NRL analyst Chris Thomas (@SolidPunts) shares his thoughts on the outright markets ahead of the 2019 season Down Under.
NRL Season Preview | 14th March – 6th October 2019 | Sky Sports
Well, after a dramatic off-season with shock and scandal aplenty, the NRL is back and what a wild ride the league promises to be with defending champs, the Sydney Roosters, looking to become the first side since Brisbane in 1993 to go back-to-back.
The Roosters' are the clear outright favourites in the market best priced at 7/2 (Ladbrokes
) with a plethora of outsiders all out around the 8/1 mark.
Roosters rightful favourites
Last year the Roosters' approach was one of explosive power, defensive might and astute gamesmanship. The explosive athleticism of Latreell Mitchell, the craft of Cooper Cronk and the sheer defensive will of Mithcell Aubusson were all key to the Roosters victory in 2018 and are deservedly clear market favourites.
The Roosters' only weakness is a lack of depth and the risk of injury their talisman Cronk faces at the age of 35. Should he be there come the play-offs, its hard to look past the Roosters but for now we should consider other options.
The perennial contenders
Among the peripheral contenders on the 8/1 mark we find Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Broncos and Bunnies swapped coaches in the off-season as England boss Wayne Bennett took charge at Souths while Anthony Seibold headed to Brisbane. While I like a lot of parts of both these squads they both come with big question marks over their defence, and in the NRL's recent history defence is nine tenths of the law.
As for the Storm, it's tough. You can never write off coach Craig Bellamy but with Cronk and Billy Slater now both departed, only Cameron Smith remains of the famed ‘holy trinity'. Bellamy is undoubtably the greatest NRL coach of the past decade but I'm not sure he has a side capable come finals time.
Panthers to purr along nicely
So who should you actually back? Well, the one team I'm keen to have onside at this stage of the season are the Penrith Panthers (10/1 Bet365
Like Brisbane and South Sydney they too have changed coach in the-off season with Ivan Cleary returning to coach his son Nathan in the quest for Premiership glory. I don't generally like backing teams with coaches in their first season in charge but the Panthers under Cleary are too big to ignore.
Ivan took a Wests Tigers team last year to defensive performances above their ability and I like the move to swap James Maloney and Nathan Cleary in the defensive line. The Panthers have the clear second-best squad in the league behind only the Roosters and I'll gladly side with them at 10/1.
NRL 2019 – Penrith Panthers to win the Grand Final (10/1 Bet365