the mixed bag of team lists thrown up by teams who are either openly tanking, or just treading water until Mad Monday. The opening game of the week, however, has no such problems. The Raiders enter this match knowing that it’s win-or-go-home, and even with a win, there’s no guarantee they play on next week. On the Roosters‘ side of the ledger, they’ve lost star centre Joey Manu to decapitation, but have a pretty handy replacement on deck in Josh Morris, who is joined by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Angus Crichton, Adam Keighran and Matt Ikuvalu in returning to the Roosters’ side. While the loss of Manu is significant, you’d have to think that on balance the Roosters are in fact stronger on paper now, and they were already a fair bit better than Canberra. The Raiders’ recent uptick in fortune has come on the back of a significant lift in defensive performance. Through the opening 16 rounds (in which the Raiders won just 5 games), they gave up 4.5 tries a game – a volume that they simply don’t have the attacking capacity to run down. But from their Round 17 win over Manly onward, Canberra have leaked just 3.1 tries per game, and seen their win rate jump to 5/8. The explanation is quite straightforward – they’ve managed to improve their LBCVOA from 5.32% (which would place them 8th in the league) to -27.32% (3rd). There’s probably a few reasons for that: disowning Curtis Scott is a big one (he personally accounted for 1.1 line breaks per game, and hasn’t been sighted since Round 12); the emergence of Matthew Timoko is another (he’s effectively taken Scott’s place, while conceding less than 0.5 line breaks per game). What’s of most interest to us though is that there hasn’t been a similar improvement on offense; in fact, in some ways they’re slightly worse. Both their RMVOA and LBVOA are actually slightly down, but their total volumes have held steady thanks to moderately better possession shares (their average possession has lifted from 48% to 50% over the same time frame), earned via dramatically improved handling (they’ve dropped their error rate by almost 2 errors per game). This paints a picture of a side playing a more conservative attacking style, in order to win possession and grind out victories with their defense. While this is generally a perfect strategy for this Raiders team (and Ricky Stuart deserves credit for reinventing his side to be more competitive), we’re not convinced it’s a good strategy for beating the Roosters. The problem with Sydney is that’s very difficult to beat them with defense – they’ve been held to less than 20 points in a game just 8 times in 23 matches this season, with 6 of the 8 coming from elite defenses (while the Raiders are 6th, we’d place them in a tier below Penrith, Melbourne, Souths and Manly). This means that the overwhelming majority of the time, you’re going to need to score 4 or more tries to do it. It’s not impossible – Parramatta dropped 5 on them in Round 9; Brisbane squeezed out 6 in Round 11 – but it’s a big challenge for a Raiders team who last week scored more than 4 tries in a game for just the 6th time all year. Though we have some reservations about Trent Robinson’s decision to bench his team leader in try involvements and line break assists (Sam Walker) in the same week he’s lost his best strike weapon, it looks like a move intended to improve Sydney’s defense and ensure they don’t give up any soft tries to a pretty limited Raiders attack. With this in mind, we think they’ll hold Canberra to 3 tries or less, and that their offense will remain good enough to outscore that.
- The 6pm Friday game looks like the most strangely priced game we can remember, with the Sharks still out over $3, despite facing a Storm side resting at least 8 regular starters. We can only assume that the lack of support for Cronulla is due to the Storm’s success during the Origin period. In Round 13, for example, they rolled the Titans without Ryan Papenhuyzen, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Harry Grant; in Round 14 they knocked over the Warriors without Papenhuyzen, Welch, George Jennings, Kenny Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona. So yes, they have won with under-strength squads before. But you need to at least acknowledge that the current Sharks unit is playing better than both the Titans and Warriors (indeed, the week before the Titans’ 6-point loss to Melbourne, the Sharks thumped them 38-10), and that despite winning, the Storm were a long way below their best in those games. In terms of LBVOA, those two games accounted for Melbourne’s 3rd-worst and 5th-worst performances of the season (and fair enough, given the absences), but perhaps of most interest to us is that without a few key forwards, they turned in their two worst performances of the year for RMVOA, which resulted in their worst and 3rd-worst results for net yardage. If their go-forward came to a grinding halt without a couple of key forwards then, we can only imagine what will happen here without Welch, Kaufusi, both Bromwiches and Tom Eisenhuth. This is hugely significant for Cronulla, due to the typical inefficiency of their defense. When the Sharks lose the yardage battle, they concede an unwinnable 5.1 tries per game, as they consistently struggle to defend their line. But in games where they win the yardage battle – resulting in more of the game being played further away from their own try-line – that almost halves to just 2.8. In this context, the prospect of the Sharks being able to get over the top of the Storm (as ridiculous as this proposition would be any other week) looms large, as it could reduce their defensive exposure to an attack that will likely be a long way below it’s typically high standards, anyway. The question then becomes: how many can the Sharks put on? With Matt Moylan healthy and bolstering an offense that managed to put 5 line breaks past a virtually full-strength Storm side back in Round 8 (albeit in a losing effort), we like their chances. We’ve already seen Cronulla knock over a badly weakened elite unit earlier in the season when they rolled Penrith 19-18 during Origin, and we think they’re playing better footy now than they were then. We wouldn’t call it a slam dunk, but with the Sharkies playing for their footballing lives, we can’t believe how quickly they’ve been written off.
- The difference in approach to this round from the Panthers and Eels couldn’t be more stark. On one hand, you have the Panthers – a side who’ve lost just 3 matches all year, but have decided they’re not satisfied with the standard they’ve been playing at, and so will use the final round as a tune-up for their top squad. But on the other hand you have Parramatta – a side coming off a two-month window in which they’ve won just 3 games, lost 3 by 20+, and whose last start saw them get outgained by over 80m despite having 52% of the footy, while getting outperformed for line breaks (8 to 6) and tackle breaks (36 to 28)… yet who’ve apparently decided “enough, fellas – we can’t possibly get any better than this!”. No, rather than continue to improve (because despite getting comprehensively outperformed across just about every relevant statistical category, their last start was admittedly an improvement), they’ve chosen to trot out a side missing just about every regular first grader in their Top 30. We don’t necessarily think this is why they’ll lose (to be fair, their regular first graders aren’t particularly good anyway – perhaps the backups will be an improvement?), but we do think it speaks volumes about the difference in attitudes between the two sides. Expect the Panthers to put the wringers through Parramatta in the first half, before sitting their key players (Nathan Cleary, Api Koroisau etc) for most of the second stanza (while still running up the score).
- It’s finally happened – we’ve given up on expecting the Knights‘ offense to suddenly click into gear. Newcastle have now had their first-choice spine together for three weeks, and through that period they’ve served up a dismal LBVOA of -56.13%, which would put them dead last, even behind Canterbury. A big part of that can be attributed to the loss of Lachlan Fitzgibbon, the Knights’ most dynamic edge forward who still leads their pack for line breaks despite having played just 10 games all season. Unfortunately, Fitzgibbon isn’t coming back, so attacking performances such as their past three – in which they’ve averaged under 18 points-per-game, despite facing the defenses ranked 12th, 13th and 15th – are likely to remain the norm. And though we can’t recall the last time we tipped the Broncos, the fact of the matter is that that likely isn’t enough to beat Brisbane. Though the Broncos may have only won 3 of their past 8 games, they managed to score 20+ in 6 of those, with the exceptions being against Penrith (the best D in the league) and last week against Cronulla, where they managed 16 without their own star second-rower Jordan Riki. Unlike Newcastle though, the Broncos get Riki and his nasty line-running back this week, bolstering an offense that’s been generally better than Newie’s, anyway. Add in the Knights’ decision to rest hooker Jayden Brailey, back-rower Mitch Barnett and winger Hymel Hunt (whose absence sees the defensively-challenged Starford To’a return to the side) and we firmly prefer the Broncos here, potentially by 12+.
- We were somewhat surprised to see the Sea Eagles name a full-strength side for this relatively-meaningless clash with the Cowboys, but like Ivan Cleary, we can understand if Des Hasler wasn’t satisfied with the Eagles’ performance last weekend against Canterbury. While the Eagles were able to rescue their attacking numbers with a late rush of points, their defensive numbers were absolutely appalling. For a likely Top-4 side to give up 5 line breaks to the worst offense in football two weeks out from the finals is disappointing enough, but to do it while dominating possession 57-43 is downright embarrassing. This was far-and-away Manly’s worst defensive performance of the year, and that includes their miserable opening month of the season in which they routinely leaked 30+. In this context, it makes sense for Des to want to tune up that D, which spells really bad news for the Cowboys. The Cows’ own D is so superbly bad that Manly can be considered a virtual lock to score 30+, while a renewed focus on defensive intensity has the potential to see North Queensland’s offense completely shut down. Taken together, we’re expecting the Eagles to warm up for the finals by handing out a good old-fashioned butt-kicking.
- Like Melbourne, the Rabbitohs have opted to rest the bulk of their squad for this inconsequential game against the Dragons. Unlike the Storm, though, we don’t have any previous examples of how they perform without such a huge swathe of stars. Souths have been fortunate enough to get through most of the season with an unusually clean bill of health, and as a result, the closest we’ve seen to a depleted Souths side was in Round 17 when they thumped North Queensland without Latrell Mitchell, Dane Gagai, Damien Cook, Jai Arrow and Cameron Murray. Yes, they did that pretty comfortably. But here, they’ll also be without Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker, Alex Johnston, Tom Burgess and Liam Knight. That’s an enormous loss of talent, and yet somehow, they remain the bookies’ favourites at time of writing. Sure, the Dragons are rubbish (good teams don’t lose 7-in-a-row) and are without their own best attacking players in Matt Dufty, Zac Lomax and Ben Hunt. But it seems like to a stretch to call them underdogs here. In 6 starts without Latrell this year, the Rabbitohs’ LBVOA dropped from their season-average of 31.09% to -17.71%. That difference is enormous, and should only be more significant given that 7 of the team’s top 8 players in line break assists will be watching from the sideline (the exception, Benji Marshall, is 4th on the team). For comparison, since losing Hunt 4 weeks ago, the Dragons have exceeded -17.71% twice, and never dropped lower than -22.42%. This suggests that at absolute worst, the Dragons should be able to hang with this Souths side when it comes to generating scoring opportunities, and with almost the entire Souths forward back sitting out, you’d fancy the Dragons should enjoy better field position than anything they’ve had to work with in the past month. We wouldn’t say we’re super confident – if anyone knows how to navigate their way to a victory with a piecemeal squad, it’s Wayne Bennett – but we just don’t think you can make a rational argument not to tip St George-Illawarra. They can’t possibly be that bad they could lose to the Bunnies’ NSW Cup team. Can they? No, surely not. We hope.
- Then we come to the Titans and Warriors. Last weekend, the Titans’ turned in an effort that looked remarkably like the Warriors – they turned in a flawless performance in which they led for over 70 minutes, made just 6 errors, dominated possession, outgained Newcastle by almost 250m, made 5 line breaks to 2… and then somehow choked it away at the finish. This butchering of a well-earned win was incredibly Warrioresque, especially when you consider the fact that a win could have lifted the Titans into the Top 8. Instead, they’ll turn up here needing a win to make the 8… that is, unless they don’t. You see, should either the Raiders or Sharks win earlier in the weekend, the Titans will fall agonisingly short of a finals berth, irrespective of how they go here. Which makes this game extremely difficult to predict. These sides match up quite evenly, with our model projecting the Titans as winners by a little over half a try (so, essentially a coin-flip). Should the Raiders and Sharks lose, we’d feel fairly confident tipping the Titans, on the expectation that the difference in motivation between a side playing for their season and a side waiting to go home should be significant, and should see the Titans over-perform their projection while the Warriors potentially under-perform. But what happens if the Raiders or the Sharks win? Having spent all week building up to a do-or-die clash that then doesn’t eventuate, what impact could that have on the Titans’ attitude when they then have to play a day and a dead rubber 36 hours later? It’s worth considering, and would have us all over the Warriors at their current price ($3.75), particularly with the game projecting so closely in the first place. In the meantime though, we’ll stick with our model that gives a narrow edge to the Gold Coast. But if you’re in a tipping comp and find yourself needing to chase a tip in the final week, this could be the place to look – especially if the Titans get knocked out on Thursday or Friday.
- And how will the 2021 season end? Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Sunday afternoon will see the season wrap up with a clash between two of the worst sides in the competition, the Tigers and Bulldogs. Though both sides gave a reasonable account of themselves last week, that still doesn’t have us particularly keen to see either of these sides one more time. In a match-up between the worst offense in football (Canterbury) and the worst defense in football (Wests), it’s hard to see this being anything other than a painful viewing experience, filled with mistimed passes, awkward running lines and comically bad defensive reads, all punctuated by a selection of park footy-level handling errors. For the record, we’ve got the Tigers here by about 4 tries to 3; but as we’re sure you can tell, we’re about as excited to watch it as you are.