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The Australian National Rugby League season will kick off on Thursday and, having already pinpointed the value positive bets, now it is time for a healthy dose of negativity.
Manly Warringah has missed the Australian National Rugby League finals in each of the last two terms and the Sea Eagles squad looks considerably weaker on paper than the poor one that finished 13th in the 2016 edition of the 16-team competition.
Among the Manly Warringah losses are long-serving centres Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai, record-breaking fullback Brett Stewart and former New South Wales utility Jamie Buhrer. Tom Trbojevic is a future Australia fullback, his brother Jake is a tackling machine in the forwards and Daly Cherry-Evans is an elite halfback but Manly Warringah is weak in too many areas to challenge for Australian National Rugby League honours. Manly Warringah posted an 8-16 record in the Australian National Rugby League last season, including losing each of its last five matches. The jury is out on Manly Warringah coach Trent Barrett, whose acquisition of Blake Green from Melbourne to play five-eighth is a huge gamble because most of Cooper Cronk’s sidekicks have been hugely disappointing away from the Storm. One fears for any Australian National Rugby League side that has such shallow depth that Curtis Sironen makes its starting line-up for Round One – the son of Tigers legend Paul is a fringe first-grade player at best, not a star second rower.
SkyBet is offering odds of 67/100 1.67 -149 0.67 -1.49 0.67 that Manly Warringah does not make the Australian National Rugby League top eight and, if you do not mind waiting until September to collect on an odds-on wager, that is a good way to play. If Newcastle was not so damn awful – and the Knights, which won just one Australian National Rugby League match last term, are out of their depth – then one would back Manly Warringah at double-digit odds to collect the wooden spoon. But Newcastle merits odds-on favouritism in that market.
A more speculative punt to miss out on Australian National Rugby League finals action is the title holder, Cronulla Sutherland at 81/50 2.62 +162 1.62 1.62 -0.62 with SkyBet, which could slide far down the ladder after losing key components of its premiership-winning team.
Fullback and hooker are two of the four spine positions in a rugby league side and Cronulla Sutherland has bid farewell to Ben Barba and Michael Ennis, the players who fulfilled those respective roles last term. Other Cronulla Sutherland stars who were inspirational in their team’s history-making Australian National Rugby League triumph include five-eighth James Maloney, second row Luke Lewis and captain fantastic Paul Gallen, all of whom are edging closer to retirement and could break down. Cronulla Sutherland is an ageing side that will have a target on its back throughout the Australian National Rugby League tournament, starting in the season opener between the Sharks and Brisbane on Thursday.
Not since 2006 has a reigning Australian National Rugby League premier failed to make the finals – Wests Tigers went from heroes in 2005 to zeroes 12 months later – but Cronulla Sutherland could experience a rare rapid fall from grace.
With one rating six Australian National Rugby League teams – Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, North Queensland, Penrith and Sydney – higher than Cronulla Sutherland, the Sharks may be fighting over just two vacant finals berths. And one would not be the least bit surprised if Canterbury, Gold Coast, Parramatta, South Sydney and the Warriors were part of the Australian National Rugby League finals conversation.
Manly Warringah to finish in the bottom eight
NRL Season 2017
Odds: 67/100 1.67 -149 0.67 -1.49 0.67
Cronulla Sutherland to finish in the bottom eight
NRL Season 2017
Odds: 81/50 2.62 +162 1.62 1.62 -0.62
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