It’s very clear now the top four are the only teams most fans believe can win the 2020 NRL Premiership.
The horror injury toll to key players at Newcastle has taken them out of the running, no one believes in Cronulla or South Sydney, and Manly just can’t get their best side on the park. Canberra on the fifth line of betting at $13 are the dark horse in the finals race once they get a few more troops back on deck, but they appear to be the only team able to upset the apple cart.
The Sydney Roosters‘ sloppy performances against the Titans and Warriors have not altered anyone’s thinking, they still sit comfortably as the $3.75 premiership favourite at Sportsbet. They are missing a few troops but have the depth to cover the likes of Boyd Cordner in the short term. They are the back-to-back champions until they are officially out of the race, and the punters are respecting that line of thought.
Given what the Penrith Panthers continue to show, the $5 for the flag is a fantastic price. They lead the competition and have won seven in a row. They are choc-a-block with youth but have the right amount of experience in the likes of James Tamou and Isaah Yeo up front.
The only thing that might keep Penrith from going all the way is the lack of a ball-playing fullback. Canberra showed you don’t need one to get all the way to the NRL Grand Final, but that’s more the exception than the rule.
Apart from that, the Panthers continue to tick every box to continue a stunning turnaround from finishing 10th last season. A big pat on the back needs to be given to Stephen Crichton, who is having a sensational rookie season in the centres. Had Dally M betting not been suspended, he would have been heavily backed at this point to be named the NRL Rookie of the Year.
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And just where are the Parramatta Eels in the pecking order? It feels like they should be on the fourth line of betting, but they sit third at the $4.50 price. Their last month hasn’t been convincing, as they limped over the line against Canterbury and Newcastle, were blown away by Manly and just did enough to keep Wests at bay.
While it’s still three wins out of four, the Eels haven’t been anywhere near their best. But who knows, that may be a good thing as they look to time their run into the finals. Parra’s September schedule will be a good indicator of where they sit, with the Panthers their only clash against a top-eight team.
One factor that might come into play is that Parramatta have the competition’s longest title drought, which stands at 34 years. Should they drop some games against mediocre opposition, some doubts may begin to creep into the playing group and the fanbase alike.
Such is the excellence we’ve become accustomed to with regard to the Melbourne Storm, they are just there again without a fuss in the world. They won a game with a 28-year-old journeyman forward in the centres and sit just one point off first place.
Winning is just what this club does, no matter who puts the jersey on. For that reason alone, the $4.25 outright quote is justified. If the Storm string their best 80 minutes together, they can topple anyone.
Melbourne ran up a 32-0 second half against Brisbane after deciding to turn it on from an average first half. They didn’t play particularly well against Newcastle but still scored 26 points. They also defeated the 2019 grand finalists in consecutive weeks but continue to be overlooked for the title.
Taking out the premiership with a 37-year-old skipper in a key position would be a monumental achievement, but why can’t the Storm win it all?
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