Round 1 of the NRL season continues on Friday night with a big double header! The Knights and Bulldogs kick off the action from 6pm followed by the Broncos and Eels from 8.05pm. Our rugby expert Scooby is back with a full preview and betting tips for both games below.
NRL Round 1 Friday Betting Tips
Newcastle v Canterbury-Bankstown
Friday 6.00pm (AEDT)
Hopes are high in Newcastle that the Knights can take a promising squad of players and improve them to go deep into September. They get the opportunity to start their season off at home against a team which finished 15th last year in the Bulldogs. They are missing some key players ahead of this match, most notable Kaylan Ponga and Blake Green. This will create immediate pressure on a squad that needs to deliver for a coach that also is aiming to prove his worth. The Bulldogs come into this year with little expectation; however, their new coach will also want to prove his capabilities. The Bulldogs have made a lot of noise since the signing of Trent Barrett and he has promised a different form of attack. This will revolve around Kyle Flanagan (halfback), Corey Allan (fullback) and Nick Cotric (centre). Whether or not this team will be able to gel immediately remains to be seen; yet, with improvement ahead of them, they will be out to prove to the doubters that they are a vastly different team.
These two sides have met 38 times, with the Knights winning 17 compared with the Bulldogs 20 (2 draw). The Knights only have a slight advantage at this ground (55% v 53% winning record). The Bulldogs have been a ‘bogey’ side for the Knights, winning 8 out of the past 10 meetings between these two sides; of those 10 matches, only 2 victories have been in favour of the home side.
The Knights have been hand favouritism, but this contest isn’t as clear-cut as the odds suggest. The omission of Ponga for the Knights creates plenty of issues, especially considering their opponents are near full-strength. The Bulldogs will be out to make a statement and the club possesses some discarded players that will be desperate to prove their former clubs wrong. Combine this with the recent history between the two sides and the option of the line is hard to go past. That isn’t to suggest that the Knights cannot win; it would be a very different story if all players were available for them.
Brisbane v Parramatta
Friday 8.05pm (AEDT)
The quicker this game comes around, the better for the Broncos, with everyone involved with the club desperate to put 2020 behind them. It was easily the worst in the club’s history, finishing with them receiving the ‘wooden spoon’ for finishing last. It also resulted in the club losing their coach and Kevin Walters being hired. He has promised a shift in culture and performance; yet, a lot of questions still linger when you assess the squads talent. They are without Payne Haas in the forwards, while Brodie Croft has first crack at the halfback position. The Eels will want to continue the Broncos 11-game losing streak, with their hopes in 2021 focusing towards extending their season longer than the past 2 years have allowed. Time is running out for this squad to taste overall success and questions are growing louder about the potential of Brad Arthur as a coach. Not much changes for their squad this year either; this suggests that the combinations will not take as long to fire and can return to the amazing form they displayed for majority of 2020. The talent is present, it is just a matter of the club putting a dismal finish to last season behind them and resetting their focus.
The Broncos and Eels share a strong rivalry; they have met 44 times since 1998, with the Eels holding the edge over the Broncos (23 v 21). That being said, the home ground advantage will mean a lot for the Broncos. They have a 60% winning record at this ground compared with the Eels 42%. The Eels have won 6 out of the past 10 meetings between the two teams, with only one meeting being in Round 1 (2016 – Broncos 17 v Eels 4 at Bankwest). The Eels have a strong recent history though; they have defeated the Broncos in the past 3 matches, with a total score of 118 to 18.
The only way is up for the Broncos, but they will face a tough test in this match. Markets have them as $3.50 outsiders and rightly so. Their form last year was horrendous; a new coach and minimal change in the playing group fails to make the problems disappear at this stage. The Eels have a ready-made team that will want to send a message to the rest of the competition. A close victory against a team that isn’t expected to achieve much in 2021 will hardly be anything to be excited about. They are a team which also builds victory on the back of gritty defence and the Broncos will have a difficult time trying to crack their opponents. This should mean that, while the Eels may not score as many points as they would like, the limitations placed on the Broncos should be a comfortable victory by more than 2 converted tries.