The NRL is the world's premier rugby league competition that runs annually from March until the first weekend in October, when the Grand Final is traditionally held.
The sport captivates the eastern coast of Australia, centred around Sydney where the game was first invented in 1908, and also reaches many corners of the globe, particularly in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and many Pacific Island nations.
The competition features a 22-game season, followed by a four-week playoff series in which the top eight teams on the regular season ladder contest in an attempt to reach the holy grail - the NRL Grand Final. Last year's winners, the Cronulla Sharks, celebrated their first ever premiership (in fifty attempts), and there have been twelve different victors since the inception of the 'NRL' in 1998.
NRL Grand Final Winner Picks
While every team that finishes in the top eight has a shot of winning the GF, the odds are firmly stacked in the favour of the top four teams, who each get a reprieve should they lose their first match. Since 1998, no team finishing lower than fourth on the league ladder has managed to go on and win the big match. This is definitely worth considering when you attempt to pick a winner!
|2017 NRL Grand Final Winner
So who is looking most likely to win the NRL Grand Final in 2017?
The Favourites - Melbourne Storm
While the Melbourne Storm have had their fair share of critics over the last decade, especially considering they have had two Premierships stripped due to salary cap breaches, you can't help but marvel at the fact that they have been the benchmark in the NRL competition for a number of years. Under coach Craig Bellamy, who has been at the helm since 2003, the Victorian side has finished in the top six in every season except 2010.
Melbourne won the minor premiership (finishing first in the regular season) in 2016, and with a four point lead over the second-placed Sydney Roosters (who they come up against this weekend), they could potentially wrap up this year's prize with three games in hand.
Finishing top of the competition means that they will play their first finals match against the fourth-placed side, and rewarded with a week off if they win, so it's a big advantage.
So will Melbourne win another NRL Grand Final?
On current form it's hard to back against them, and at +125 they are almost too short to be a worthwhile punt. There is the potential for Bellamy to rest key players such as veteran captain Cameron Smith in the lead up to the finals, and this may have an impact on results (and their price). Perhaps wait until just before the playoffs before you put your money on the Storm.
As mentioned above, the Sydney Roosters will travel to Melbourne this weekend and will hopefully give punters a better idea of their premiership credentials at the end of the 80 minutes. Although they sit second on the ladder, the Roosters showed exactly why they won't win the premiership with a crushing loss to Manly last weekend - a game in which they led 18-4 at half time, and against a side that Melbourne had beaten 40-6 just one week prior.
While the club has been without co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend for a decent stretch (the pair may return this weekend), they still appear to be well short of the table-topping Storm. At present, you can jump on the Roosters at +500, however it may be wise to wait until after this weekend to put your money down lest they lose to Melbourne as expected.
This weekend also gives us another taste of finals rugby league as the fourth-placed Cronulla Sharks travel to Suncorp Stadium to take on the third-placed Brisbane Broncos.
Both sides are well poised to have a shot at the title this year and it will be very interesting to see who comes out on top. Brisbane certainly look like a team in form coming off a thumping win over the Gold Coast Titans, but Cronulla will prove to be a much sterner test.
Although the odds of both sides will fluctuate heavily at the conclusion of this match, it may still be worth putting your money down now. The Sharks have proven that they can win big matches and are excellent value at +1000, although they will have to defy history to win back-to-back Grand Finals - no team has managed this in over two decades.
Ironically, Brisbane were the last side to win consecutive premierships, and their odds of +650 are also reasonably generous considering the form that they are in and the talent at their disposal. And let's not forget that they are coached by one of the greatest of all time in Wayne Bennett. 2017 could quite easily be their year, and you'd be best placing a wager now before their odds compress.
The Parramatta Eels appear under the 'outsider' tag, however perhaps for not too much longer. The blue and gold outfit have won their last six matches and have rocketed into fifth place, and premiership conversations, from next to nowhere. With a game against Newcastle coming up, they are almost certain to overtake either Melbourne or Cronulla by the end of the upcoming weekend, and could well and truly entrench themselves in the top four.
But has their run come too early? Purists will tell you that winning the NRL is all about timing your run and the odds point to the Eels losing at some point in the next eight weeks. However, finish in the top four and Parramatta will only need to win three games to end the longest current premiership drought in rugby league. Their current odds of +900 are still pretty generous, although you could have got them at almost double that earlier in the season!
Another side that have come from nowhere to be in contention are the Penrith Panthers. After nine competition rounds the western Sydney outfit had just four points and were sitting second-last on the ladder ahead of the hapless Newcastle Knights. Fast forward to today and the Panthers have won five straight games and have jumped into the top eight.
Their final four games all come up against teams that will be vying for the final three spots in the top eight - North Queensland, Canberra, St. George Illawarra and Manly, and if they can win three of these matches they will be sure of a spot in the finals. Odds will be against any side coming into the finals from below fourth-place, but at odds of +1800, you might as well have a crack!
It is no coincidence that the Grand Final victors over the last two decades have come from the top four places on the league table. The teams who fill the remaining playoff positions, particularly seventh and eighth place, have not been good enough to challenge the best sides over the course of a full season, and there is therefore very little chance that they can shake up the finals.
St. George Illawarra (+10000) led the competition in the early rounds, only to fall dramatically off the pace and have slipped to ninth position. North Queensland (+3000) are always a threat with Jonathan Thurston pulling the strings, but his injury has more or less signalled the end for the team from Townsville. Manly (+1600) have Daly Cherry-Evans and a good young side who will be much better for the experience should they reach the finals, while Canberra (+4000) started the season as premiership favourites, and have been a massive let down.
Let's hope you didn't jump on the Raiders at their initial price of +700...
Regardless of which of the above teams will squeeze into the playoffs this season, don't waste your money on them in the outright market.
So once again it looks like Melbourne is the team to beat in the NRL this season.
The Sharks were good enough to beat them in the 2016 edition, although are unlikely to go back-to-back, while the Roosters haven't done enough to consider themselves in contention. The Brisbane Broncos are a side that can beat the Storm on their day, while the Eels are a developing story and may well be this year's surprise packet. Watch this space.
Do you agree with our analysis? Who is your pick for this year's grand final? As always you can join in the conversation and let us know who you think will win the 2017 NRL premiership.
Category : NFL News
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