The new and improved NRL All-Stars match makes its return on Friday afternoon as the Indigenous All-Stars face the New Zealand Maori All-Stars from AAMI Park.
A popular event on the calendar for rugby league fans, the one-year hiatus has created plenty of buzz alongside two of the most star-studded rosters in the competitions history. Injuries to Ryan James and Greg Inglis has opened the door for some of the games future prospects to shine, while the market also remains razor tight as we head towards the start of the home/away season next month.
Footy is officially around the corner, and we’ve picked out some of our top betting plays for Friday’s blockbuster. Be sure to check out our 2019 NRL All-Stars Preview below.
Best Bet – Indigenous All-Stars To Cover the Line (-1.5 Points)
Ryan James’ knee injury is a massive blow to to the Indigenous side. The good news is it’s of the minor variety as the Titans prop looks ahead to Round 1 – but it certainly leaves his representative side a little thin as Andrew Fifita prepares to shoulder the load.
Fortunately, there’s no need to sweat the small stuff when it comes to the Sharks’ big man. Fifita was a force up front for Cronulla last year ranking first in offloads and fourth in tackle breaks. The 29-year-old will be joined by two of the games top wingers in Blake Ferguson and Josh Addo-Carr, while experienced halves Cody Walker and Tyrone Roberts should help stifle the Maori attack.
One of the key match ups that could win this game for the Indigenous side however, is the Latrell Mitchell vs. Dean Whare battle in the middle. The Roosters’ centre was arguably the most-improved player of 2018 scoring crucial tries in both the Grand Final and NSW’s State of Origin victory. Whare, meanwhile, scored only four tries all year for the Panthers, and while he possesses the ability to lay down a big hit, his form over the last few years has been a far cry from his double-digit scoring season in 2014.
In case you need further convincing though, make sure you take a look at the core of the Maori lineup. There’s plenty of Test experience, 223 caps to be exact, but aside from Dane Gagai, Esan Marsters and Kalyn Ponga, the question remains whether or not Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith and James Tamou can band together in time to create some serious scoring opportunities up forward.
Having won this competition three times over the last five years, the Indigenous side looks tough to beat with so many speedy playmakers and top ball handlers in the side. We could see over 50-points up on the scoreboard, but look for the Indigenous All-Stars to cover as the favourites.
First Try Scorer – Josh Addo-Carr @ $9.00
The games top stars often shine brightest after plenty of rest – see Valentine Holmes during last year’s World Cup. Josh Addo-Carr tied for the third-most tries last year with 18, but he’s yet to cross the line for the Indigenous All-Stars in his three-year career. The speedster should find plenty of space on the wing, but it’s his ability in the open paddock that could pose plenty of problems for the Maori’s. Addo-Carr ranked fifth in tackle-breaks last season, making him a great bet to open proceedings with four-points.
Anytime Try Scorer – Dane Gagai @ $2.00
Gagai has been among the standouts for the Indigenous side in recent years. He chipped in with a try during 2016’s 8-12 loss to the World All-Stars, and also added to the lengthy tally during 2017’s 34-8 blowout win. This time around though, he’ll swap jerseys and don the Maori colours. It’s good news for punters considering he’ll likely hold some insider knowledge of the Indigenous defence, and after a down year for South Sydney last season, this looks like the perfect opportunity for the 28-year-old to start 2019 off on the right track.