State of Origin Game 1
New South Wales Vs Queensland
6th June 2018, 8pm
Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

Well it’s that time of year where every Man, Woman and Child divides their friendships, household and work place into their state of origin alligenices. In arguably the most anticipated series in 5 plus years with a new era of players for both teams, this series is screaming as one for the ages.

New South Wales Blues (NSW)

Under new coach B. Fittler he has taken a broom to the team list and is on a mission to change the “culture” of the NSW jumper. Fittler has named 11 debutants for game 1, resisting the temptation and not picking “polarising players” and going for an attacking mindset rather than a defensive team that has failed for NSW in the recent decade. Coach Fittler does have an Alternate but Brilliant football mind and is leaving no stone unturned, introducing a few “different” policies – No phones and Yoga to name a few, to really get his players to bond and drive home his Family first atmosphere.

The NSW camp motto “What ever it takes” again is a Fittler take on the required mind set that is needed in the Origin arena. Also unheard of is the media allowed Full access to an origin team the day before kick off. But once again Fittler is changing the mindset and wants his player to completely buy into his methods, its the key message that coach Fittler needs his players to buy in. Let’s not forget 11, yes 11 debutants, are fielding the side for NSW, how they turn up is almost unknown and possibly the hardest task for coach Fittler and his staff. J. Maloney is the most capped player on 9 origin games, yes 9 is the most experienced player for this team, Wow.

What will work for NSW will be the club connections in key positions in the halves and forward pack. No. 6 and 7. Nathan Cleary and James Maloney are carving up week in week out in the NRL, highlighted by the demolition of St George Illawarra Dragons, where they we in complete control and was an excellent preview for coach Fittler. N. Cleary could be the answer for NSW and one gets the feeling that he could be the long term Half back for NSW as long as he stays fit. His combination with J. Maloney seems to be effortless and will be one of the key areas that Qld will target and apply a lot of pressure on them at all times.
J. Maloney, what can be said about him? Every club he goes to instantly becomes a success. He almost won a premiership with the New Zealand Warriors, took the Roosters and Sharks to premierships and Penrith this year also look likely to go deep into September. He does have errors and miss tackles in his game, but these are outweighed by his ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and make big plays. His footy mind and ability to read what’s in front of him is second to none and will be a highlight for us in the upcoming game. It’s his time to shine and we hope for NSW fans he can deliver in spades, with his goal kicking an additional aspect that may be the deciding factor in what we anticipate as a close game / series.

For us NSW win but only just. Write off Qld at your own peril, it seems that a lot of people have forgotten what has happened in the last decade. For NSW to win, it will need to start in the middle. Arguably for years, NSW has had a better forward pack, but lacked the halves to “steal the moments” off Qld, this year is no exception for the forward pack and as we mentioned the new halves pairing is all class. Coach Fittler has gone with players picked on form rather than “he was there last year”, NSW has nine players from the current top 4 teams and 13 from the top 8 with just one from the bottom 8 (D. Klemmer, but he is 2nd in post contact meters for the NRL 877m behind J. Taumalolo and 4th in All Runs. He’s in great form).
Queensland Maroons (QLD)

In a changing of the guard for Qld, with the “Immortal Spine” (C. Smith, C. Cronk, J. Thurston and B. Slater) either retired from representative footy or injured, it now lies in the hands of the next generation of players to stand tall. The biggest shock for the Qld was the recent announcement of Qld legend C. Smith a few weeks ago. C. Smith has been controlling the game for Qld for 42 matches over 14 years with 11 series wins to his name. It was anticipated that he would play on for at least this year after both C. Cronk and J. Thurston retired last year “to ease transition” for the Qld team, however like all champion players he has left on his own terms. An incredible career for Qld, but now a massive void is there which will be extremely hard to fill, but not impossible with the depth of Qld players coming through. On Monday more shock waves were sent through the Qld preparation with B. Slater being declared unfit due to a tight hamstring, forcing Coach Walters to send for reinforcements in Anthony Milford and Kaylan Ponga to be flown to Melbourne As Soon As Possible (ASAP). With Qld playing classic “Ducks and Drakes” on their final team list, it’s impossible for their fans to know who will be where until final team lists are released 60 minutes before kick off.

Adding to the new look Qld team, they will sport a new halves pairing, that since game 3, 2004 (39 games) has had either C. Cronk or J. Thurston in one of those key positions making the massive decisions and owning the “moments” in origin. But Qld have a production line that is second to none, with experience players that have been waiting in the wings for their chance in the big arena. In fact now with B. Slater out injured, it will be the first time since game 3, 2003 that a Qld team will not have one of the “Immortal spine” on the field. Qld have stuck to their “loyal program” (with 4 players from the top 4 clubs, 9 players from the top 8 teams and 4 from the bottom 4 clubs) picking players that have turned up for Qld when required, highlighted by picking Josh McGuire, who has not played a single minute of NRL foot ball since round 8. A massive task by any standards to take on the NSW pack, but he will need to stand tall and work harder than ever. He does have help however, but he will be expected to play long minutes even with the lack of game time.
C. Smith replacement in Andrew McCulloch is no slouch, already over 200 NRL games (236) including 13 final series games and seems the logical replacement. He is a work horse in the middle and has played with Ben Hunt in the past games. His passing is also without compromise, maybe our only criticism of him, will be his ability to shift momentum in the middle third if given half a chance. Qld fans and lovers of the game aren’t expecting A. McCulloch to be able to replicate the C. Smith type of game, but we are very keen to see how he goes and how Qld will allow him to play.

It is anticipated Qld new spine will look like: No.1 M. Morgan, No.6 C. Munster, No.7 B. Hunt and No.9 A. McCulloch with replacement A. Milford to take the Utility position left vacant by Morgan’s switch to full back to cover Slaters injury. However, as we have seen, Qld don’t mind leaving everyone in suspense, so it is still possible that K. Ponga could steal the utility spot off Milford, but for this lets assume that the above spine is what they roll out with in game 1. It’s not an inexperienced spine, with Morgan and Munster premiership winners, Hunt and McCulloch both played in grand finals and many finals series. Morgan, Munster and Hunt have all represented Australia as well, so they aren’t “Noobs/Rookies” as the NSW media is making out. Sure their combinations won’t be as crisp as previous Qld matches, but they still have a great chance to show us what they can do and how they will lead Qld to many more series win.

For us Qld will be competitive, but just fall short. Even after Qld dominance over the last 13 years, Qld are massive “Under Dogs” and they wouldn’t have it any other way, with Head to Head (Money Line) betting now blowing out to a ridiculous $3.10 and +/- 7.5 handicap (on Bet365 at time 11:37pm, 05/06/18). How these odds are given seems unbelievable considering the lack of experience in the NSW camp and the game is on a neutral ground in Melbourne. Qld will need their forwards to stay competitive in the middle, if they can do this, their back line could really expose the defensive issues anticipated in the edges of NSW.

Key Match Ups for Us:

Hooker (No.9)

A lot of interest will come around both no.9’s and the eventual prize post origin is National honours with the Australia test jumper up for grabs.
Both hookers have distinctive styles to be honest, with NSW Hooker, D. Cook, being explosive from dummy half. He is devastating in the middle of the park if there are no markers and or the “A Defenders” are lazy with shutting the “gate” he could continue his impressive form so far this year in the NRL. He has scored many a try this year with his acceleration over the initial 5m and elusive foot work developed from his younger days as a beach sprinter. With all his speed, he doesn’t hide from the tough work in the middle either, he leads the NRL in tackles made and really is developing into an all round performer. No doubt at all on Qld Tip sheets, it will be in bold – Make it to marker and A Defenders be set for his acceleration. How Qld also can reduce/negate his effectiveness will be the wrestle and stopping NSW getting a quick play the ball by “finding their front”. It is easy to say this, but if Qld don’t win the ruck, watch out for D. Cook to really cause havoc in the middle.
McCulloch is in contrast a more traditional hooker, delivering pin point passing rather than diving from dummy half and has a nice kicking boot when required. NSW tip sheet will read along the lines for McCulloch – Do not over chase him and close his space to stop his kicking ability. McCulloch is crafty, with Qld really only having one half that can kick, in Hunt (if pressured expect Morgan to be deep if needed to take the kick), McCulloch at times will need to exercise his boot to help Hunt and he can do this well. NSW will need to stay close to McCulloch, if he is allowed time and space he has the ability to dissect your defensive structures. Expect the NSW markers to shadow him to limit his impact, with one marker as a shadow with the other watching for an inside pass.

For us, D. Cook wins this battle, just with his ability to turn an average set into a quick 15-20m gain through his speed. He doesn’t have the added pressure of kicking as both halves for NSW are exceptional in this department.

Goal Kicking – J. Maloney vs V. Holmes

Something that Qld has been blessed with, was the ability to “go up in 6 point blocks” or the “Clutch” goal kicking of J. Thurston and C. Smith under the weight of their state.

However this year it swings massively in favour of NSW, with J. Maloney kicking at an overall career percentage of 81 (751/927 from 2009-2018). Last year he was hitting goals at 87.65% (71/81), this year he is currently kicking at 86.27% (44/51). His halves partner in N. Cleary is considered a rookie, however in the goal kicking department is slotting them at will also. A career average of 86.67% (156/180 from 2016-2018), last year Cleary missed only 10 shots at goal, hitting 92/102 at a staggering 90.20%. This year he is sitting on 91.67% with 11/12 (as J. Maloney is kicking for their club, Penrith Panthers) after missing a large chunk of footy as he has just recovered from a knee injury.

Qld are relying on V. Holmes to step up and take the conversions in this game. However it is a massive pressure cooker Origin and his career record isn’t pretty, with an overall kicking percentage of 71.88 over the years 2014-2018, attempting 32 shots at goals with 23 being converted. Last year he converted 10/12 at 83.33% and this year he has not been asked to kick at club level (with C. Townsend the first choice kicker for the Cronulla Sharks) so his first penalty/try conversion in this game will be his first all year. This is a massive task and realistically as we have seen in the last 13 years, games are won and loss by the states ability to mount score board pressure and land the conversions.

For us, NSW wins this hands down. It was a passive thought in all the selection processes as we have been accustomed to great goal kickers coming through the ranks. Qld are really deficient in this area, if they score more tries than NSW but fail to land the conversions, NSW will have something they haven’t had in a decade, “Hope” that they can run Qld down. For Qld sake, if/when they score tries they will need to be close to the posts to help Holmes gain confidence, if not and it comes down to a shoot out, NSW are light years ahead.

The Centre Position

Wow, where do we start, we have two NSW centres that are debutants L. Mitchell and J. Roberts Vs the Qld Great and captain in Greg Inglis and Qld’s Ferrari in W. Chambers.

NSW has made no secret in what type of game plan they are running and its Speed and lots of it. But like with anything that is fast, it has it’s draw backs and for Mitchell and Roberts it’s their ability to read defences. NSW have conceded that they won’t be able to defend to a series win (evident in the last decade how that mind set has worked) rather they want to go all out attack. It is a bold strategy, but Coach Fittler is a Bold man.

L. Mitchell has been ear marked as a potential super star since his arrival into the NRL, his ability to explode through players and run the tough lines is the reason why coach Fittler has picked him. He can score from 80m out or lay on the finishing pass for his support players after he makes the initial line break. However he can go missing in games, with his mindset still developing into an 80 minute super star. We will be worried to see how he goes in reading the structures Qld will be throwing at him, with a lot of variations expected, this also applies to his opposite centre in J. Roberts.
J. Roberts, like L. Mitchell, has speed to burn and we have seen his speed already this year. He adds another attacking point for NSW by his ability to score from anywhere on the field, but unfortunately like Mitchell, he can go missing and has troubles with defensive reads. Add in Roberts has been managing a Ham String injury all year, its a massive risk by the NSW coaching staff to be playing him (remembering Slater was ruled out with a similar injury on Monday), they do have cover on the bench with the sensational T. Peachey, but an injury in Origin can almost ruin your team. It would throw out the rotation plans and when T. Peachey was to be played, however that’s just speculation as we hope Roberts gets through ok. It’s a mouth watering prospect to see this two young players run out, let’s hope we at least see one of these men get some space and show us their speed (If your a NSW fan).

However these debutants come up against arguably the greatest centre of all time in Greg Inglis and a magnificent centre partner in W. Chambers.

What a master stroke by Coach Walters giving G. Inglis the captain band adding to his arsenal of power and strength. G. Inglis, described as the “Rolls Royce” of the NRL and it’s hard to argue with this super star of the game. He has been in NSW nightmares over the last years by demolishing anyone in his path and his ability to read the game as it develops. He did miss last years series with an injury, but his form is right where Qld needs him to be. We are expecting him to rise to another level especially now up against the debutants of NSW, by being extremely busy and possibly setting up his winger for a try or two.
On the other side of the park its another gun centre in W. Chambers, possessing a great ability to shut down plays before they unfold and using his speed to close time and space to help his inside man if needed. He has leant his craft in the Melbourne Storm system and you can tell, with limited errors in his game and great confidence in his vast array of abilities, he can make anyone look silly with or with out the ball. He is highly rated for his defensive efforts and he does not shy away from the tough runs to give his forwards a break with quality runs as the norm.

For us, QLD are the dominate winners in this position. NSW will be relying on more diamonds plays than rocks with their centres, we aren’t sold on Roberts, especially with the ham string injury cloud. We also worry for NSW fans if their centres drift out of the game and before they know it, 30 minutes are gone and they haven’t touched the ball. G. Inglis was always going to “be up for it” but now he is captain, we hold grave concerns for NSW and their edge defences potential inability to stop the set moves/structures that will be coming their way.
A lot has been made about NSW speed, but like on the freeway, you can only go as fast as the speed limit. In the NRL, the speed limit is the penalty count, if the penalty count is high (which will favour Qld highly), this will really limit the fatigue factor that will be needed for NSW to win this game via their “Speed”.
Weather – The outlook looks amazing, with Melbourne turning it on for the NRL. A temperature range of 9*c-18*c and not a cloud in the sky. Expected temperature at game time is 11*c and dropping to 10*c around game finish, perfect conditions for footy.

For us in summary, we are extremely excited for this State of Origin series, more so as both teams are now show casing the next generation of players that can expect to be on this stage for the next 5 plus years. It is the most open a series has been in the last decade also adding to the excitement and unknown that is Origin footy.

We like the plus line of 7.5 for Qld on Bet365, how the line continues to blow out is beyond us, yes the “Immortal Spine” isn’t there, but the players replacing them aren’t “nuffys/spuds” and in previous years we have seen any plyer that puts on the Qld jumper grows 2ft and raises their game.

Unfortunately for Qld fans, not having a front line goal kicker is going to hurt their chances of winning. They may score more tries, but Goal kicking will let them down, if they aren’t straight forward conversions.

This is where we see the major difference in this game as we highlighted above, with it being a close match and not the blow out many people think and the result going to NSW.

Our bets:

Main Play – Main – Line – Queensland +7.5 $1.95 (Crownbet)

Margin pick – Margins – Six Point Margins (No Extra Time) NSW to win 1-6 $5 (William Hill)

Man Of Match – James Tedesco $10 (Ladbrokes)


Melbourne Storm, 4th (6-4) Vs Manly Sea Eagles, 12th (3-7)
19 May 2018, 7:30pm
One of the Modern day Rivalries gets another edition etched into the history books this Saturday night. A Storm team that keeps on keeping on, minus their captain Vs a Manly team that finally snapped their 5 game losing streak with a massive win over Brisbane in Brisbane.

Melbourne Storm (MS) after a slow start kicked into gear vs an injury ruined Gold Coast Titans to win 28-14 at Suncorp stadium. An ordinary first half by MS standards saw them losing at half time but in traditional form the MS ran in three tries in the second half and out powered a gallant Titans team. This week they are with out their captain C. Smith through suspension, fun fact, this will be the 4th game B. Slater hasn’t played with his captain in his career. This allows B. Smith to get his chance to show MS fans what he will bring to the table once his captain retires. This young kid has been playing really well in the middle when he has been on the field, personally we are excited to see him run out in his preferred position of 9 this week.
A lot of pressure will now land on C. Munster and B. Slater this week and how they handle this will be the deciding factor for us. These two have the ability to win games on their own backs, but with out C. Smith, through his control and goal kicking it levels this match out a lot more.

Manly Sea Eagles (MSE) have had a shocking 5 weeks of footy with the club under siege from various angles and its reflected in their poor style of play. However in Brisbane Vs a Brisbane team that went in as heavy favourites, they reminded us that they are a footy side that when they click can match it still. The Trbojevic brothers had a field day and both found their form that has them in contention for a sky blue jumper in the next few weeks. Off this, M. Taupau, A.F-Blake, J. Thompson grew another leg and remembered how to play. Once these players competed their sets and reduced their errors, D.C-Evans came into the fray and delivered the game expected of his price tag. Scoring 14 of the 38 points, 1 try assist and better general kicking really drove the nail into another disappointing Brisbane performance.
This week traveling to AAMI Park won’t be an easy task, but they showed us last week that they can still turn up and will be running high after last weeks win. A heavy reliance through the middle making meters and not dropping easy ball will be the centre of their plays as it should be a lot easier without C. Smith there.

Stats that Matter:
Games won vs the Top 8: Storm 1 win, 4 losses. Manly 0 Wins, 3 losses.
Both teams are similar across the main stats: average 4 tries a match, both 74% completion, Line Breaks at 4 a piece and Made tackles 2 less to the MS on average with 305 to MSE 307. The main two differences in attacking stats is the Average Run Metres in favour to MSE 1489 to MS 1405 and Average Kick Metres 396 to MS over MSE 340.
Defensively MS out class MSE with an impressive 15.9 points per game conceded through the first 10 rounds, compared to MSE of 24.7.
Melbourne Storm Team Analysis
As mentioned earlier their Captain and Rock in the centre of the park is out with suspension, C. Smith, who took the early plea for a “wish bone” tackle, which seems his apprentice B. Smith come into the starting hooking role. This also forces the MS to run a more balanced bench with J. Hughes expected to get more game time as B. Smith will need a break at some stage. Another Storm player in S. Kasiano also misses a week through suspension, with the timely return of T. Glasby set to come off the bench.

Manly Sea Eagles Team Analysis
T. Hodkinson was included on the bench after the Cronulla Sharks surprisingly released him to help a MSE team desperate for a half to help D.C-Evans. It’s expected that he will miss the opening 15-20 minutes and then enter the game, this will force a potential reshuffle in the backs dependant what the MSE coach decides to do with D. Walker. Another injury to the MSE with T. Paseka, sees T. Sipley come onto the bench.

Possible Ladder position:
Melbourne Storm: They need this win to maintain in contact with the Top 4 and avoid the 5 other teams currently on 12 points. Dependant on their winning margin and other results, they could move to as high as 2nd or could fall to 6-8th.

Weather: A predict dower day in Melbourne with a high of 14*c to 9*c with clouds around the area. Game time temperature a toasty 12*c-10*c

For us the all round ability of the MS structures and players should win this game. A tricky line at +/- 5.5 on Sports Bet and +/-6 William Hill, suggesting the bookies aren’t too sure either and don’t want to give more than a full converted try at $1.90. If MSE didn’t put in last weeks performance this would be an easy call on the line and take the -5.5. Add in the suspension of C. Smith and we aren’t going anywhere near this and believe it will be a close result with both teams going blow for blow.
Our Tip:
William Hill – Margins – Either Team Wins by Under 12.5 (No Extra Time) – Either team win by UNDER 12.5 $1.85 (William Hill)

Good Luck and remember gamble with in your means.


Penrith Panthers, 2nd (7-3) Vs Wests Tigers, 7th (6-4)
17 May 2018, 7:50pm

The Penrith Machine keeps on rolling with another solid win away from home, come up against the Wests Tigers who stood tall with a short turn around.
The Penrith Panthers (PP) went to the Newcastle Knights (NK) home ground and came out firing and put the young NK under pressure which they could not recover from. Add to the early pressure the PP reduced their error count to 5 and completed at 84% to show their class and premiership credentials. This week a repeat performance will be required as they come up against a Wests Tigers (WT) who rose to the challenge again.
WT, once again showed that they will continue to turn up for each other and their fans. They took to the middle third and showed up a much bigger forward pack in the Cowboys, out running them by 222m, 12 more runs and completed at an outstanding 88%. All this adds up and they will need to get this form going again to be able to compete against the PP.

Game Stats that Matter:
Conversion/Penalty combined Success Rate could be the major difference in this game:
Maloney Last 3 Rounds: 6/6, 2/4 and 5/6
Marsters Last 3 Rounds: 2/5, 0/1, 5/5
Across the completions, errors, average run meters, line breaks they are fairy even.
The only main other difference is the Points Scored, with PP on 223 and 172 for the WT. Suggesting if Penrith can get off to another flyer, it could be a long night for the WT.

PP Team Analysis:
PP Star no.7 N. Cleary returns earlier than expected this week, just in time to take on his father. This causes a slight reshuffle, with T. Peachey moving back to the centre position, I.Yeo back to his preferred position at Second Row. This forces up and coming power house V. Kikau to rest on the pine.
Safe to say all of NSW will be watching N. Cleary and hoping he has fully recovered from his injury. In regards to the PP, as long as he is fit, the transition should be seamless, with J. Maloney more than happy to play second fiddle to this young super star in the making. Moving T. Peachey to the centre position and moving I. Yeo also strengthens the team and gives them more stability. A frighting thought considering the current form of the PP.

WT Team Analysis:
M. Fonua’s poor discipline has risen its ugly head again and has been dropped from the run on 17 and 21 man squad. His replacement is no slouch with K. Naiqama named as No.4.
Although M. Fonua has been one of the outstanding players for the WT, K. Naiqama is arguably better. He provides the same aspects as Fonua but has much better on field discipline and control, which is going to be their focus this week in making the PP defend for long periods rather than a points shoot out.

Possible Ladder movement:
PP – Currently 2nd, could move to equal 1st with the Dragons or join the pack on 14 points depending on results and for/against could fall to 5th.
WT – Currently 7th and at the lower end of the pack of 5 teams sitting on 12 points. A win could see them inside the top 4, a loss could see them out of the Top 8, such is this 2018 competition.

Weather, A glorious day at the foot of the mountains is forecasted with a High of 23*c and a low of 7*c and not a cloud in sight. With a predicted 12*c-13*c come game time, with clear skies.

For Us, Penrith win this game between 4-10 points, at $1.60 on LadBrokes, is the best odds, with the other book makers in Sports Bet, Bet365, William Hill and Crown Bet having the PP at $1.55, as a nice multi filler.
The WT aren’t traveling too well in Night games and away from home with a 2-3 / 2-2 this year respectfully. While the PP have won 4-1 at home and 4-2 at night. Compounding these statistics PP have won 10 of their last 11 games at their home ground.
If you must take the line, “Buy a point” to reduce the line to -3.5 (effectively a try difference), the Best Bookie we found for this line out of the five above is Ladbrokes at $1.83.

Panthers -3.5 @ 1.83 (Ladbrokes)

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Melbourne Storm Vs North Queensland Cowboys
1 Oct 2017, 7:15pm
ANZ Stadium

It’s the Minor Premiers vs the 8th Rank wrecking balls for the final game of the season. With all the expectations on the all conquering Storm, can the fairy tale continue for the Battered Cowboys?

With out a shadow of a doubt the Melbourne Storm have been the best team in 2017. Having only lost 4 games all season, with the most Points scored, 633 and least points scored against them, with a poultry 336, it’s really Day light second in season 2017.
The Storm had their toughest match in a long period against a spirited Eels outfit, with their class hanging on to win by 2 points and earning the week off. After the weeks rest, it was a training gallop and an absolute clinic as they dismantled a dismal Brisbane outfit, that was off the pace and received a drumming of 30-0. With a simple run before the Grand Final this could be a blessing in disguise as Brisbane simply fell apart and the only hard tackles were late and limited in effect.

With the “Trio’s” era coming to an end, it looks like an unlikely task for the Cowboys. However most critics gave them no chance as they made the Top 8 off the back of the Dragons self imploding.
But to their credit, the Cowboys have played simple footy, Treat the ball like your first child and Never give up. With this ringing in their ears, they have squeezed out a Golden Point win vs the fumbling Sharks, side stepped their way through an in experienced Eels team putting 24 points on them, to win by 8 and out muscled the Roosters in a Stella second half performance to win by 13 points and book their place vs the Storm.

The Key Match Up: C. Smith Vs J. Granville.

No real surprise here, however this match up will decide the game. We know both forward packs will be striving for every inch, Cronk and Morgan will be at their kicking best and Slater/Coote will be scheming like thieves at night.

But the Hooker (no.9) is the key to both teams, both play a different style which is fascinating to watch and mouth watering to say the least.

C. Smith, aka CS9 or GOAT (in the Hooker position) has really mastered and manufactured so many wins for the Melbourne Storm. He seems to have inside knowledge of the oppositions game plan before they do and dismantles them as he goes about his business. This annoys the oppositions fans, but for the neutral fan it’s a great spectacle and it’s the reason why he’s the Qld and Australian captain.
The superlatives are all but exhausted on him, overtaking so many legends on all the records as he looks to add another premiership to his belt.

Watch for:
1. A 40/20m kick tomorrow, he has become more active on this during the lead up to the finals, he may not land one, but the pure ability that he can keeps the wingers deep on defence. With the wingers deep, this allows his Halves to take on the line and create chances for his sensational wingers.
2. Short passing close to the try line. He has developed this floating movement close to the oppositions try line, then turns the ball on the inside, when the defenders over chase him. It’s a very subtle change to his usual movement, but it’s uncanny as he must have eyes in the back of his head sometimes to pull it off.
3. None stop Heart. He will play every minute of this game and the effort he starts with is what he finishes with. Because of his stamina, he is able to read the game in the “fatigued” stages and make the right choices under huge stress. A lot of Hookers can’t sustain this and lose this ability to “feel” the game and it hurts their team. He won’t go missing and look for the 9 all day around the middle third of the ground.

J. Granville
He is a very good player, his speed from dummy half is second to none and has a very good passing game both long and short. He will need to be at his best to give the Cowboys any chance of victory this grand final.
1. Sniping ability, he is almost the best Hooker in this area of the game. He loves it when markers split early or only one makes it onside and he takes off down the field. This puts pressure on the defenders to get up early in the tackles or risk him splitting them up the middle.
2. Crisp deliver, much like the Post man, Granville delivers on time. He has a great ability to get his passes to the key men 99% of the time. In today’s game this will be exceptionally important as the Storm will be ruthless all match.
3. Questionable stamina. This would be our only criticism of his game, he tends to be taken off and giving time to re gather his speed for a second burst. It’s a catch 22, he can then target the bigger men in the middle of the park, but then loses his “Feel” for the games flow.

Statistics to consider:

9 from the last 10 games between the Storm and Cowboys have been won by the Favourite.
The Storm have won their last 13 matches whilst being the favourite.
The Storm have won their last 5 vs the Cowboys.
The Storm have won 6 from 8 matches interstate at Night and 83% during the 2017 season at night.
The Storm have scored the first Try in 65% of their matches in 2017.
The Storm have won 13 out of 18 matches at night, whilst leading at Half time.
Storm Average: 26 points in attack and allow 13.5 points in defence. With an average winning margin of 16 points.
Cowboys average: 19.8 points in attack and allow 18 points in defence. With an average winning margin of 10 points.
Matches at ANZ, average a winning margin of 12 points and a game total of 38 in Season 2017.

For us the above point to the dominance of the Storm all year. We are predicting a very good win by the Storm. The First half is going to be brutal and at a frantic pace, with a few opportunities, but where the game will come to life will be the second half. Both teams have been exceptional in the second 40 minutes and we are expecting the same, with the ball seeing more flight and risks being taken or a Run away effort by the Storm over a gallant Cowboys outfit.

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Brisbane Broncos Vs Parramatta Eels
24 Aug 2017, 7:50pm (AEST)
Suncorp Stadium

After Round 21 where the Broncos were put played convincingly by the Eels at home, will Brisbane return the favour on their home soil?

Brisbane Broncos, 15-0-7, 2nd (+172)

It looks like Master coach W. Bennett has his team humming at the right time of the season yet again. They have climbed to second on the ladder in a blink of an eye. Currently on a scoring feast, clocking up 54,32 and 24 points in their last 3 games and not conceding more than 12 points in the same games. Having won 7 out of their last 10 games, currently 3 in a row, they face the Eels who embarrassed them in round 21.

Revenge is a dish best served cold and we believe they will be up for this weeks challenge. They went to Sydney expecting an easy match, but the Eels showed their full potential and won 28-14.
Last week after a good hit out against the Dragons, A. Milford regained the form his team requires for them to go deep into the finals. He was dynamic and seems to be developing a good combination with K. Nikorima and B. Hunt in the hooker position. A player that isn’t getting much thanks from outside the club is S. Thaiday, told he wasn’t required after next year, he has really stepped up his efforts to try and deliver. Showing his potential to any clubs that want a veteran forward to develop their young players.

Premierships in the modern era are built around defensive structures, conceding 20 points or more only 8 times this season, is a strong indicator that they are gearing up for a big finals series. With a ridiculous For and Against (+/-) of 172, they just need to win 1 of their last 2 games to secure a top 4 position.

For us, the initial 20 minutes will tell us how the game will go. If Brisbane get a roll on early (which we are expecting) the foot won’t come off the throttle and they could win by another large margin. In the back of their minds a win this week secures a Top four position and potentially a home game to kick of the final series.
They will be tough to beat.
Parramatta Eels, 14-0-8, 5th (+15)

Coach Arthur has really pulled this team together during the course of the season. Heavily questioned about his recruitment of M. Moses, has proved to be a master stroke. This has allowed C. Norman, B. French and their hookers to lessen their stress and allow them to “float” and pick their times to strike. With the halves looking rather settled, their forward pack has grown an inch or two also. N. Brown has been immense for the Blue and Gold, averaging 152m of 15 hit ups and a lazy 34 tackles per match. A great buy for Parramatta and like Moses, his work load is infectious and has flowed throughout the team.
With 8 wins from their last 10 starts, a shock loss to the Knights, stopped their 6 game winning streak and “was the game they had to lose” to shock them back to thinking about the upcoming finals series.

With the victory against Brisbane just 4 rounds ago, their spirits will be high. And this could play into the Brisbane’s hands if they are complacent. With still a congested ladder below them, they won’t want to lose, let alone receive a flogging this week, as it could cause problems in the first round of the finals. A win could see them move into the top 4 if other results go their way.

For us, We don’t think they can win the game. This will change if they don’t allow the early points they conceded last time they met. If they conceded these points, we believe Brisbane at home will go on with the Job.

Stats that matter Round 24 – Brisbane (B) vs Eels (E)

Completion rate: B: 71% Vs E: 75%
Offloads: B: 13 Vs E: 6
Penalties conceded: B: 8 Vs E: 8
Errors: B: 11 Vs E: 15
Run Meters: B: 1,628 Vs E: 1,523

The Eels pack better be ready for the late offload and secure that ball in the tackle. This may lead to more penalties against them and exaggerate the potential meters that Brisbane will run for.
Team news: (Final team lists released an hour before the game)

Brisbane Broncos:
T.P. Junior is out with a hamstring complaint to which J. Su’A comes back to the 17 on the bench.

Parramatta Eels:
Another ham string complaint to B. French sees him out of the team with the finals being around the corner. W. Smith slots into the Full Back position and did play well last time he had the No.1 on his back. M. Ma’u is suspended this allows a reshuffle to occur:
K. Edwards to start in the back row, which opens up a spot for D. Gower and his mate F. Pritchard to make the 17 man squad.
Their last 5 game report card:
Brisbane have won 3 games, twice at Suncorp, Parramatta have won 2 games, once at Suncorp.

2017 – Round 21 – Parramatta won by 14 points at ANZ,
2016 – Round 23 – Brisbane won by 22 points at Suncorp,
2016 – Round 1 – Brisbane won by 13 points at Pirtek,
2015 – Round 8 – Brisbane won by 12 points at Suncorp and
2014 – Round 5 – Parramatta won by 7 points at Suncorp.

What we take from this?

With a Top four position on the line, it’s a must win for both teams. Being at Suncorp we are liking Brisbane to win, off the back of their forwards. Parramatta will do well to compete in the first 20 minutes, with a Brisbane pack looking at offloading a lot more and a well drilled back line scoring some magnificent tries.
Both teams won last week with less possession, indicating that they are taking their chances when offered.

For us the errors in Parramatta will hurt them and with Brisbane still reeling from round 21, they will be more desperate and looking for Redemption.
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State of Origin Game 3

Queensland Vs New South Wales
12 July 2017, 8pm.

The changing of the Queensland guard vs an unchanged NSW team to close off a great origin series, who wins? Let’s have a look.

Queensland Maroons, 1-0-1

Let’s start with a crazy statistic, this series Qld has used the most players ever in Origin history, with 26 Men. Including two debutants in this series decider, C. Munster (no.6) and B. Hunt (bench) they are showing a huge amount of faith in these two players. Qld have united Melbourne Storm’s Spine to sure up the loss of J. Thurston and get some continuity for their play making ability. Is this a master stroke or two much pressure? Time will tell.
The Qld forwards in game two lifted and really shut down the middle domination of NSW in game 1. It’s no secret that this again will be the focus of both teams and Qld will have the confidence to come out and “do their job” again. C. Smith has also said, “I want to contribute more” which is a scary thought for NSW fans, in his 42nd origin for Qld.
To add more emotion to their camp is strong belief that C. Cronk will be retiring from Origin football so this will be a major motivation for the Qld camp. History also leans towards a Qld victory with the last three deciders at Suncorp have been won by Qld.

Qld Be Alert:
With the potential for a late change or two to the starting NSW team, this will greatly change their dynamics. Little rumours that Klemmer will start, allowing Game 1 hero A. Fifita to come on against tired bodies is growing louder. Also inspirational NSW captain may not play or at reduced minutes, allowing W. Graham to get more time and potentially exposing Qld Right edge.

For us, the changing of the guard is almost complete and Qld still look immensely strong. With all the changes and adversity thrown their way, they always find away to turn up.
If Qld can weather the early storm and be with in a try or lead by a try in the last 10 minutes, the mental scared Blues will fall apart again.
New South Wales Blues, 1-0-1

This is the first unchanged team for an entire series for NSW since 1996 and it’s a sign for the future. However it’s not a fully healthy team, with 4 players under injury clouds, B. Cordner, J. Tedesco, J. Dugan and T. Frizell have led to the late inclusion into camp of T. Trbojevic and D. Finucane. If they play or not we won’t know until closer to game time, but it’s a slight twist to this series, which again changes the dynamics of the NSW team.
What we see though is finally some consistency in the NSW Spine, with M. Pearce, J. Maloney, N. Peats and J. Tedesco. They seem to be clicking very well as a unit and the combinations again will need to be at their best for NSW to win this game. As it always seems to be the way, M. Pearce is under all the pressure again, we are excepting J. Maloney to really help his half partner this game and therefor releasing Pearce to allow him to rise to the occasion.
J. Hayne has also received massive criticism for his second half in game 2. We will be intrigued to see his response and his match up with W. Chambers where the game could be won or loss again.

NSW Be Alert:
Qld on paper are the weakest team they have had in the last 12 years. However disregard this team at your own peril, with still 3 immortals (Smith, Cronk and Slater) in their team and the young forwards high on confidence after containing the NSW forward pack, complacency will lose you the series.

For us, NSW has to start well and not relent. Game 2 was theirs to win, however “shutting up shop” hasn’t worked in the Origin arena ever. It was a lesson that NSW will have burnt into their game style for this decider, keep the pedal to the metal.


Looks like the Football Gods are giving us the perfect conditions for football, clear night and temperatures between 14-12*c

Team News (final team lists released an hour before game time)

With injuries to D. Boyd and J. Thurston, M. Morgan and C. Munster have been named as replacements, allowing B. Hunt to become the utility player.

Unchanged currently, but we expecting Klemmer to Start and Fifita to come of the bench. With still a slight chance B. Cordner won’t play, we expect W. Graham to start and J. D-Belin to come onto the bench.

What we take from this?

It has been built up by channel 9 and some media outlets, that this is the most anticipated game Ever in Origin history. We tend to disagree, with Qld in a stage of transition and ravaged by injures, it is really NSW under all the pressure, to get a series win.

For us the faster track suits the NSW forward pack, game two highlighted this, where the slipperier conditions allowed Qld to “close the gate” better in the middle. We also worry about Qld kicking options, game 1 was two dimensional in Cronk and Smith, game 2 with Thurston it allowed the pressure to be moved and they were much more effective. If NSW are winning the middle, Smith will be less likely to kick, forcing Cronk again to work his magic.
We can’t wait for the centre battles on both sides, the game could change on a dime if either of those four players get any dominance on their opposite number.
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Cronulla Sharks Vs Melbourne Storm
8 June 2017, 7:50pm (AEST)
Southern Cross Group Stadium

The second replay of last years grand final and a mini state of origin rematch is awaiting the eager fans of the NRL. Can the Sharks Shut out the Storm again? Or will the Storm get its revenge away from home? Needless to say, it’s going to be a Bobby Dazzler!!!

Cronulla Sharks, 9-0-3, 2nd.

Blink and you have missed their start to the season, nothing flash but they have built a “Blue Wall” to rival the Great Wall of China.

The Sharks had the round off last week, which was excellent for the Origin players, allowing full recover and mental preparation for this week’s block buster. We are still yet to see the Sharks replicate their attacking prowess of last year, however they have maintained the defensive structures the best to date. They have conceded a measly 154 points from 12 rounds, an average of 12.84 a game, making them the best team in this category. This is traditionally how you win premierships and there is a growing belief that this team could go “back to back” premiership winners.

Their game style of grinding teams down has allowed them to get away with not scoring a great deal of points. Unbelievably only 227 points to date, the 5th “worst” attacking team, with an average of 18.91 per game. Confusing for the younger generation who are in love with Try Scorers and fancy plays. The Sharks have this ability, however are still a tad off from piling on the points. It could be attributed to a new Full back and Hooker and to be fair, they lost two very influential players in those spots.

For us, watch the forwards battle. There is a genuine building hatred/rivalry between these two clubs and both forwards don’t mind a bit of “chatting/sledging” on the park. Add in the recent NSW victory to add a bit more Fire as the Origin players try to step up another level.
Melbourne Storm, 10-0-2, 1st.

The Purple machine just keeps on rolling, reminding the competition that they are the Bench mark once again through 13 rounds in 2017.

Last round it was a “contact training run” vs a Newcastle Knights team that didn’t stand a chance and allowed the Storm to rest C. Smith. In recent trips to AAMI park, the Knights have caused an upset. However the Storms fans were put at ease just two minutes in with S. Vunivalu crossing for a try. By the 17th minute it was 16-0, a lucky/unlucky decision for the Knights saw their momentum stopped by a forward pass, the Storm looked comfortable at Half Time 16-6.
Any chance of a come back was quickly squashed with some Slater magic in the 43rd minute. The game was beyond the Knights by the 62nd minute, down 36-6, which allowed C. Cronk an early shower. Slater was outstanding, another reminder to Qld selectors that maybe he should be in the team.

The Storm Averages 23.16 in attacking points (4th best) and are the second best team in defending, only allow on average 14.75 in defence. They will need to score close to 18 points to beat the Sharks this round.

For us, like the Sharks, the forwards won’t back down and with C. Smith rested, he will be chomping at the bit to get revenge for this years defeat at his home ground. He won’t back down, especially if P. Gallen is “chatting” to him all match.


It’s going to be clearing from thunder storms, from the last two days, this will make the forwards battle even more important. Keeping the game to the middle third of the ground and limiting scoring chances.

Stats that matter:

Games vs Top 8 Won/Loss – Sharks, 6 games, 4/2, Storm 4 games, 3/1
Possession Average – Sharks 51%, Storm 48%
Completion rate – Sharks 74%, Storm 76%
Average run meters – Sharks 1,648m, Storm 1,541m
Average Errors – Sharks 12, Storm 11

Team news: (Final team lists released an hour before the game)

Cronulla Sharks

All 4 NSW players return and J. Segeyaro is a slight chance to return after he broke his arm vs the last time these two teams met.

Melbourne Storm

C. Smith is a Massive In for the Storm, with B. Smith dropping out of the team, suggesting C. Smith isn’t injured or is going to play through this pain. Coach Bellamy has gone for the size of J. McLean to start, pushing Glasby and Griffin onto the bench.

Both teams have gone for large bench positions, once again both coaches expecting a tight middle third game.

Their last 5 game report card:
Cronulla Sharks won 3 games, once at Southern Cross Group stadium.
Melbourne Storm won 2 games, once at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

2017 – Round 6 – Sharks won by 9 at AAMI Park.
2016 – Grand Final – Sharks won by 2 at ANZ stadium.
2016 – Round 26 – Melbourne won by 20 at AAMI Park.
2016 – Round 4 – Sharks won by 8 at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
2015 – Round 23 – Storm won by 28 at Southern Cross Group stadium.

What we take from this?

Both teams will be up for this game, the Storm rested their captain with an eye on this game after their loss in Melbourne earlier in the year. The Sharks were lucky with the week off allowing their stars to recover well before this clash.
We are expecting fire works as this “Modern day Rivalry” enters another chapter into the history books.
The Storm will need to hit their average in attack, as their last 4 matches vs the Sharks they have been held too 2, 12,26 and 6. Losing 3 out of those games being held to 12 or less.

For Us the statistics that stand out for the Sharks to win is their average possession rate and average run meters. The Sharks with the week off also is a plus, really allowing the coaching staff to dial into this game and get their structures in place.

Another cracking game awaits, Sharks win in a close encounter.

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State of Origin Game 1

Queensland Vs New South Wales
31 May 2017, 8:10pm.
Suncorp Stadium.

Well it’s the best time of year, Queensland Vs New South Wales, Mate Vs Mate, State Vs State! It is arguably the greatest time to be a fan of this great game, with every person picking a team and getting behind them 100%.


A team full of immortals for the last 11 years, has been forced into changes due to a horror injury toll and players left out of selection. Qld will be with out J. Thurston (many NSW fans still believe he will play until the final team lists are named), G. Inglis , M. Scott, C. Parker (retired) and B. Slater (controversial admission). It’s a new look Qld team but what has not changed in 40 Origin games is their captain and NRL legend C. Smith. With his General C. Cronk by his side and D. Boyd sweeping around the back from set plays, it’s still a very formidable team.

A lot of the spot light has been on A. Milford this week, with a lot of questions about his kicking game and he will be tested in defence with the NSW second rowers charging at him. Milford is a great player in broken play, traditionally in game 1, it’s a tight affair and low scoring, will he get a broken line in defence? Time will tell, he will need to be at his best to try and help Smith and Cronk to deliver another first game win.

With B. Slater being omitted, pressure shifts to D. Boyd and C. Oates who were the incumbents of last year and Coach Walters made the tough call on them. Coach Walters didn’t want to put Slater under huge pressure for a Game 1 in origin. It could be argued that B. Slater is the greatest Full back to ever have pulled on the No.1 jumper at any level. However, D. Boyd is in great form for his club and did represent Australia earlier in the year, in our opinion, Coach Walters made the correct call. What this does however is place C. Oates under immense pressure and that worries us. He hasn’t been at his best but the Qld Camp seems to make players grow an inch or two for the big games.

New South Wales

Once again New South Wales have tinkered with their team as they search for a First game victory to try and stem the Qld onslaught of the last 11 years. The return of M. Pearce and exclusion of R. Farah for N. Peats are the biggest talking points in game 1. Coach Daley has made these moves based on the form of M. Pearce and sending a message to his team that he wants his halves to run the shots.
Pearce is arguably in the greatest form of his career, he has not performed in origin, but he’s payed his dues and now it’s his time to stand up. He will get more early service from Peats and this will help him no end. He also has his old partner in crime J. Maloney, who can ease the pressure on him if required.

What is exciting for us, is the mixture of age, talent and in form players. It’s arguably NSW best forward pack in many a year with the majority of players able to play the 80 minutes in club games. The options in attack have grown 10 fold with the Edge Back rowers able to kick and deliver passes if required. With the middle of the field being the gauge of who will win, NSW have taken big steps to combat the experience Qld middle players, it’s just mouth watering to wait and see.

The spotlight for us will be on J. Tedesco. He has been holding the West Tigers team together and busting his guts week in week out for no result. For NSW sake we hope he can be at his best working off the back of his forwards (who will be 100 times better than his club level). He has looked tired the last few weeks, but he has been carrying a heavy load, in this team he will be able to relax more and play his natural game which is slicing and dicing defensive structures. A lot of talk also about N. Peats, for us he will play a straight game and deliver early ball to his halves, simple play to allow his backs to do their work.

Team lists

Both teams are expected to be named 1-17, however if you speak to the NSW die hard fans they still believe Thurston is a chance until the final team lists are announced an hour before the game.

Their last 6 game report card:
2016 – Game 3 – NSW won by 4 at ANZ stadium
2016 – Game 2 – QLD won by 10 at Suncorp Stadium
2016 – Game 1 – QLD won by 2 at ANZ stadium
2015 – Game 3 – Qld won by 46 at Suncorp Stadium
2015 – Game 2 – NSW won by 8 at Melbourne Cricket Ground
2015 – Game 1 – Qld won by 1 at ANZ stadium

What we take from this?

It’s a simple equation in origin, if you win game 1 you have a 74% chance of winning the series since the conception of State of Origin. Home ground advantage is a massive component in origin as well, this first game is in QLD which leans us to a QLD victory. C. Smith and C. Cronk are the Key, C. Smith is able to influence the ruck and game speed better than any other player to date. With his ability to read the game is second to none and we aren’t sure how NSW can combat this. The only series NSW has won in the last decade, was when C. Cronk did not play all the games, he is often overlooked in this great team, but he is the best Half back in the modern era. Watch his control off the back of his forwards and his ability to deliver the fatal pass/kick, well, there is none better.

For Us Qld win the game, with a lot of team changes we aren’t trying to cap the total or margin, it seems unbelievable that Qld have moved to the below odds.
GL and enjoy this great contest.

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Cronulla Sharks Vs North Queensland Cowboys
18 May 2017, 7:50pm (AEST)
Southern Cross Group Stadium

The minor premiers are 6 wins from their last 7 starts, in stark contrast to the 2015 champions who are stumbling and bumbling their way with 4 wins from 7 games. A great origin test for some hopefuls is the cheery on top for this clash.

Cronulla Sharks, 2nd, 7-0-3
It must be said that the Sharks error rate almost cost them against the spirited Dragons outfit last round. If G. Widdop was fit and playing the result could have been a flogging with the Dragons scoring 30+ points. But the Sharks keep demonstrating their pride for their mates and defend with their lives in their 20m zone. They continue to stop teams from scoring points, since round 1 (Brisbane 26 points) they have not conceded more than 18 points (Knights round 5) for the rest of the year to date. Their points total scored against them currently is 132, the next best team is the Roosters at 152 (3 converted tries and a penalty goal) an absolutely crazy statistic.

S. Feki scored two tries in the last round and seems to be finding the ball more, which is a positive sign. Many people have forgotten about his skills that he has and we expect him to keep producing the goods for his club. With Holmes turning out 173m, Fifita 162m, Gallen 154m, Bird 149m and Leutele 120m the go forward was very impressive, they will need to be wary of their handling this round, as the Cowboys clicked well last week.

For us the Sharks can start getting their attack in order, this team has the potential to go deep this year once again.

North Queensland Cowboys, 6th, 6-0-4

The Cowboys shook off the haters last week and put the Bulldogs to the sword. M. Morgan keeps reminding the Qld faithful that he is ready, with some magnificent kicking that lead to ties and sustained pressure. They also had an outstanding completion rate of 83% and had 4 less errors than the Bulldogs, which helped their dominating win. 5 tries, 2 to second rower sensation C. Hess, Feldt, Spina and Morgan caped off his brilliant performance with a try also. Morgan had his best game to date and was in full control for the whole 80 minutes, a promising sign for this club to move forward into the future post J. Thurston’s career.

With M. Scott out for the season many people were wondering who would help J. Taumalolo, enter S. Bolton. Massive stats for this game with 162m from 16 runs and a lazy 35 tackles, thank you very much, to lead both those statistics for his game in round 10. Former half back J. Asiata, proved that his motor is still large after his games in the backs. A 144m, tied in with 24 tackles, is a great sign for his coach that they can function without him calling the shots and allowing him just to run hard and straight. R. Thompson had his moments in the match, some good and some poor, however he will get better as this year progresses. He will need to run more than 9m this week, as the sharks will be hunting Morgan extremely hard.

For us, this game is a reminder that the Cowboys can score points if you are not focused for the entire 80 minutes.

Stats that matter from Round 10

Completion rate: Sharks 68%, NQ 83%
Offloads: Sharks 13, NQ 4
Missed Tackles: Sharks 33, NQ 16
Penalties conceded: Sharks 7, NQ 11 (1 sin bin)

Team news: (Final team lists released an hour before the game)

Cronulla Sharks

M. Prior accepted the option to accept a 1 week ban, this promotes C. Heighington to starting prop. J. Paulo drops off the bench making way for J. Bukuya, with no other changes expected.

North Queensland Cowboys

It’s a mystery to see if J. Thurston will play tomorrow or he will be withdrawn. The general consensus is that he won’t play, due to origin being around the corner, however he is mentally tough and may convince his coach otherwise if he can prove his fitness. If he does get the green light, expect R. Thompson to drop from the 17, with Hampton acting as “cover” for the worst case scenario. Interestingly K. Ponga is named as number 21, so like last week we expect him to drop off the list barring injury, which is unfortunate as this kid should be playing at the top level.

Their last 5 game report card:

Cronulla Sharks, 3 wins with 2 being at home and one at Allianz stadium
North Queensland Cowboys, 2 wins both at 1300 SMILES stadium

2016 – Round 29 – Sharks won by 12 at Allianz Stadium
2016 – Round 14 – Sharks won by 3 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
2016 – Round 1 – Cowboys won by 6 points at 1300 SMILES Stadium
2015 – Round 28, Cowboys won by 39 points at 1300 SMILES Stadium
2015 – Round 22, Sharks won by 12 at Southern Cross Group Stadium

What we take from this?

It’s going to be a great teaser for the upcoming origin series, with Maloney and Morgan on show and possibly the halves that will meet in game 1. If either half really takes control of the game it will go a long way into them getting chosen to represent their state, we are leaning towards Maloney due to his larger forward pack. With that in mind, other origin hopefuls will be on display, W. Graham, A. Fifita, C. Hess, G. Cooper will be also treating this as a trial, adding more fuel to this already mouth-watering game.

We believe that the offloading from the Sharks players is going to worry the Cowboys. The Sharks average 11.4 (6th highest) a game compared to 5 (last) for the Cowboys, highlighting this is the All Run Meter comparison which leans towards the Sharks with 1,628 average meters to the Cowboys 1,565m. For the Cowboys to combat this, they will need to beat their average of 52% (1st) possession rate and also top their tackle bust average of 32 (1st). If the Sharks error rate is high (12 or more, worst in the competition) and concede their average penalties (8 a game, once again worst in the NRL) it will be a lot closer than people give credit for.

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Canterbury Bulldogs Vs North Queensland Cowboys
11 May 2017, 7:50pm (AEST) ANZ Stadium
Unfortunately this game is missing big names from both teams, which will sour this tough match up. Which team will miss it’s half the most, will that will decide the game. Let’s have a look.
Canterbury Bulldogs, 8th, 5-0-4
A massive confidence boost to the Bulldogs with a gutsy win over the Canberra Raiders by 6 points. The Morris brothers showing why they can still play origin by putting on a Master class on “Lei-Pana”. The determination of the squad was on full display when they lost both Graham and J. Reynolds to HIA and injury. They did not falter in the middle third and handled the attacking plays thrown at them. This will hold them in good stead this week, against a Cowboys outfit missing a super star and welcoming a few players back, which will disrupt some combinations. W. Hopoate is playing like a man possessed (and is off contract) his timely return to form really adds some depth to the Bulldogs and is one to watch for us.

North Queensland Cowboys, 9th 5-0-4
It’s the age old question, can the Cowboys win without J. Thurston. A very ordinary start to the year and it continued this way as they were defeated by a rampaging Eels, led by one C. Norman at home, 6-26. It took 64 minutes for them to cross the line, if they take that long to score this week, it will not be a pretty sight for their faithful fans. 13 incomplete sets really highlighted their performance in a nut shell. No matter who you play, if you complete at 66% you will be hammered, the obvious statement is they need to switch this statistic 180 degrees to be able to compete against the Bulldogs. Taumalolo needs help, he is a monster, but he can’t carry this team, last week he carried the ball for 115m, the nearest forward was Bolton with a poultry 84m. A few big inclusions for them this week, will they help Taumalolo to combat a building Bulldogs pack? Time will tell.
Stats that matter from Round 9
Completion rate: BUL 82%, NQ 66%
Run meters: BUL 1,848m, NQ 1,251m
If the numbers look the same after the final whistle, the Bulldogs have a large win next to their name.
Team news: (Final team lists released an hour before the game)
Canterbury Bulldogs team changes:
J. Reynolds is out with a ham string injury, approximately 5 weeks. This allows M. Frawley to start. The other change is G. Eastwood to start and Score trying sensation A. Elliot is bumped back to warm the bench.
North Queensland Cowboys team changes:
Put the kettle on, we are going to be here for a while; ok the Big IN’s are J. Granville and L. Coote. Also a surprise inclusion of R. Thomson in for the injured J. Thurston, which signals the end to the “Asiata” experiment in the halves. He moves back to the front row, with E. Lowe and S. Fensom making the starting side and bench respectfully. Second row sensation, C. Hess is named on the bench also with K. Ponga dropped to number 21 to make way for L. Coote. Granville returns to the hooker position, moving Hampton to a utility role on the bench and Leary to number 19.
However, we aren’t sold on their starting line-up, with the high chance of L. Coote switching to the Halves and K. Ponga to full back. This would push out R. Thompson who has come out of right field. But as it says above final team lists will be known an hour from kick off. A small hint will come tonight around 8pm, when they will have to drop two players for the 21 list. If Ponga is still there he may be a late inclusion, if he is dropped off, we believe 1-13 will be correct.

Their last 5 game report card:
Canterbury Bulldogs have won only the one game (away) from the last 5 starts.
North Queensland Cowboys take a dominate 4 wins into this match up, two of those were away wins.
2016 – Round 25 – NQ won by 8 points at Belmore Stadium
2016 – Round 20 – NQ won by 36 points at 1300 SMILES Stadium
2015 – Round 9 – NQ won by 7 at 1300 SMILES Stadium
2014 – Round 20 – NQ won by 8 points at ANZ Stadium
2013 – Round 13 – Bulldogs won by 10 points at 1300 SMILES Stadium

What we take from this?
By the Books it’s been an age for a Bulldogs victory, but what we can say is that J. Thurston played in each of those wins in History. From what we have seen this year minus his ability, NQ have looked lost. Two influential players are back, but first game back will be rusty.

Brief summary
For us the Bulldogs ($1.60) deserve the favourite tag for this match. They will miss J. Reynolds and his inspirational plays, however NQ will miss J. Thurston more. Coote and Granville will keep the score line respectable, however we don’t expect them to be at their best with extended breaks from “Game fitness”. Bulldogs will be too strong in the middle third and will take the two competition points.

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