The 2013 NRL gets under way on Thursday night, and this does look like being one of the most open ever. Melbourne are the $5.50 favourites but there are several other sides who have been well backed over the past month. The standout of those sides has been North Queensland who are now $9.00 after opening at $12. The Cowboys have been backed to win well over $100,000 with TattsBet in the last 2 weeks, and the $9.00 hasn’t really deterred many either. They have also attracted bets of $5000 ($1.60) and $13,000 ($1.55) to make the final 8. The Sydney Roosters are the other significant shortener, now $10 after $17 was given prior to the signing of Sonny Bill Williams. The Roosters are in action in the first game of the season against Souths, and there has been a good push for them here as well. After opening at $2.35, the Roosters are into $2.20 with Souths at $1.67.
The openness of the competition is evident in the price of all 8 favourites to win the opening round. The Storm appear good things at $1.25, yet the price for all 8 favs is still a lengthy $44 for every $1 outlay. There have been 3 matches that have seen major price changes, and while there haven’t been a lot of big bets struck prior to Thursday, there is a definite trend there. Brisbane opened at $1.75 to beat Manly, but although the Broncos didn’t impress many in their trials, they have firmed to $1.57. Manly will be without Glenn Stewart who is out for a few months, but have also named several other players who have been under an injury cloud. The Bulldogs opened at $1.55 in their match against North Queensland with the Cowboys at $2.45, but on the back of Ben Barba being stood down, the Cowboys came into $2.00. The support has continued into this week, so much so that the Cowboys are now favourites ($1.85) ahead of the Bulldogs ($1.95), and look likely to start even shorter. Newcastle are the other side who have had their price slashed. They go around against the Wests Tigers on Monday night, and while the Tigers have been stripped of a lot of big names during the break, the Knights were one of the most disappointing sides last year. Punters have put that horror year behind them however as Newcastle have already been $1.57 into $1.47, while the Tigers are out to $2.70 from $2.35. They have been the least popular side of the round.
Just a reminder that TattsBet will be betting on the NSW Cup matches this year. Fox Sports are going to give the competition coverage, and Newtown share favouritism with the Bulldogs at $6.00. We have also opened a market to win the Intrust Super Cup (QRL) with last year’s grand finalists, Redcliffe and Wynnum Manly sharing top billing at $4.25. The great Petero Civoniceva will be lining up for his old club Redcliffe after 19 years in the NRL and will ensure that the Dolphins are the team to beat this year.
Those in charge at the AFL would be delighted to see that there is a strong chance that the NAB Cup final will see the clash of Collingwood and Carlton, and with one round remaining before that final, that is the way it is headed. That pair dominate the market now with Collingwood at $2.00 and Carlton at $3.00, with a big gap to Geelong ($8.00), Brisbane and North Melbourne, both of whom are priced at $9.00. Having said that, the results to date this year in the NAB Cup show that nothing is set in concrete. Of the 27 games played so far, only 15 favourites have won, and only 9 of those have been able to cover the line. There are another 9 matches this week, and while the sides still in contention will be eager to put a side on the field that will get the job done, there will be a few matches where players will be rested, so the late changes to teams will be crucial news.
Hawthorn’s unflattering start to the NAB Cup has seen some changes to the season odds, and they have eased out to $4.50. Collingwood have been the big mover, now $7.00 equal second pick with the West Coast and Sydney, and have clearly been the best backed since the pre-season comp got under way. Betting on the Pies hasn’t only been confined to the flag as they have also been $1.50 into $1.36 to make the final 8, including one bet of $10,000 at $1.40. Geelong are another side who have impressed to date and they have also firmed, now $11 after being $12 a month ago, but the price change was more about their good form than money wagered. Richmond are another side who have impressed and are in slightly to $21, but it has been Trent Cotchin, their gun midfielder, who has been equally impressive. Cotchin has been $13 into 411 to win the Brownlow Medal which now puts him on the third rung of betting behind Gary Ablett ($8.00) and Jobe Watson ($9.00).
The Crusaders made an inauspicious start to the Super Rugby season when they failed to score a try in their 34-15 defeat at the hands of the Blues last week. The Blues have shocked most with their 2 victories to date, but they may be the real deal after holding the Crusaders try-less in that win. The Blues are still $8.00 to win the Super Rugby title while the Crusaders have eased out to be $6.00 behind the Chiefs at $5.50.
The Hurricanes were beaten by the Blues in their first match and went down 12-6 in a dour struggle against the Reds last week, so it is going to be very interesting to see what transpires in the first match of the round this week. The Canes will be at home to the Crusaders, and while they have lost 10 of their last 12 matches against the Crusaders, this is their chance to peg one back. The Crusaders opened at $1.58 or -3.5 points on the line, but punters have been wary after last week’s shock loss. The Reds have defeated the Rebels in all four previous meetings, and by an average of 21 points, and while the Rebels were competitive against the Waratahs last week, they have lost Kurtley Beale for a month with a broken hand. They will be at home this week, and that would explain the early support for them with 6.5 points at the line, but they were thumped 30-13 at home 2 weeks ago by the Brumbies.
The game of the round is shaping as the Brumbies v Waratahs clash, and while recent records show that the games between these two are real arm wrestles, the bulk of the early money has been for the Brumbies to win at $1.48.
Last week’s round threw a few surprising results, and consequently the NBL ladder is in a bigger logjam than ever. Wollongong and Sydney sit in third and fourth by the skin of their teeth, with Melbourne and now Cairns, after their surprise win over Perth on Friday night, in hot pursuit. Even Townsville is only two games outside the top four, and the Crocs play Melbourne twice, along with Cairns and Sydney to finish the regular season.
The first of those match-ups against the Tigers comes this Sunday in the LIVE match on Ten. Townsville was on fire mid-season winning eight out of ten matches, after losing ten straight to start the campaign, but a four-game slide has Paul Woolpert’s team in grave danger of missing the playoffs, which is a rare thing for the north Queensland club. The Crocs are 6-6 at home this season at The Swamp; last season they finished 11-3 in front of their home fans, which shows how much they’ve struggled at what used to be an intimidating venue for opposition teams. This game is on the back end of a lengthy road double for the Tigers, with Melbourne heading across the ditch to take on the league-leading New Zealand Breakers on Thursday night. In early February they showed they can travel beating Wollongong and Adelaide in round 18, but this is probably a tougher assignment, given the way the Breakers are travelling and the time the Tigers will spend in the air. Townsville got up in a one-point thriller last time the teams met, but the northerners have been insipid at times the past few weeks, and if Melbourne brings its ‘A’ game to the tropics then they should be able to bundle the Crocs out of the finals race.
The much anticipated F1 season is almost upon us with the Australian GP now only a matter of a few days away. Pre-season testing over the 3 sessions in Spain proved to be relatively inconclusive with all teams ironing out bugs and issues with their new spec cars, and most of the top teams at some stage recording lap times that put them up the top of the timesheets. However on the final 2 days of testing the Mercedes works team did look to be the team who had made the most gain recording back to back wins of both sessions, with both Rosberg and new boy Lewis Hamilton carving out times unmatched by their rivals. Rosberg is an early firmer to win in Melbourne from an opening $29 into $23, while Hamilton has admirers at $10. Mercedes started developing their 2013 car halfway thru the 2012 season and it looks as though they have a good package to start the new season. Sebastien Vettel won this race in 2011 and has to be respected for obvious reasons, and has been installed as the $3.50 favourite, but the one to beat is Jenson Button ($4.25). Button has 3 wins in Melbourne from his last 4 starts, and with the departure of Hamilton, he will be keen to maintain those impressive stats. The Mclarens have always had terrific speed and is historically a team that hits the ground running. Fernando Alonso ($5.75) is reportedly very happy with the progress of the Ferrari this year and he will also be a logical threat along with the likes of a rejuvenated Kimi Raikonnen ($9.00). Mark Webber ($8.00) enters his possible final year behind the wheel of an F1 car and while everyone would love to see him win at his home track, luck has avoided him each time he has lined up in Melbourne.
The WGC Cadillac Championship will be held in Doral this week, and Tiger Woods heads the market at $11. Woods had another ordinary tournament by his standards last week, but punters continue to line up to back him, and that is the case again this week. The Cadillac C'ship has been held at the Doral GC since 2007 and Tiger won in that year, but was a previous winner of this event on 5 other occasions. Charl Schwartzel is next in line at $15, ahead of Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar at $17. Rose is the defending champion, and in last year's win he defeated Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, while Tiger withdrew during the last round with an Achilles problem. McIlroy has struggled since joining Nike and getting a new set of clubs, but he is another who has been backed this week at $21. Adam Scott is the same price, and the shortest of the Aussie contingent, but close on his hammer are Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy, both at $34. Ogilvy showed a return to form last week when finishing second, while Day also found his mojo at his last start when third in the Matchplay. Ogilvy won here in 2008, so must be rated highly, and the same applies to Nick Watney, currently trading at $31. Watney won in 2011 and was placed in 2009 and 2007 behind Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods respectively.
Players outside of the top 50 will compete for the Puerto Rico Open beginning Thursday, and the nominal favourite at $19 is Luke Guthrie after his impressive performance in the Honda Classic last week. This field has nowhere near the depth of that event, but if Guthrie can maintain that form he looks the one to beat. Henrick Stenson, Patrick Cantley and Brendon De Jonge share the second line of betting at $23 followed by Bryce Molder at $26. This will be the 6th running of the Open at the Trump International GC, and most of those who have performed well previously will be going around again including last year's winner George McNeil ($34) and Michael Bradley ($81) who won in 2009 and 2011.
Shane Van Gisbergen 'retired' at the end of the last V8 season, but resurfaced a couple of weeks later as part of the Holden Team. The Kiwi has copped plenty of flack over that, but he put it all behind him to grab pole position in both of last week's Clipsal 500 races held in Adelaide. There had been good money for Van Gisbergen at $34 prior to the qualifying sessions, and he went into race 1 as a $5.00 chance behind Jamie Whincup ($4.00), and Craig Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom , both at $4.25. Van Gisbergen stalled at the start and never really recovered, and withdrew after 62 laps. Lowndes went on to record his 90th win in a V8, and that was the catalyst for a big plunge on him in race 2. Although not the fastest qualifier, Lowndes was easily the best backed ($7.50-$6.00), but could only manage 3rd behind Van Gisbergen and Whincup. We have already seen enough to suggest that there are likely to be several winning chances each race, and although Whincup failed to win a race in Adelaide, he is sitting second on the points table behind Craig Lowndes and remains the favourite at $3.00. The V8's will be in action Australian GP weekend, but will not be competing for points. The next round will be in Tasmania at the beginning of April.
Carl Edwards won the second race on the NASCAR calendar last week in Phoenix, and that victory will see him be one of the major chances this week in Las Vegas. Edwards was a $17 chance, and he defeated the well backed favourite Jimmie Johnson ($6.00) and Denny Hamlin.Las Vegas has been a good course for Edwards as he won there in 2008 and 2011, and is rated an $11 chance to win again. Vegas has also been good to Johnson, but most courses have! He won here in 2005,06,07 and again in 2010, before finishing second behind Tony Stewart last year. The opening quote of $5.00 looks over the odds on his form, but as we know, anything can happen in NASCAR, particularly in the final few laps.