Mon, Feb 19, 8:16am by Staff Writer
With just under three weeks to go until the start of the 2018 NRL season, the Melbourne Storm produced a clinical performance to secure the World Club Challenge. Preparations for the rest of the clubs continued over the weekend as they look to dethrone the Storm this year. The NRL kicks off on Thursday 8th March as St George Illawarra Dragons take on the Brisbane Broncos.
Despite scoring first, Leeds Rhinos offered little resistance to a ruthless Storm side on Friday night at AAMI Park. The English Super League side struggled to cope with the pace and power of Melbourne who look in frighteningly good form ahead of the NRL season. They ran in seven unanswered tries following Ryan Hall’s opener with Nelson Asofa-Solomona impressing on the night.
The departure of Cooper Cronk following their 2017 Grand Final win over the North Queensland Cowboys threatened to be a huge loss for the Storm. A fine performance, however, from youngster Brodie Croft suggests they could have a ready-made replacement for the number 7 shirt. Although the Storm are now World Club Champions as well as NRL Premiers they stand as third favourite to win the Grand Final in 2018 priced at $6.
Indeed, it is the new home of Cooper Cronk who are favourites to win a first Premiership since 2013. The Sydney Roosters appeared to be missing the cutting edge last season as they threatened at times to rival the Storm. A home loss to the Cowboys in the Preliminary ended their hopes last season but Cronk could well be the addition they need in the halves to steer them to glory. They are priced at $5.
North Queensland fell at the final hurdle last season after an incredible playoff run. After struggling at the back end of the season, the Cowboys only made the Finals courtesy of a shock loss for the Dragons on the last day. Injuries had threatened to derail their season, yet they kept fighting back and made it all the way to the Grand Final. If they can keep injury free this year, then they are a real threat to add to their solitary Premiership from 2015 priced at $5.50.
Those three sides are the standout favourites for the 2018 NRL season, with everyone else slightly off the pace – although the NRL is one of the most competitive tournaments in the world of sport with little separating the top from the bottom.
A disappointing loss to the eventual Premiers in the Preliminary Finals left the Broncos with a sour taste in 2017 and they will be back looking to make an impact. They stand at $12 but are one of the most consistent clubs in the NRL and have a squad capable of causing a few upsets.
The Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers round out the top six favourites priced at $13. Both sides though will need vast improvements if they are to seriously challenge any of the top three.
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