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2021 NRL Season Preview & Betting Tips

March 5th 2021, 5:41pm, By: Scooby

NRL 2021 Season Preview

The 2020 NRL season was one that many will remember for a variety of reasons and, as the new season approaches, the excitement builds in anticipation of what this new season could have in store. The Melbourne Storm are the reigning Premiers, however there is no shortage of teams willing to challenge for the title. All teams are ‘training the house down’ and ‘looking better than ever’, while the rule changes are yet to have a full impact. It all points to another thrilling year of viewing (and hopefully investing) for fans and punters alike.

Once again, we’ll have full coverage of the 2021 NRL season right here on Before You Bet with previews and betting tips for every match of the season. And we kick off our 2021 NRL coverage with our season preview!

NRL 2021 Season Preview


Canberra Raiders - $11 at PlayUp

The Raiders were heavily impacted by injuries last season. Regardless, they still performed well enough to finish 5th, eventually losing to the Premiers in the Grand Final Qualifier. There is no doubt that had this team been at full strength, it could’ve been a different result. Everyone within the club will be aware that the Premiership window won’t remain open for too much longer and the time is right for the Raiders to take the next step. If they manage to keep their key players fit (namely Josh Hodgson), they will be very hard to stop.

South Sydney Rabbitohs - $5.50 at PlayUp

This is a team that many thought would flourish under the ‘faster’ rule changes. It took some time in 2020 but they eventually got there and finished the season strongly. This has gone to another level this year with the off-season changes, and it was for all to see in their dominating trial win over the Dragons (yes, it was only a trial). Aside from that, they will field a very talented team with a spine that is dangerous anywhere on the field. The improvements made to their forwards only increases their chances with the Supercoach, Wayne Bennett, leading the charge.

Penrith Panthers - $5.50 at PlayUp
The Panthers were the most improved team in 2020 and finished runners up. Despite being outplayed for majority of the decider, there is plenty for fans to be excited about. They will be better for the experience of last season and will be hungry to go a step further in 2021. This is a team that rides high on confidence and will be out to demolish teams with their explosive power across the field. Opponents would’ve studied their play at length, but another level of defence will be needed to stop them.

Sydney Roosters - $6.00 at PlayUp

They set high standards, they get the players they want, and their fans rarely suffer disappointment. The Roosters are a team that will again be competitive in 2021. They have made a major off-season call to shift halfback Kyle Flanagan and this remains the biggest question mark ahead of this year. Can the younger players stand up and lead this talented team around? If so, they will be finishing fast at the business end of the season.

Melbourne Storm - $6.50 at PlayUp

If the Roosters set high standards, the Storm are the benchmark that every other team wishes to achieve. They head into the season as Premiers and were very impressive in their 2020 campaign. When many other teams would’ve used relocation as an excuse, the Storm flourished and formed it as part of their identity. They have class everywhere on the field and should only get better as the younger players gain experience. The loss of Smith will take some time to adjust to, but they have a very talented player in Harry Grant to take over from one of the best that this game has seen.

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Gold Coast Titans - $15 at PlayUp

The Titans have recruited really well and after a promising finish to 2021, hopes are high that they can continue a positive run of form. There is a lot to like about them; their coach appears to have this team in the right mindset and now it is up to the players to let their performance do the talking. They probably don’t have enough talent in their spine to score points against the top sides but will rely heavily on their defence. This will leave them short of the contending teams, but they will be a headache for plenty of opponents, especially if they are taken lightly.

Wests Tigers - $41 at PlayUp
Never underestimate the benefit of fitness in rugby league. If there is one thing that the Tigers will be this year under Maguire, they will be fit. There were shades of this in 2020, when they would fight back late in matches or remain in the contest. The challenge for them will be to create a strong platform in the forwards that supports their play makers. They fell short of this last year and without Harry Grant, will find it difficult. Nevertheless, they will surprise teams if taken lightly.

Their success depends on…

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - $21 at PlayUp

Their success depends on the fitness of key players. Des Hasler will have tricks up his sleeve but it will matter little if they do not have the quality on the park. They also look thin in terms of depth and this could cause their season could be over earlier than most. Tommy Turbo is already sidelined for the start of the year.

New Zealand Warriors - $26 at PlayUp
Their success depends on whether or not they are able to adapt to living away from home and the impact of their coach. Brown is there to perform a job of improving the club, but it may get worse before it advances. The impending departure of RTS only increases the frustration within the club. Combine this with living on the road for an indefinite amount of time and it may not end in a positive manner.

North Queensland Cowboys - $26 at PlayUp
Their success depends on the impact that incoming coach, Todd Payton, has on an underperforming team. He had success with the Warriors but that was a limited snapshot of what he is capable of. There is no doubt that this is a talented team which should be finishing high on the ladder. All questions should be answered within the first five weeks of the competition when their attitude is displayed for all to see.

Newcastle Knights - $19 at PlayUp
Their success depends on stability in their spine. Pearce and Ponga offer this, but they need to be complimented by others in the team. If they are high on confidence, they will be difficult to halt. Instability off the field with key players may also disrupt their season. Hopefully for the sake of their fans, these problems are resolved sooner rather than later.

St George-Illawarra Dragons - $51 at PlayUp
Their success depends on the impact of their coach. Like a few other teams in the competition, the Dragons begin a new reign, and the hope is that Griffin can turn around the attitude and performance of their underperforming players. His record elsewhere provides hope, although many are quick to point out the Charity Shield score line. A team has never won a competition by performing well in the trials but the signs early on are troubling.

Parramatta Eels - $15 at PlayUp

Their success depends on how the Eels respond after a poor finish to 2020. At one stage, they were unstoppable, but it all unravelled very quickly. A few losses will only increase the pressure on coach Brad Arthur, who has the premiership window closing very fast for this talented playing group. Their strong home record should have them beating most and making the finals, but a few losses could spell trouble.

Cronulla Sharks - $29 at PlayUp

Their success depends on player fitness. At full-strength, the Sharks are a formidable line up. At the forefront is Wade Graham. If he is on the field, expect the Sharks to perform remarkably better. A few losses could lift the noise around the performance of the coach and if players are put off by it, their season could spiral out of control.

Making Up the Numbers

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - $41 at PlayUp

The Bulldogs are still in the middle of a rebuild and they head into the season with Barrett at the helm. It didn’t end well for him last time he took control of a club and the talent within this team, while strong in parts, isn’t consistent enough to push towards the finals just yet. Halfback Flanagan will have a point to prove after leaving the Roosters, but he cannot do it alone and will be useless if the forwards do not build a strong platform.

Brisbane Broncos - $51 at PlayUp

Things got very ugly for the Broncos last year and incoming coach, Kevin Walters has his work cut out for him. While the only way is up, there needs to be a massive shift in attitude within this club to break the habits of 2020. That aside, the confidence in the halves is low and the forwards are still short on experience to lead them over the top of other sides. It could be yet another long year for this side and the signs will be visible very early on in their campaign.

Recommended Bets


Best Bet – Rabbitohs

Their price could dramatically decrease if they start the season strongly (v Storm Round 1), so get in early. They are a quality team that will be there at the business end of the season and the new rules on enhance their chances.

Rabbitohs 2021 Premiership


Value Bet – Raiders

The price on offer is ridiculously over the odds for the potential they have. Their pack is very strong and, as mentioned above, the key is keeping their key players fit and on the field. Much like the Rabbitohs, the Raiders will not stay at this price for long.

Raiders 2021 Premiership


To Make the Top 8


This is suggested on the importance of home ground advantage. Assuming the Payton has a positive effect on this squad of players, winning majority of matches at home and a few on the road, should be enough for them to make the Top 8.

Cowboys Top 8


To Miss the Top 8

Sea Eagles

Not an ideal market to invest in and one which doesn’t offer much value. For the sake of a selection, the Sea Eagles season could unravel very quickly if they are hit by injuries or fail to find adequate support for DCE.

Sea Eagles Miss Top 8


Top Try Scorer

Reimis Smith

The former Bulldog has travelled south for a new opportunity. There was a lot to like about the talented youngster prior to his departure and playing on the edge for the Storm should only increase his try scoring opportunities. Do not overlook his talent because he is over the odds in this market.

Reimis Smith Top Try Scorer


Scooby is our NRL guru with over ten years experience writing about rugby league with Before You Bet and previously at The Profits. His background is in playing and coaching but he's enjoyed the switch to share his knowledge through his articles, as well as sharing his thoughts on Twitter.

Scooby's strength is assessing the overall team - what they offer across the field in a match and how the ethos of a club contributes to their success. Momentum also has a major impact on sports, and Scooby likes to explore this, while underpinning his judgement against a solid basis of statistical analysis. When combined with the aforementioned points, it combines for a holistic approach towards betting on rugby league.

Other sports he enjoys include Cricket, Horse Racing and NFL. There is a reason why Scooby ‘clicked’ with BYB from Day 1 - he loves his sport as much as we do.

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