With the slate wiped clean and a new sense of optimism about every club, it’s time to take a good hard look at the NRL futures market with the season beginning on Thursday.
This year’s betting has been dominated by the Roosters in their search for a three-peat, but some lavish offseason signings and big-name retirements have left the door wide open for a new contender to emerge.
There’s no greater feeling than cashing in on the premiership winner or even the wooden spoon, so we’ve offered analysis, odds and our best bet for every team in our 2020 NRL Season Preview below.
- Last Season: 11-1-12 (8th)
qualified for the finals for the sixth season in a row last year, but that’s
about all you can say for Anthony Seibold’s first 12 months as Wayne Bennett’s
season erred more on the disastrous side than it did the successful, capped off
by a forgettable 58-0 loss to the Eels in the elimination final.
A loss like
that always has repercussions, and Seibold acted accordingly by demoting Darius
Boyd as captain and replacing him with second-rower Alex Glenn during the
problems run much deeper than leadership though, as the Broncos ranked in the
bottom half of the league in points and tries last year, while their inability
to win more than three games in a row made them tough to trust from a betting
Aside from Boyd’s axing and his shock retirement announcement on Friday, the Broncos have enjoyed a fairly drama-free break – leaving some room for optimism looking ahead.
Matt Gillett’s retirement could hurt in more ways than one but reuniting with Jordan Kahu – who played 98 games with the club between 2013 and 2019 – could prove useful.
The addition of young fullback Jesse Arthars on a two-year deal could also turn into a positive as he looks to get his NRL career up and running, while the big-name addition of Brodie Croft also leaves Brisbane in the hunt
Best Bet: Broncos to Make the Top 8 @ $1.90
- Last Season: 10-14 (12th)
say the Bulldogs exceeded expectations last year by finishing 12th
on the ladder.
Canterbury’s season looked dead and buried at the midway point sitting 4-11 prior to the bye, but second-year head coach Dean Pay did a terrific job ending things on a winning note by wrapping up with victories over the Panthers, Rabbitohs, Eels and Broncos.
The Bulldogs are still in the midst of a firm rebuild, but they should have their sights set on a Top 10 finish this year if they can start the season off on the right foot.
Nothing will come easy against the Eels in Round 1, but games against the Tigers and Sharks in the following weeks are very winnable. The Bulldogs also enjoy an easier run home this time around with the Dragons, Panthers, Tigers and Knights all on the cards.
Smith, Nick Meaney and Jayden Okunbor are two young names to watch not only
this season but going forward. Both players are under 25, while third-year
captain Josh Jackson continues to prove Mr Reliable by playing in all 24
matches last year.
There was a
distinct underdog feel about the Bulldogs late last year that should make them
an intriguing team to watch (and bet on) this season. The Dogs ranked dead last
in points and tries last season – so they’ll probably suffer their fair share
of losses again this year.
By adding some players with upside during the offseason like Sione Katoa and Joe Stimson though, there is some money to be made on Canterbury in the total wins market.
Best Bet: Bulldogs Over 9.5 Wins @ $1.88
The losses didn’t stop at the Grand Final for the Green Machine.
offseason saw the departure of Joseph Leilua to the Tigers and Jordan Rapana to
Japan, leaving the Raiders without two of their long-time playmakers following last
years crushing defeat to the Roosters.
hangovers are the real deal, but Canberra did take some preventative measures
midway through last year by adding Super League star George Williams.
Of course, Williams alone won’t fill the void left by Leilua and Rapana, but we should learn all we need to know about this Raiders outfit early as they head to Auckland to face the Warriors in Round 2 followed by the Sea Eagles at home in Round 4.
probably the one side that leaves punters feeling a little nervous as far as
futures go, largely due to the way they lost the Grand Final.
Dwelling on the ‘six again’ controversy for too long could cost the Raiders their edge, but at the same time, it could motivate them to return to the big stage with unfinished business.
one man that knows how to keep his team sharp, it’s Ricky Stuart. Now in his
sixth year as head coach, Stuart faced a similar situation when he started out
with the Roosters in 2002, winning the premiership in his first season before
returning to the Grand Final a year later.
One of Stuart’s biggest tasks this season is transforming the Raiders into a formidable side at home. The atmosphere in Canberra should be one of their biggest advantages, but somehow the Green Machine finished 6-6 last year in front of the faithful.
Overall, you could look at this team as a one-hit-wonder, but this is still a very mature squad that deserves some respect as a serious contender.
Best Bet: Raiders to Make the Top 4 @ $2.50
were quiet achievers in 2019 finishing seventh on the ladder, but their
first-round finals exit was largely forgettable as they now enter a weird
transition phase following Paul Gallen’s retirement.
Aside from ranking fourth in tries last year, Cronulla wasn’t anything special. The Sharks were surprisingly awful in certain areas ranking 15th in set completion and 14th in tackles made, while their finish inside the top eight largely came down to the ineptitude of the bottom half of the ladder.
won some big games last year – particularly late in the season against teams
like the Rabbitohs and Tigers. With long-time prop Matt Prior now playing in
England however, this does mark a new era at Sutherland that brings with it
plenty of unknowns.
John Morris is back for his second year with plenty to mull over. The Sharks
had a busy offseason signing a bunch of youngsters like Connor Tracey, Jesse
Ramien and Royce Hunt, but with very little game time between them, this is
still a very inexperienced outfit.
The Sharks showed plenty of early warning signs last year when they went on a long five-game losing skid between June and July. Their 4-8 mark on the road also left a lot to be desired, making a sixth consecutive top-eight finish far from a guarantee.
Best Bet: Sharks Under 12.5 Wins @ $1.90
Gold Coast Titans
Things turned from bad to almost unwatchable last year for the Titans as they earned their second wooden spoon in club history.
To be frank, Gold Coast’s complete lack of talent made them a tough watch for most of the year as they came up with new and creative ways to lose – the lowlight being a 58-6 blowout at the hands of the Roosters in Round 20.
can we expect from Gold Coast this time around?
starters, the Titans have made it perfectly clear that they are willing to
trust the process as far as this rebuild goes, but that isn’t to say they take
fired Garth Brennan midway through last season before appointing Luke Burt as
interim head coach. And now, we enter a new era with Justin Holbrook – who
brings over 87 games worth of Super League coaching experience.
Outside of Holbrook though, the club looks entirely set on developing their young roster of ready-made talent. The Titans didn’t add anyone of note during the offseason, but they might just be okay if promising young halfback Ashley Taylor can bounce-back from a shortened season due to mental health issues.
is hard to feel overly optimistic about the Titans turning things around in a
hurry. The first month of the season sees them face the Raiders, Eels, Broncos
and Roosters right off the bat, so really, the only worthwhile bet here is the
Best Bet: Titans Under 8.5 Wins @ $1.80
Manly Sea Eagles
considered, Manly has to feel good about how last season ended.
Injuries to the Trbojevic brothers made life almost impossible down the stretch, but Des Hasler still had his team revved up for a finals run that culminated in a loss to Souths in the Semis.
The talk around Brookvale all offseason has centred around Tom Trbojevic – who required offseason surgery on his injured pectoral – and his brother Jake – who underwent surgery himself on an injured right shoulder.
having two of your best players under the knife isn’t ideal, but the good news
is Manly are expecting Tom to play in Round 1 against the Storm.
the draw, we should learn a lot about this Sea Eagles outfit sooner rather than
an extremely tough start to the season with a home game against Melbourne,
followed by a Round 2 match against the Roosters for the second year in a row.
The Warriors follow in Round 3 at Brookvale, followed by a trip to Canberra in
If Manly can emerge from that stretch at say, 2-2, they should consider that a win. The Sea Eagles face a much easier run home with the Warriors, Panthers and Titans in the final three weeks, which bodes well for a team that has changed very little from season to season.
Danny Levi is the only name of note that has joined the club after playing 83 games with the Knights. The real man to watch though is Reuben Garrick, who ranked seventh in tries scored during his rookie season last year.
Some might say Manly’s quiet offseason speaks volumes of the talent already at the club, and some might say it leaves them thin on depth. If one thing is for sure, this club does know how to win when the chips are down, but whether that results in a top-four finish for the first time since 2014 remains to be seen.
Best Bet: Manly Over 12.5 Wins @ $1.80
pundits are picking Melbourne’s 10-year finals run to come to an end, but it
appears the bookies aren’t having a bar of it.
The Storm spluttered their way through the finals last year with a home loss to the Raiders followed by a 32-0 drubbing against the Eels in the Semis. Melbourne came undone against the eventual premiers in the Prelims, but you could say Craig Bellamy’s side still proved their doubters wrong with many tipping the Storm’s long run of dominance to come to an end.
The loss of
Brodie Croft to the Broncos is something Bellamy will need to overcome in the
halves this season, but it’s not like he’s short on playmakers with Dale
Finucane, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cameron Munster and Josh-Addo Carr still in the
The absence of Will Chambers and Curtis Scott down back will arguably be felt more as the season goes on, but again, the Storm does have tremendous depth to play with as youngsters Brenko Lee and Isaac Lumeume get a chance to prove themselves.
Outside of personnel, the draw again proves pretty favourable for the Storm, at least early on. The final month of the season could get tricky though with two home games against the Roosters and Broncos followed by a trip to Canberra ahead of the finals.
Best Bet: Storm to Make the Top Four @ $1.90
New Zealand Warriors
- Last Season: 9-1-14 (13th)
need to go right for the Warriors if they wish to return to the finals.
- Win at home
- Get off to a fast start
For a team
that holds a distinct home-field advantage over every other club in the
competition, New Zealand’s 3-7 record in Auckland simply wasn’t good enough
last year after winning seven games at home in 2018.
wasn’t the only problem head coach Stephen Kearney faced as the Kiwis limped to
an underwhelming 13th on the ladder. The Warriors found themselves
in a hole early on with two wins from their first eight games, making a fast
start an absolute must this season as they’ll likely find themselves in the
race for eighth.
news is New Zealand has a somewhat favourable start to the season with games
against the Knights, Raiders, Sea Eagles, Tigers, Dragons and Roosters in the
first six weeks. Realistically, 3-3 is all Kearney can ask for, but with three
of those games coming in Auckland, there really aren’t any excuses.
Tuivasa-Sheck is still in the prime of his career while the likes of Jazz
Tevaga and Wayde Egan also make up a very underrated roster. With the club
underachieving though, anything shy of the eight will be deemed as a failure.
Best Bet: Warriors Under 10.5 Wins @ $1.88
- Last Season: 10-14 (11th)
It was a
tale of two halves last year for the Knights as they found themselves 1-5 ahead
of Round 7 before going on a six-game unbeaten run.
Newcastle’s luck eventually ran out after the bye as they went on to miss the finals for a sixth straight year, but Knights fans will still look back on those wins over the Eels, Roosters and Rabbitohs fondly and wonder what went wrong.
were a frisky team at times last year, but it still wasn’t enough to save
Nathan Brown’s job. Newcastle has since replaced their former four-year man
with Adam O’Brien, who spent five years as an assistant to Craig Bellamy in
You can obviously expect a few teething issues in the early goings, but there’s nothing stopping Newcastle from sneaking a top-eight spot if they can recapture some of the magic they had at home last season.
The Knights beat the Sharks, Eels, Roosters, Broncos, Cowboys and Titans at McDonald Jones, so they need to continue turning their home ground into a fortress.
other sides, Newcastle also got busy adding some young talent during the
offseason to join the likes of Kalyn Ponga. Hooker Jayden Brailey brings over
70 games worth of experience from Cronulla, while there’s also a strong group
of players like Phoenix Crossland, Jiraj Momoisea and Pasami Saulo looking to
make a name for themselves.
A quick look at the schedule also suggests the Knights could get off to a flyer with games against the Warriors, Tigers, Sharks and Cowboys in the opening month. There’s some value on offer for Newcastle to make the eight, so it’s worth taking it.
Best Bet: Knights to Make the Top 8 @ $2.25
North Queensland Cowboys
with the old and with the new in North Queensland as the club looks to put an
injury riddled 2019 season behind them.
will christen their new stadium in style in Round 1 hosting the Broncos on
Friday night footy, a team they lost to on both occasions last year.
leaders like Matt Scott and Scott Bolton won’t be on the field, and neither
will Josh Maguire as he battles through a knee injury. But the addition of
Valentine Holmes does leave plenty of intrigue surrounding the Cowboys as they
look to return to the finals for the first time since 2017.
made North Queensland a popular sleeper pick to make the top four and it’s not hard
to see why.
like Scott and Bolton – who combined have 515 games worth of experience between
them – certainly hurts, but the forward line is still in good nick with Jason
Taumalolo, Coen Hess, Gavin Cooper and second-year man Jordan McLean in the
Holmes’ leadership should steer this team in the right direction and anything short of a top-eight spot would come as a surprise. Don’t forget the Cowboys also added Esan Marsters, who has 61 games to his name in three years with the Tigers.
Whenever you throw together a bunch of stars and ask them to gel with the old guys, you should expect some growing pains. The Cowboys do, however, possess a tremendous crop of young talent and a new stadium that they could very easily turn into a fortress.
The glass is half full as opposed to half-empty like it was last season, the only question now is if the Cowboys can live up to their growing expectations.
Best Bet: Cowboys Top QLD Team @ $2.00
proved last year that home really is where the heart is.
turned Bankwest Stadium into an AAMI Park like fortress winning nine of their
12 games to finish fifth, right before laying an egg against the Storm in the
would prefer to remember their own blowout victory over the Broncos in the
Elimination round though, a performance Parra will be looking to replicate in
the season-opener against the Bulldogs on Thursday.
the draw, the Eels have a very comfortable first six weeks before things start
to heat up in Round 7 against Brisbane. The Dogs (twice), Titans, Cowboys,
Dragons and Tigers are all very winnable games, but it’s worth noting only two
of those will be played at home.
had its troubles on the road last year going 5-7, so this opening stretch
should tell us a lot about how they have (or haven’t) improved as a club.
Eels fans have plenty to feel confident about with last years leading
try-scorer Maika Sivo returning for another year, while youngster Oregon
Kaufusi keeps getting better with age.
other clubs willing to bank on what they already have; the Eels chose to be
pro-active during the offseason by bolstering the forward line with the
addition of Reagan Campbell-Gillard from the Panthers. Parra also landed
second-rower Ryan Matterson from the Tigers, two players with 198 games worth
of experience between them.
Last year the Eels exceeded expectations, so with more talent on the roster and, all things going to plan, a full season from Blake Ferguson, Parramatta should be looking at a top-four finish.
Best Bet: Eels to Make the Top 4 @ $3.00
- Last Season: 11-13 (10th)
marks a fresh start for the Panthers after they fell away from the top eight
race in the dying stages last year.
It’s also a
bit of a new era for Penrith after losing Reagan Campbell-Gillard to the Eels
and James Maloney to the Super League, leaving Nathan Cleary in charge of
steering this team back towards the finals with the added input from second-year
coach Ivan Cleary.
to pinpoint one specific area that cost the Panthers last season, but the one
that really stands out is their lack of efficiency on attack.
ranked 13th in tries last year as they scored 30-points or more only
twice all season. The club has addressed this problem by bringing in former Manly
coach Trent Barrett to mix things up, but perhaps no amount of coaching or
fresh new ideas can fast forward this transition phase.
The draw also
looks unkind to the Panthers with three games against the Roosters, Storm and
Broncos in the first month followed by Manly and the Eels in the final two
After doing the math, the Panthers should fall somewhere between eighth and 10th, but it’s hard to build a case for them sneaking in ahead of teams like the Sea Eagles, Cowboys or even the Knights and Broncos.
Best Bet: Panthers Under 12.5 Wins @ $1.88
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Grand Final
has been within reach for the Rabbitohs in each of the last two years, but on both
occasions, they’ve come up short.
Sydney addressed this problem the only way they know how by adding the game’s
best attacking player during the offseason.
Mitchell will suit up in green and red during Round 1 against the Sharks, playing
fullback after a very successful stint in the centres with the Roosters.
Mitchell adds to what was already a fierce backline featuring Campbell Graham, Cody Walker, James Roberts and Dane Gagai, while his leadership on and off the field should strengthen what is fast becoming the biggest threat to the Roosters’ three-peat hopes.
The Bunnies also landed Bryson Goodwin hoping to improve on their depth and there is a variety of young upcoming players like Liam Knight to keep an eye on.
stacked for the future, but at the same time, the window is also starting to
Bennett will coach his final game with the club at the conclusion of the 2021
season, so the Rabbits should play with some urgency this year as they look to
make up for lost time.
Best Bet: Rabbitohs Regular Season Winner @ $12.00
St George Illawarra Dragons
There’s no “might”
about it: this is Paul McGregor’s last opportunity to try and turn things
around at St George.
The Dragons limped to the finish line last year with only two wins from their final five games, but that hasn’t stopped the usual optimists from claiming St George is ready for a bounce back.
To their credit, the Saints got busy in the front office adding Shane Flanagan and James Shepherd as assistant coaches. The pair won a premiership with Cronulla, so they should be able to take some of the pressure off McGregor when the fanbase starts to ask questions.
Meanwhile, on the field, skipper Gareth Widdop has departed for the Super League, leaving Tyson Frizell, James Graham and Cameron McInnes as co-captains.
Zac Lomax will also mimic Latrell Mitchell as he transitions to fullback, while the club has reunited with Trent Merrin, who played 134 games at St George before departing at the end of 2015.
have certainly taken steps in the right direction, but whether any of it
equates to a finals berth remains to be seen.
St George won only two games against top-eight clubs last year, so with no dramatic improvements to speak of and a very disgruntled fanbase, it’s hard to see them making the finals.
Best Bet: Dragons Under 10.5 Wins @ $2.10
two-time champs are the early favourites to go back-to-back-to-back this season.
winning it all last year, Sydney’s offseason has largely circled around losses
as they move on without Cooper Cronk (retirement) and Latrell Mitchell
generational players would set just about any other club back a peg, but the
Roosters are still in the driver’s seat to return to the Grand Final with depth
on their side.
Kyle Flanagan will be thrown into the limelight as Cronk’s replacement with
only nine games of experience to his name at Cronulla.
are also asking a lot of Angus Crichton, who will likely replace Latrell at fullback
following Billy Smith’s season-ending ACL injury.
those few minor moves, the Roosters haven’t done much else in the offseason as
the club hopes to push forward with James Tedesco leading the way.
The draw works
out favourably in Round 1 with a trip to Penrith followed by games against
Manly, the Rabbitohs and the Titans. But the final few weeks could throw a spanner
in the works with a trip to Melbourne and Brisbane on the cards.
motivation and hunger is a challenge for any team looking to achieve dynasty
status, but for now, the Roosters are still the team to beat until further
Best Bet: Roosters to Make the Grand Final @ $2.00
were handing out awards for biggest finals tease, the Tigers would be a shoo-in
each and every year.
managed to finish ninth on the ladder last season after losing a heartbreaker
in the final round at Leichardt to the Sharks.
At times last year, it appeared as though the Tigers could hang with some of the better teams – especially when they earned wins over Manly, Brisbane and Souths. They also managed to lose three games in a row twice, which ultimately led to another close but not close enough season.
attempt to try and rid themselves of mediocrity, the Tigers spent time
addressing their coaching ranks by joining in on the raid of Cronulla.
spending four years with the Sharks, Wests has added Andrew Gray as the Head of
Performance as well as former Rabbitoh Shane Millard as an assistant to Michael
field, not much has changed other than the departure of Esan Marsters to the
Cowboys, which is a worrying sign for fans with depth already looking thin.
Outside of Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks in the halves, the Tigers have very little experience to fall back on should the injury bug strike. Up front their depth is razor-thin, while the talented Adam Doueihi remains an experiment at fullback.
The draw is
perhaps the only thing that could save the Tigers this season with the Dragons,
Knights, Bulldogs and Warriors in the first four weeks. Unfortunately, this is
still a club that won only three of 11 games against teams in the top eight
last year, which doesn’t bode well if injuries strike early.
Best Bet: Tigers Most Losses @ $8.00