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The Australian National Rugby League season is two months away but one gets the feeling that wooden spoon favourite Gold Coast is set for a long and difficult campaign.
Sometimes it makes sense to back the obvious and Gold Coast stands out as the Australian National Rugby League wooden spoon value at odds of +190 with Betfair. Note that many bookmakers, wary of crippling points deductions for such things as salary cap breaches, offer odds about the Australian National Rugby League team with the most losses instead of betting on the recipient of the wooden spoon.
One thinks that Gold Coast may require one of the other 15 Australian National Rugby League sides to commit a serious offence to keep it off the foot of the ladder. Gold Coast has finished on the bottom half of the Australian National Rugby League ladder in each of the last five years and its 2016 squad looks considerably weaker than its 2015 roster, with the Titans losing three of their best players during the close season and injuries biting hard in training.
Gold Coast captain Nate Myles – the only State of Origin star in last year’s Titans squad – has linked up with Manly Warringah on a three-year deal, joining forces with his good friend, Daly Cherry-Evans, the Sea Eagles halfback who went back on his word to move the other way. Gold Coast playmaker Aidan Sezer agreed to join Canberra because he thought that Cherry-Evans was going to take his spot so the Titans were burned at both ends. And James Roberts, arguably the fastest player in the Australian National Rugby League, has signed on the dotted line to play centre for Brisbane this season.
Domestic and international tourists flock to the Gold Coast for its beaches and theme parks but top-quality rugby league players are not so keen on the Titans. Gold Coast coach Neil Henry managed to attract one of Australia’s most promising young players, former Brisbane halfback Ashley Taylor, but his other 2016 acquisitions, including Nathan Friend, Chris McQueen and David Shillington, are not going to get Titans fans rushing out to buy memberships. And Gold Coast’s plans have been hit by a body blow with the news that one of its brightest lights last term, Kane Elgey, will miss the whole new campaign after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament.
Taylor has played one Australian National Rugby League game and he did not cover himself in glory in it. The 20-year-old from Toowoomba in Queensland will have to steer Gold Coast’s underwhelming team around the pitch this year and the Titans have lost their top forward in Myles. No Australian National Rugby League player with ambitions of lifting silverware is interested in joining Gold Coast currently and it is not an exaggeration to say that the Titans are in crisis. The future of rugby league on the Gold Coast is in jeopardy.
Only three Australian National Rugby League sides are in single digits in betting on the wooden spoon, with the others being Wests Tigers and Newcastle. Wests Tigers is another Australian National Rugby League basket case but Jason Taylor has more talent at his disposal than Henry does. Wests Tigers is unlikely to finish high up the Australian National Rugby League ladder – the relationship between Taylor and New South Wales hooker Robbie Farah is strained to put it politely – but the joint venture team ought to end up above Gold Coast. Newcastle has a new boss in Nathan Brown and, while the Knights are unlikely to be a factor at the business end of the Australian National Rugby League season, their roster is sufficiently good to suggest that they should avoid running last. St George Illawarra’s Australian National Rugby League draw is brutal for a side that finished eighth in last term’s 16-team competition so it is the most attractively priced of the outsiders but one would rather back Gold Coast than the Dragons at their odds.
The Australian National Rugby League season will kick on Thursday 3 March when Parramatta entertains Brisbane. Gold Coast’s Australian National Rugby League Round One match will be at home to Newcastle on Sunday 6 March. The Australian National Rugby League regular season will conclude with several games on Sunday 4 September.
Gold Coast to finish bottom of the NRL
Starts 3rd March
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