The NRL season is finally here and in 2020, Before You Bet will be expanding it's coverage of the domestic Rugby League competition! This year, we will be providing expanded coverage of EVERY game, broken up into three articles, the first of which will encompass the Thursday and Friday games of each round!
Enjoy our betting tips for the Thursday night clash between the Eels and Bulldogs as well as the Friday night double header below.
Thursday, Mar 12 8:05pm
After finishing 5th in 2019 and winning a final, there's plenty of expectations of a top 4 finish for the Parramatta Eels in 2020. The season opener couldn't be at a better location as the Eels made Bankwest Stadium their fortress in 2019. Overall, they won 9 of 11 matches and the Parra faithful will be wanting more of the same this year. In team changes, they have lost Manu Ma'u upfront but have replaced him with Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who could be a very handy pickup. They've also added Ryan Matterson from the Tigers in the second row. Their backline looks very settled and the halves pairing between Moses/Brown is starting to take shape.
While the Bulldogs finished off 2019 with a good run of performances, their season opener has been overshadowed by another off the field controversy surrounding two players that have been stood down. But hopefully for Bulldog fans, the squad can put that behind them and show up on Thursday, otherwise this could get ugly. So if they’re looking for an upset, they'll look to lean on their forward pack behind veterans Tolman, Napa and Jackson. Joe Stimson is also a good pickup from the Storm. Kieran Foran's awful run with injuries has continued as he recovers from shoulder reconstruction so the pressure will be on Lewis/Wakeham in the halves.
Traditionally, meetings between the Eels and Bulldogs have resulted in low scoring affairs with the Under saluting in all of the last 8 night games. So we'll stick with the trend here.
Friday, Mar 13 6:00pm
The Canberra Raiders returned to the Grand Final for the first time since 1991 last season and while the result didn't go their way, there's a lot too like about the Green Machine in 2020. They've recruited a much-needed halfback from the Super League in George Williams and with Jack Wighton taking his game to another level in 2019, they could form a lethal combo. Their forward pack remains strong, led by Josh Papalii, and the important Josh Hodgson returns for another season.
The Titans will surely improve in 2020 under new coach Justin Holbrook but it's going to be a tough ask with a first-up game in Canberra. They've also suffered from the injury bug in the offseason, which includes a season-ending injury to Ryan James. So they'll be thankful Jai Arrow hasn't left for South Sydney already. It was good to see Ash Taylor back on the park but the Titans backline leaked plenty of points in 2019, so the Raiders will be attacking the likes of Peaching/Watkins in defence.
Considering the Raiders kept a shutout in the last meeting (which was also in March), a total of 44.5 points looks a tad high. The Raiders have also recorded a 7-0 record against the Under.
Friday, Mar 13 8:05pm
It's an extra special occasion on Friday night footy as the Cowboys unveil the new Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville. Adding to the fanfare will be a potential cyclone that's expected to hit during gametime! We are expecting a good season by the Cowboys after adding Valentine Holmes in the offseason and hopefully, the new stadium will turn into a fortress. Holmes will start at fullback which will see the talented Scotty Drinkwater at 6 and Morgan taking on the halfback role again. Their go forward is led by Jason Taumalolo and that will be the key against a big Broncos pack.
Brisbane will be a very interesting team to watch in the early rounds as they've made plenty of team changes from last season's disappointing campaign. For starters, they've added Brodie Croft at halfback and Jack Bird will take over the fullback duties from Boyd. They've also sent Andrew McCullough to the bench and will miss Lodge/Glenn with injury.
If the weather is correct, this could be a very sloppy and error-riddled Round 1 matchup. But we do like the occasion of a new stadium for the Cowboys and injuries may see the Broncos struggle to keep up.
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