Tue, Feb 6, 1:36am by Staff Writer
The Sydney Roosters are the favourites at Sportsbet to win their first NRL Grand Final since 2013.
The Roosters ($5) welcome former Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk and Wests Tigers full back James Tedesco into an already stacked roster.
Cronk’s legacy will be tested as he embarks on a new challenge with the Roosters, who have lost former halfback Mitchell Pearce to the Newcastle Knights.
Time will tell as to whether the Roosters will be able to click with their new roster, but they certainly have the talent on paper to challenge late in the season.
Last season’s beaten Grand Finalists the North Queensland Cowboys ($5.50) will welcome the return of captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott to a team that surprised many by making the Grand Final last season.
With one of the best home ground advantages in the competition, the Cowboys are another team to watch in 2018.
Last season’s Premiership winners the Melbourne Storm begin the season as third favourites in the betting at Sportsbet at $6 to make it back-to-back titles.
At times last season the Storm appeared unstoppable as they blitzed the Cowboys on Grand Final day to claim yet another trophy.
They will be tested this season without halfback Cooper Cronk, as a lot will fall on the shoulders of youngsters Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft.
The Brisbane Broncos ($12) are always contenders to play in or win the Grand Final, especially when Wayne Bennett coaches them.
The Broncos forward depth was lacking last season and they have made slight inroads into addressing that issue, welcoming troubled forward Matt Lodge to the club.
Brisbane appear thin, particularly in the backline and despite the addition of Jack Bird, their centres and wingers look underwhelming compared to the better teams in the league.
Parramatta ($13) were bitterly disappointing in the 2017 finals losing consecutive games to waste one of their best seasons in years as they finished in fourth position.
The Eels welcome back favourite son Jarryd Hayne to the team, with his impact the biggest unknown in the NRL in 2018. If Hayne fires, the Eels are a sure top four team. If he doesn’t, they may struggle to make the top eight.
Penrith ($13) were staggeringly the bookmakers favourite before the beginning of the 2017 season, ahead of the Melbourne Storm to win the competition.
Penrith struggled for the majority of the season, with obvious discord between captain Matt Moylan and coach Anthony Griffin.
Penrith will now be banking on a halves partnership between James Maloney and Nathan Clearly to steer them forward and the Panthers are a good chance of a top four finish at $3 at Sportsbet.
The 2016 champions, the Cronulla Sharks ($15), have a transformed backline in 2018 after they struggled for creativity in 2017.
Former halfback James Maloney has moved to Penrith in a move that brought Matt Moylan to the Sharks.
The Sharks have also recruited Australian centre Josh Dugan and look a far stronger team than in 2018.
The once highly fancied Canberra Raiders ($21) have slipped dramatically in the eyes of punters, particularly after their awful 2017 campaign.
After almost making the 2016 Grand Final, the Raiders were poor last season. With hooker Josh Hodgson out for the majority of the season with an ACL injury, the Raiders are sure to struggle for creativity, especially with their top-heavy squad.
Perennial underachievers, the New Zealand Warriors find themselves an enormous $41 to win the NRL Premiership, with punters not inclined to back the up-and-down Warriors.
The inclusion of Blake Green, Adam Blair and Tohu Harris make the Warriors a stronger outfit, but consistency will be key for this team.
After New Zealand failed miserably at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, pressure is sure to be on the New Zealand players in the Warriors squad to prove their worth this season.
2018 NRL Premiership Odds (Sportsbet)
Sea Eagles $21
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