November 18 was the last time we saw meaningful footy, with the conclusion to an outstanding State Of Origin series.
Cricket over the summer is nice, but there is no more beautiful prospect than seeing the next 30 weekends dominated by NRL action.
Let’s take a look at some of the big storylines and the latest odds at NRL betting sites for all eight games in round one.
Melbourne Storm vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Despite heading into the game without Harry Grant and Dale Finucane, the Melbourne Storm come in as $1.85 favourites against the Rabbitohs. South Sydney have never won in Melbourne, and this appears as their best chance to get that monkey off the back given their hot trial form in the Charity Shield.
The $1.95 for the Bunnies in the head-to-head market has come in from $2.30 on the back of the key players out of the Melbourne line-up, but the Storm playing their first game at home in 10 months makes them hard to back against. Also, remember Craig Bellamy is 18-0 in round one over the journey. Storm by 10.
Melbourne Storm by 1-12 points
Newcastle Knights vs Canterbury Bulldogs
The Newcastle Knights showed a frustrating ability to play down to less-fancied opponents in 2020, and in the last few years they have suffered embarrassing home losses to Canterbury. The Bulldogs have a fantastic record in the Hunter, going undefeated there in eight years and winning eight of the last nine between the two teams.
Newcastle have won three consecutive round-one home games and are the $1.52 favourites, but the better bet looks like the Canterbury Bulldogs at the +5.5 line given they have covered that spread in their last five games at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Canterbury Bulldogs +5.5
Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels
Will we see a ‘Kevolution’ at the Brisbane Broncos after two horror seasons under Anthony Seibold? The Parramatta Eels have heaped misery upon the Broncos in recent years, winning their last three games against Brisbane by a combined 118-18.
There has been zero buzz about Parramatta in the preseason, but the $1.33 favouritism is justified with Brisbane missing Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs, who are their two most dynamic players. The effort will be there for Brisbane, but they should still comfortably lose this, so the $2.30 for the Eels to win by 13 or more looks an awesome choice in a same-game multi.
Parramatta Eels by 13+ points
New Zealand Warriors vs Gold Coast Titans
The New Zealand Warriors will once again be forced to play the entirety of the season on the road. To fight bravely and win plenty of admirers once is one thing, but to do it a second time in as many years would require a Herculean effort. The Gold Coast Titans have recruited well over the offseason and appear to be ready to push for the finals on the back of a young and athletic forward pack.
The $3.10 for the Titans to win by 1-12 points will no doubt be the safe option for punters, with the Warriors only losing once by 13 or more at Central Coast Stadium in 2020. Also look at taking the $1.90 for over 45.5 points in the game, with that mark being breached in eight of the last 10 games between the two sides.
Gold Coast Titans by 1-12 points
Sydney Roosters vs Manly Sea Eagles
This game appears to be a fait accompli, with the Sydney Roosters hot favourites at $1.29. With Tom Trbojevic, Manly have won 14 or their last 19 games and can blow sides apart around the ruck. When he doesn’t play, their winning percentage moves closer to 30.
These are two completely different teams. When you consider the Roosters’ amazing record at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Sea Eagles’ abysmal 2020 defence, taking the Chooks at -18.5 at $3.20 looks very tempting. Also, Manly have lost seven straight round-one games.
Sydney Roosters -18.5
Penrith Panthers vs North Queensland Cowboys
There is an expectation that the Penrith Panthers will fall back to the pack in 2021, while the North Queensland Cowboys are expected to move further up the table. Travelling to Sydney has rarely been kind for North Queensland, and they will start their campaign against a side who will be looking to make a statement that 2020 wasn’t a fluke.
Penrith at 13+ coupled with the Roosters at that same margin in a two-leg multi at $4.62 looks a good odds-booster and every chance of delivering.
Panthers by 13+ / Roosters by 13+
Canberra Raiders vs Wests Tigers
The Canberra Raiders have had the Tigers for breakfast, lunch and dinner recently with seven wins in their past eight clashes, including a streak of four straight games where the Raiders scored 40 or more points.
The Canberra 13+ at $2.20 will be backed off the map, but make sure to get Jordan Rapana in your tryscoring multis and first tryscorer bets. He has 11 tries in nine career games against Wests, and after a quieter 2020 he’s looked fitter this preseason than he has for several years.
Canberra Raiders by 13+ points
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks
The St George Illawarra Dragons’ offseason was a PR nightmare, and a loss to their local rivals would have the blood of their parochial fan-base boiling. Both teams were towards the bottom of the defensive rankings in 2020, and the over 42.5 total points at $1.90 should be taken.
Some 16 of the Cronulla Sharks‘ last 19 games have seen the total points line breached, and one figure that makes picking a winner tricky for this contest is that the Saints have covered the +3.5 spread in seven of their last nine games against the Sharks. Cronulla 1-12 at $3 will be where a big proportion of the money will go.
Over 42.5 total points
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