2019 NRL Season Preview

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The 2019 NRL Season gets underway in Melbourne on Thursday night and we are set for another outstanding year of rugby league.

The Sydney Roosters peaked at the right time to win the NRL Premiership last year and they are currently clear favourites in our NRL betting market, but it is very tough to defend the title in the NRL and no side has done it in a combined competition since the Broncos in 1993.

We have analysed all 16 NRL sides and our complete 2019 NRL Season Preview can be found below,

Brisbane Broncos

In: Sean O’Sullivan (Roosters), Shaun Fensom (Cowboys)
Out: Korbin Sims, Jonus Pearson (Dragons), Tom Opacic, Josh McGuire (Cowboys), Marion Seve (Storm), Corey Allan (Rabbitohs), Sam Thaiday (retired)

2018 Finish: 6th (Lost Elimination Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 3rd

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 15-9

Home: 9-4

Away: 6-5

Against The Line

Overall : 12-13

Home: 7-6

Away: 5-7

Premiership Odds: $7

This could be the year that the Brisbane Broncos finally end their Premiership drought. They have one of the, if not the, best forward packs in the NRL and they have put the Wayne Bennett coaching saga behind them by recruiting one of the sharpest coaches in the competition. Anthony Siebold did an amazing job with the South Sydney Rabbitohs last year and he might just be the man to unlock the enormous potential of the halves combination of Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima. Those two are obviously the key for the Broncos and if they can improve their game by 20 percent, the Broncos will be right in the mix. Defence is the other issue for the Broncos, but they do have serious points in them and they should feature in plenty of high-scoring games this season.

Back Brisbane To Finish Top 4 @ $2.25

Canberra Raiders

In: Ryan Sutton (Wigan), John Bateman (Wigan), JJ Collins (Knights), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (New Zealand Warriors)
Out: Shannon Boyd (Titans), Junior Paulo (Eels), Blake Austin (Warrington), Charlie Gubb (Widnes), Craig Garvey (released), Mikaele Ravalawa (Dragons), Liam Knight (Rabbitohs)2018 Finish:
 10th

2019 Predicted Finish: 12th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 10-13

Home: 7-5

Away: 3-8

Against The Line

Overall : 12-12

Home: 7-5

Away: 5-7

Premiership Odds: $21

What do you make of the Canberra Raiders? They simply weren’t able to finish games off 12 months ago and their squad has lost some serious talent. Blake Austin, Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo have left the club and they haven’t been replaced with any real quality. Josh Hodgson is an excellent player and hopefully he will stay fit this season, but Aidan Sezer hasn’t really developed as he was expected to and their spine is right up there with the worst in the competition. The Raiders don’t really have any clear strengths and it has become increasingly clear over the past decade that Ricky Stuart isn’t a good coach. The Raiders will struggle once again.

No Bet

Canterbury Bulldogs

In: Dylan Napa (Roosters), Jack Cogger (Knights), Nick Meaney (Knights), Sauaso Sue (Tigers), Corey Harawira-Naera (Panthers), Christian Crichton (Panthers), Chris Smith (Roosters)

Out: David Klemmer (Knights), Moses Mbye, Josh Morris (Sharks), Brett Morris (Roosters), Greg Eastwood, Matt Frawley (Huddersfield), Zac Woolford (Knights)

2018 Finish: 12th

2019 Predicted Finish: 7th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 8-15

Home: 5-6

Away: 3-9

Against The Line

Overall : 13-11

Home: 7-5

Away: 6-6

Premiership Odds: $41

The Canterbury Bulldogs are a side that I believe can cause plenty of upsets this season and I think that they are great value at their current odds to make the finals. They were a better side than their record suggested last season, they were 2-8 in close games, and they have the potential to be very big improvers. The Bulldogs have added plenty of talent to their side and gotten rid of players that were either past the primes (the Morris brothers and Greg Eastwood) or overrated (David Klemmer). They have one of the best forward packs in the competition and that will keep them in plenty of games. Kieran Foran can’t possibly play as badly as he did last season and Lachlan Lewis is one of the most exciting young halves in the competition, while Michael Lichaa has developed into a decent hooker. I don’t think that they will be in the premiership mix, but they are well and truly over the odds to finish inside the top eight.

Back Canterbury To Make The Top 8 @ $5

Cronulla Sharks

In: Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
Out: Jesse Ramien (Knights), James Roumanos (Bulldogs), Trent Hodkinson (Manly), Edrick Lee (Newcastle), Luke Lewis (retired), Joseph Paulo (St Helens), Ricky Leutele (Toronto)

2018 Finish: 4th (Lost Preliminary Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 13th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 17-9

Home: 9-4

Away: 8-5

Against The Line

Overall : 13-14

Home: 5-8

Away: 8-6

Premiership Odds: $15

The Cronulla Sharks are a club in crisis and I expect that to be evident on the field this season. Valentine Holmes was easily their best player last season and he has gone, while rookie coach John Morris has been thrown in the deep end after Shane Flanagan was deregistered by the NRL. They have also lost Wade Graham to injury in the first half of the season and no player is more important to this side. Their big signing is Shaun Johnson and how he fits in could very well dictate how the Sharks fare this season. There is no doubt that Johnson is an excellent player, but he has never been able to lead the Warriors to any form of consistent glory. The Sharks definitely did overachieve last season and, with an ageing roster, this might be the year that the wheels fall off completely.

Back Cronulla Sharks To Miss Top 8 @ $2.05

Gold Coast Titans

In: Tyrone Peachey (Panthers), Shannon Boyd (Raiders), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington), Jesse Arthars (Rabbitohs), Ryley Jacks (Storm), Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles)
Out: Brenton Lawrence, Ryan Simpkins (retired), Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Sea Eagles), Konrad Hurrell (Leeds)2018 Finish:
 14th

2019 Predicted Finish: 8th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 7-16

Home: 3-8

Away: 4-8

Against The Line

Overall : 14-10

Home: 9-3

Away: 5-7

Premiership Odds: $41

The Gold Coast Titans are another side that I expect to perform better than their current odds suggest. Gareth Brennan started to make inroads with this side at the end of last season and they developed a number of potential stars including AJ Brimson. Brimson was outstanding in both attack and defence and he developed an excellent relationship with Ash Taylor. The underrated Tyrone Roberts comes in as a steadying influence and Ryley Jacks also gives them plenty of options in the halves. Their forward pack is right up there with the best in the competition and will be even better this season following the signings of Shannon Boyd and Tyrone Peachey. Throw in Nathan Peats and this really is a side with serious talent and it would be something of a disappointment if they did not push for a spot in the top eight.

Back Gold Coast To Finish In The Top 8 @ $3.50

Manly Sea Eagles

In: Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Titans), Corey Waddell (Panthers), Reuben Garrick (Dragons)
Out: Akuilla Uate (Huddersfield), Shaun Lane (Eels), Tom Wright (rugby union), Brian Kelly (Titans), Jonathan Wright, Lewis Brown (retired)

2018 Finish: 15th

2019 Predicted Finish: 9th

Premiership Odds: $41

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 7-16

Home: 4-8

Away: 3-8

Against The Line

Overall : 11-1-12

Home: 5-1-6

Away: 6-6

Premiership Odds: $12

It is all about the return of Des Hasler for the Manly Sea Eagles in 2019. The club was a basket case, both on and off the field, last season but there are some promising signs ahead of this season. There is no lack of talent in this side. Daly Cherry-Evans was excellent in a losing outfit last season and the Trbojevic brothers are two of the best players in the competition. Depth is definitely an issue and an injury to any of those three would end their chances, but if that trio do stay fit there is no reason they can’t perform better than their current odds suggest. Hasler had his detractors at the end of his time at Canterbury, but there is no doubt that he is one of the best coaches in the competition and he will be able to get the most out of this outfit.

Back Manly To Make Top 8 @ $3.75

Melbourne Storm

In: Tom Eisenhuth (Penrith), Marion Seve (Brisbane), Albert Vete (Warriors)
Out: Young Tonumaipea (religious mission), Tim Glasby (Knights), Ryan Hoffman (retired), Billy Slater (retired), Louis Geraghty (released), Lachlan Timm (Dragons), Ryley Jacks (Titans)

2018 Finish: 2nd (Lost Grand Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 2nd

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 17-9

Home: 10-4

Away: 7-5

Against The Line

Overall : 12-15

Home: 8-6

Away: 4-9

Premiership Odds: $8

The Melbourne Storm are one of the most consistent teams in Australian sport and there is no reason that they won’t be in the mix once again. They handled the loss of Cooper Cronk 12 months ago to make yet another Grand Final, but the question this season is whether they will overcome the loss of Billy Slater. Jarome Hughes is an obvious talent and the spine is still packed full of quality. There are no big-name recruits, but that is not the Storm’s go and Craig Bellamy has a simply incredible ability to get enormous impact from no-names and journeyman. They might not have as much upside as other sides in the competition, but it would be a shock if the Storm didn’t finish in the top four and if the other fancies falter, they will be the side ready to strike.

No Bet

New Zealand Warriors

In: Leeson Ah Mau (Dragons), Taane Milne (trial), Adam Keighran (Penrith), Lachlan Burr (Bulldogs)
Out: Shaun Johnson (Sharks), Ata Hingano (Raiders), Albert Vete (Storm), Anthony Gelling (Widnes), Simon Mannering (retired), Zac Santo (released), Mason Lino (Knights), James Gavet (Knights)2018 Finish:
 8th (Lost Qualifying Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 14th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 14-10

Home: 7-5

Away: 7-5

Against The Line

Overall : 14-11

Home: 6-6

Away: 8-5

Premiership Odds: $21

The New Zealand Warriors returned to the NRL Finals last season, but they never really looked like a Premiership hope and consistency is certainly not a strength for this side. It seems fairly incredible that the Warriors let Shaun Johnson go without finding a replacement and they have struggled badly without him in recent seasons. That means that there is an enormous amount of pressure on Chanel Harris-Tevita, as Blake Green isn’t quite good enough to win games by himself. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck may have won the Dally M Medal, but he still doesn’t really dominate games and is probably a little bit overrated. The loss of Simon Mannering can’t be understated either and depth now looks like a problem in the forward pack. I can’t see the Warriors being serious contenders in 2019 and Stephen Kearney might be lucky to survive the season.

No Bet

Newcastle Knights

In: Tim Glasby (Storm), Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee (Sharks), Mason Lino, James Gavet (Warriors), David Klemmer, Zac Woolford (Bulldogs), Hymel Hunt (Rabbitohs), Kurt Mann (Dragons)
Out: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney (Bulldogs), Brock Lamb (Roosters), Ken Sio (Salford), JJ Felise (Raiders), Cory Denniss (Rabbitohs), Luke Yates (London), Dylan Phythian (Burleigh), Pat Mata’utia (Wests Newcastle), Chris Heighington, Jacob Lillyman (retired)2018 Finish:
 11th

2019 Predicted Finish: 15th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 8-15

Home: 3-8

Away: 5-7

Against The Line

Overall : 11-13

Home: 5-7

Away: 6-6

Premiership Odds: $15

There is plenty of hype around the Newcastle Knights, but I think they will finish much closer to first than last. There is no doubt that Kalyn Ponga is a genuine superstar, but his emergence last season clouded what was a fairly poor second half of the season for the Knights and they still have a roster that is short of overall quality. The signing of David Klemmer is expected to bolster their forward pack, but I’m not convinced that he has the qualities to take over the leadership of this pack, which is definitely short on depth. Danny Levi is one of the weakest starting hookers in the competition and Connor Watson still needs to develop. That means that there is a huge amount of pressure on Ponga and if he doesn’t replicate last season’s efforts or misses any time due to injury, it could be another long season for Knights fans.

Back Newcastle To Miss The Top 8 @ $2.10

North Queensland Cowboys

In: Tom Opacic, Josh McGuire (Broncos), Nene Macdonald (Dragons), Kurt Baptiste (Roosters)
Out: Johnathan Thurston, Antonio Winterstein (retired), Lachlan Coote (St Helens), Kane Linnett (Hull KR), Shaun Fensom (Broncos), Ben Barba (sacked)

2018 Finish: 13th

2019 Predicted Finish: 6th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 7-16

Home: 4-7

Away: 3-9

Against The Line

Overall : 10-14

Home: 6-6

Away: 4-8

Premiership Odds: $15

2019 could really go either way for the North Queensland Cowboys. It was clearly a shock how bad they were in 2018, but they did show some positive signs at the end of the season and the loss of Johnathan Thurston might not be as enormous as it was feared to be. Their impressive run to the 2017 NRL Grand Final without Thurston showed that they can win without him and Michael Morgan is the type of player that does thrive with extra responsibility. Their forward pack is probably the best in the competition. Jason Taumalolo is a beast and Jordan McLean was enormous for the side when he came back from injury in the second half of last year. Throw in Josh McGuire and the always reliable Gavin Cooper and there is a huge amount of quality in this pack. The one question mark is at fullback following the sacking of Ben Barba and it will be interesting to see whether Jordan Kahu takes advantage of this opportunity. The market looks to have got the Cowboys just about right, but they are definitely a team to follow.

No Bet

Parramatta Eels

In: Junior Paulo (Raiders), Blake Ferguson (Roosters), Shaun Lane (Sea Eagles), Maika Sivo (Panthers)
Out: Suaia Matagi (Huddersfield), Corey Norman (Dragons), Cameron King (Featherstone), Nathan Davis, Siosaia Vave, Tony Williams, Jarryd Hayne (released), Beau Scott, Kirisome Auva’a (retired).2018 Finish:
 16th

2019 Predicted Finish: 16th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 6-17

Home: 6-6

Away: 0-11

Against The Line

Overall : 9-15

Home: 6-6

Away: 3-9

Premiership Odds: $26

The Parramatta Eels were awful across just about every metric last season and it really is tough to see them being much better in 2019. When Blake Ferguson is your big-name off-season purchase, you know that you have done something wrong and this is a squad that has question marks right across the field. Corey Norman is no loss, but their spine is still one of the weakest in the competition and Mitchell Moses is just not a good player. Shaun Lane is a handy signing from the Sea Eagles, but there really aren’t many stars in what is an ageing forward pack. Reed Mahoney is a hooker with ability and still has upside, while their outside backs do have quality. It is tough to see where their points are going to come from and their inability to win away from home, could continue to be an issue. They won’t be in the finals mix and they should be favourites for the wooden spoon.

Back Parramatta For Most Losses @ $6

Penrith Panthers

In: Tim Grant (Tigers), Hame Sele (Dragons), Tyrell Fuimaono (Rabbitohs), Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Tigers)
Out: Tyrone Peachey (Titans), Tim Browne (retired), Christian Crichton (Bulldogs), Peter Wallace (retired), Oliver Clark (Tigers), Tom Eisenhuth (Storm), Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Soni Luke, Corey Waddell (Sea Eagles), Trent Merrin (Leeds)

2018 Finish: 5th (Lost Semi Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 4th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 15-10

Home: 8-4

Away: 7-6

Against The Line

Overall : 13-1-12

Home: 8-5

Away: 5-1-7

Premiership Odds: $10

Is this the year that the Penrith Panthers take the next step? Last season was overshadowed by coaching drama and the return of Ivan Cleary should quell that for at least a couple of seasons or until Phil Gould gets an itchy trigger finger once again. The difference between their best and their worst was simply far too great and if they are going to be a genuine premiership contender, they need to be far more consistent. Nathan Cleary and James Maloney have developed into an excellent halves partnership and both Dylan Edwards and hooker Sione Katoa have the upside to ensure that the Panthers have arguably the best spine in the entire competition. Their starting forward pack is one of the best in the competition, but they have lost a little bit of depth in the off-season and there is a bit of a question mark over their bench. They should definitely be in the finals mix again and the query is whether they can take the leap forward to cement themselves as a top four team.

Back Penrith To Finish In The Top Four @ $2.50

South Sydney Rabbitohs

In: Corey Allen (Broncos), Kurt Dillon (Sharks), Bayley Sironen (Tigers), Matt McIlwrick (Tigers), Liam Knight (Raiders), Cory Denniss (Knights)
Out: Angus Crichton (Roosters), Jason Clark (Warrington), Richie Kennar (Broncos), Hymel Hunt (Knights), Zane Musgrove (Tigers)

2018 Finish: 3rd (Lost Preliminary Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 5th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 17-9

Home: 10-2

Away: 7-7

Against The Line

Overall : 15-12

Home: 7-6

Away: 8-6

Premiership Odds: $10

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are set to be one of the most interesting sides in the NRL this season. Anthony Seibold helped the side emerge as a genuine premiership contender last season and he got the best out of the likes of Damien Cook, John Sutton, Greg Inglis, Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds. Will that development continue under Wayne Bennett? The answer to that question will likely determine how well the Rabbitohs perform this season. It isn’t only about Bennett though. The loss of Angus Crichton is a big one and will test their depth, while they did have a good run with injuries last season and that might be touch to replicate with a number of their more injury-prone players this season. I’m not ruling out the Rabbitohs completely and I do think that they will finish inside the top eight, but it might take a while for them to adjust to the Bennett style and there will be periods when they struggle this season.

No Bet

St George Illawarra Dragons

In: Korbin Sims (Broncos), Mikaele Ravalawa (Raiders), Jonus Pearson (Broncos)
Out: Leeson Ah Mau (Warriors), Jason Nightingale (retired), Nene Macdonald (Cowboys), Kurt Mann (Knights)

2018 Finish: 7th (Lost Semi Final)

2019 Predicted Finish: 10th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 15-10

Home: 8-3

Away: 7-7

Against The Line

Overall : 13-13

Home: 6-6

Away: 7-7

Premiership Odds: $13

It has become one of the most predictable storylines in the NRL – the St George Illawarra Dragons get off to a flyer before they fall in a heap in the second half of the season. The Dragons, like the Cowboys, are a side that could go either way this season and I’m leaning towards it being another frustrating year for their fans. I believe that the signing of Corey Norman was a mistake and I’m not convinced that the new-look spine, with Gareth Widdop at full-back, is going to work. This is a huge season for Ben Hunt and if he falters early, which we all know that he can, he will definitely struggle to regain his confidence. You can’t knock their forward pack and it is one of the best in the competition, but the uncertainty over Jack de Belin and the fact that they will be missing most of their pack during the State Of Origin period, will test their depth. The jury is still out over the question of the coaching ability of Paul McGregor and he will be under plenty of pressure if the Dragons are slow out of the blocks. I’m not convinced that he will respond positively to that pressure and the Dragons are more than capable of missing the top eight.

Back St George Illawarra To Miss The Top 8 @ $2

Sydney Roosters

In: Angus Crichton (Souths), Brett Morris (Bulldogs), Ryan Hall (Leeds)
Out: Ryan Matterson (Tigers), Jayden Nikorima (released), Blake Ferguson (Eels), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (retired), Paul Momirovski (Tigers), Eloni Vunakece (retired), Mitch Cornish (retired), Sean O’Sullivan (Broncos)

2018 Finish: Premiers

2019 Predicted Finish: Premiers

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 19-7

Home: 11-4

Away: 8-3

Against The Line

Overall : 17-10

Home: 10-5

Away: 7-5

Premiership Odds: $4.25

It is incredibly tough to win back-to-back Premierships in the NRL, but the Sydney Roosters have the side to do just that. It took the new-look squad a while to click last season, but when they did they were nothing short of outstanding. They should easily be able to handle the departure of Blake Ferguson and Dylan Napa as both Angus Crichton and Ryan Hall are excellent signings, while the likes of James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Victor Radley could all be even better this season. Unlike most of the other sides in the NRL, there are no real question marks over this Sydney Roosters side and there is no doubt that they have the strongest side in the competition. With even luck with injuries, they will prove extremely tough to beat.

Back Sydney Roosters To Win @ $4.25

Wests Tigers

In: Zane Musgrove (Rabbitohs), Paul Momirovski (Roosters), Ryan Matterson (Roosters), Robert Jennings (Rabbitohs)
Out: JJ Collins (Raiders), Tim Grant (Panthers), Tuimoala Lolohea (Leeds Rhinos), Matt McIlwrick (Rabbitohs), Taane Milne (Warriors), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens), Sauaso Sue (Bulldogs), Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)

2018 Finish: 9th

2018 Predicted Finish: 11th

2018 Betting Statistics

Head To Head

Overall: 11-12

Home: 6-5

Away: 5-7

Against The Line

Overall : 11-13

Home: 6-6

Away: 5-7

Premiership Odds: $26

The Wests Tigers simply can’t get through an NRL season without being involved in some serious drama. There was plenty of positivity at the club last season, as both the players and fans embraced Ivan Cleary, but that positivity is gone following his departure. New coach Michael Maguire is no slouch and he will have a positive impact on the club, but I think that he will need some time before he gets the best out of this squad. Their starting side will look fairly different to the one that surprised at times last season and their draw in the first half of the season is very tough. It really would not surprise if they are sitting at the bottom of the NRL ladder at the middle of the NRL season and while I expect them to finish better than that, it is still tough to see them being a serious player this season.

No Bet

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