The final round of football that will be affected by an upcoming State of Origin clash signals the start of the run home toward the 2021 NRL finals series.
The 2021 season has yielded significant criticism from fans and some sections of the media, but the fact that even the Tigers in 14th position are just four points outside of the top eight means there are plenty of meaningful games still to be played.
Eight teams will have their bye in Round 17 and get a complementary two points, which will see a team like the Knights potentially move into the top eight without playing a game, while the Dragons will be left with too much time to think about their COVID blunder.
Let’s take a look at what is ahead for Round 17 of the 2021 NRL Premiership.
Sea Eagles vs Raiders
In recent seasons the Sea Eagles have been a huge bogey team for the Raiders, recording six wins in their last seven clashes against the Green Machine. The form of Manly heading into this contest is almost unbelievable, scoring more than 50 points in three-straight games since their bye. Even though they destroyed a Bulldogs team who were without several experienced players, the 66-0 win has some believing they can challenge some of the big guns at the end of the season, so if that is the case they should have no trouble defeating the Raiders as a $1.28 favourite. Canberra’s display against the Titans at home left many of their fans questioning if they even tried on the night. Gold Coast had never scored 44 points in their short history, but such is the wretched season the Raiders are having, they ended up on the wrong end of a historic score line. Canberra are the $3.75 outsider but that price will no doubt drift, with coach Ricky Stuart alluding to the fact sweeping changes could be made in a bid to find some energy for his squad.
Rabbitohs vs Cowboys
South Sydney will have to search high and low to replace Cameron Murray, Dane Gagai, Latrell Mitchell and Damien Cook who will be unavailable with State of Origin duty, but coach Wayne Bennett will be thankful both Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker weren’t selected so he can still field a strong side against the North Queensland Cowboys. The Bunnies still command hot favouritism at $1.18 on the back of four straight victories and the fact their halves combination will remain solid, along with the Cowboys horrible record in New South Wales. Now that the travel for away games has gone back to ‘fly-in fly-out’, the Cowboys face a significant disadvantage and it showed in their 38-0 loss to the Knights last Saturday evening. The Cowboys are currently $5.50 in the head-to-head market and are being given a +15.5 handicap from the bookmakers, but there will be plenty of fans out there who believe that won’t be big enough when you consider the Cowboys will be without their own contingent of State Of Origin representatives.
Bulldogs vs Roosters
Canterbury are coming off a 66-0 thrashing at the hands of the Manly Sea Eagles and will barely have a chance to breathe before taking on the Sydney Roosters. The Chooks are the shortest priced favourite of the round at $1.10, but without James Tedesco and Angus Crichton, it is still barely believable they are that short. The Roosters are even coming off a 46-0 belting of their own at the hands of Melbourne, which tells you a whole lot about how punters and online bookmakers feel about the Bulldogs. Even though they are in the midst of multiple retirements, rep players missing and injuries to key players, the Roosters would have to absolutely collapse to lose this game, evidenced by the -19.5 head start they are being given at the line.
Sharks vs Warriors
Both of these sides are coming off losses and their position on the ladder means it’s effectively a four-point win. The Warriors somehow collapsed from an 18-6 lead against the Dragons and the Sharks turned in a poor performance to be upset by the Broncos, so both teams will be absolutely desperate. The Sharks had won four games in a row previous to their loss in Brisbane and will start as the $1.37 favourites, while the Warriors are at the $3.10 price. The +8.5 line for the Warriors is hard to go past when looking at the form guide before teams are named, with the Kiwis losing six games this year by eight points or less. The Warriors have also won four of their five games this year by that same margin, so 66% of results is a number you can feel pretty good about this late into the season.
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