After a wild opening month, the NRL premiership heats up in Round 5 with three encounters between 2022 Top 8 rivals.
NRL Tips – Sydney Roosters V Parramatta Eels
History: Played 137: Roosters 68, Eels 64, draws 5
Last meeting: Round 15, 2022 – Eels 26 d Roosters 16 at CommBank Stadium
Team News: Joey Manu’s one-game ban carried over from the Roosters’ Round 3 win over Souths sees Drew Hutchison fill at centre, with Corey Allan and Naufahu Whyte joining the bench. Junior Paulo copped a two-match ban in Parramatta’s golden point win over Penrith; Wiremu Greig moves into the starting pack with Jack Murchie returning from a head knock on the bench.
What We Like: Unders have been the big points trend across the opening four rounds, but eight of these teams’ last 10 encounters produced 40-plus points, including both last season. The total points line is set at 40.5 and this match appears likely to go over. Daniel Tupou ($1.85) has scored 10 tries in 15 career games against the Eels while Maika Sivo ($1.91) has crossed four times in six games against the Roosters; both wingers provide excellent Anytime Tryscorer value.
Final Thoughts: Parramatta showed a ton of character and discipline to get off the mark for 2023 against Penrith, Mitch Moses standing tall and their starting props toiling for 500 metres between them. Paulo’s a big loss for a clash with the Roosters’ hardened pack, but taking Manu out of a Tricolours line-up that is yet to build any decent moment so far is potentially just as big a setback. This should be much closer to a head-to-head pick ’em than it is, so the Eels look a sound option with a decent start.
Best Bet: Handicap – Eels +5.5 @ $1.90
NRL Tips – Canberra Raiders V Penrith Panthers
History: Played 80: Panthers 42, Raiders 37, draws 1
Last meeting: Round 21, 2022 – Panthers 26 d Raiders 6 at GIO Stadium
Team News: Desperate Canberra get Jordan Rapana back from his Round 1 suspension, with James Schiller making way on the wing. Jamal Fogarty returns from illness, which sees Matt Frawley shift to five-eighth for the suspended Jack Wighton. Penrith, regrouping from a golden point loss, have rested Luke Garner with Scott Sorensen to start and Lindsay Smith joining the bench. Tyrone Peachey will play his first game for the Panthers since 2018 with Soni Luke out, and last week’s star, Zac Hosking, keeps his spot with Liam Martin still sidelined.
What We Like: Canberra’s smallest losing margin on their current four-game slide against Penrith was 16 points, losing both last season by 20-plus. A 13+ Panthers result is tempting at $2.10. Meanwhile, the same four matches had an average total of 39.5 points – the exact total points line here. All three of the Panthers’ games and three of the Raiders’ four have gone under. Rapana’s return is timely given he has 10 tries from 15 career games against the Panthers; he’s a juicy $2.80 to get over the line on Friday…but he is currently on a five-game try-less drought against the heavyweights. Stephen Crichton scored four tries across the teams’ two games in 2022 and is a handy $2.07 to add another at the Raiders’ expense.
Final Thoughts: The Raiders getting an 11.5-point start at home would be super-tempting under normal circumstances. But Wighton’s absence from a side already struggling to perform with its usual attacking verve, on the back of a poor 24-14 loss in Newcastle, is not a great spot against the ruthless Panthers defensive unit. The Panthers have lost back-to-back games just once since the end of 2019 and they’ll bounce back from their extra-time loss the Eels here.
Best Bet: Same Game Multi: Anytime Tryscorer – Brian To’o; Tri Bet – Panthers -8.5 @ $2.42
NRL Tips – South Sydney Rabbitohs V Melbourne Storm
History: Played 37: Storm 31, Rabbitohs 6
Last meeting: Round 19, 2022 – Rabbitohs 24 d Storm 12 at Accor Stadium
Team News: Souths’ Hame Sele returns from concussion protocols, replacing debutant Ben Lovett in the only change to the side that beat Manly in golden point. Melbourne have just won change from the win over Wests Tigers: Tom Eisenhuth has been named on the bench at Tyran Wishart’s expense.
What We Like: A traditionally high-scoring encounter overwhelmingly dominated by the Storm (to the tune of 31-6 all-time), last season’s two clashes were split and went well under the total line. Both clubs have 3-1 unders records on the season and under 40.5 points looks a sharp play here. Alex Johnston boasts three doubles among 11 tries in 13 games against the Storm – he’s $4 to grab two or more on Friday.
Final Thoughts: The jury is still out on the Storm and probably will remain so until Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster are both on the paddock together again. But Munster made a huge difference in his return to a depleted line-up, the catalyst for a 24-12 win over the Tigers. The Rabbitohs were gutsy in getting the W against Manly with Cody Walker’s man-of-the-match turnaround very heartening for the team. Souths have had a brutal draw and are battle-hardened, while Melbourne had scratched their way to an identical 2-2 record with a comparatively soft schedule.
Best Bet: Result / Total Double – Rabbitohs & Under 40.5 @ $3.10
NRL Tips – Manly Sea Eagles V Newcastle Knights
History: Played 57: Sea Eagles 35, Knights 22
Last meeting: Round 13, 2022 – Cowboys 32 d Titans 6 at Cbus Super Stadium
Team News: Gun Manly centre Tolu Koula requires knee surgery, which gives Morgan Harper an opportunity in the centres. Lachlan Croker comes back at hooker for Karl Lawton. Newcastle lose Kurt Mann to a concussion standdown, bringing Jack Johns into the squad.
What We Like: Manly has averaged 30.5 points in their two games in Mudgee and have twice topped 30 in 2023. They are very likely to post over 28.5 points on the Knights at $1.84. Tom Trbojevic is a prohibitive $1.53 to score a try and only has one in eight games against the Knights, but Haumole Olakau’atu ($2.35) dotted down in both wins over the Novocastrians in 2022. Knights winger Greg Marzhew ($2.45) is also decent value after picking up a double on club debut last weekend.
Final Thoughts: Despite the extra-time heartbreak, the Sea Eagles will take plenty out of last week’s loss – their first experience in a grinding, high-quality low-scorer this season. Their big guns are all firing and the line-up has a great balance. The Knights are painfully short on big guns, but last week’s upset of the Raiders was full of character personified by the likes of unheralded fullback Lachlan Miller. But Newcastle up against it here, facing a team with genuine firepower for the first time in 2023. It could get ugly if the Knights are slow out of the blocks.
Best Bet: Margin / Total Double – Sea Eagles 13+ / Over 43.5 @ $2.65
NRL Tips – St George Illawarra Dragons V Dolphins
History: First meeting
Team News: St George Illawarra have named the same squad that got pumped by Cronulla, though Jack de Belin is rated a chance of being included late. The Dolphins have lost Sean O’Sullivan long-term, bringing rookie Isaiya Katoa back into the halves to partner Anthony Milford. Jeremy Marshall-King returns from suspension to start at hooker, with Kodi Nikorima dropping to the reserves. Herman Ese’ese is back to bolster the Dolphins’ pack, while debutant Jack Bostock replaces injured winger Tesi Niu.
What We Like: All three of the Dragons’ matches have cruised over the total points line in 2023, averaging 52 points. The total line is set at 42.5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has scored in all four of the Dolphins’ game, so why wouldn’t you get on him as a $2.00 Anytime Tryscorer?
Final Thoughts: Despite proving themselves week after week, the Dolphins – who have covered in every match – continue to be underrated ahead of every match…and they’ve been installed as underdogs against a Dragons side heading in the wrong direction at a rate of knots. The Saints were appalling last week against the Sharks, outscored 28-0 in the second half with several players appearing disinterested or overawed. It’s going to get worse before it gets better for the Red V. The Dolphins have been further decimated, but Marshall-King’s return can’t be understated and they deserve some straight-up support.
Best Bet: Result – Dolphins @ $2.00
NRL Tips – Brisbane Broncos V Wests Tigers
History: Played 31: Broncos 21, Tigers 9, draws 1
Last meeting: Round 20, 2022 – Tigers 32 d Tigers 18 at Suncorp Stadium
Team News: The Broncos have named the same 17 that outlasted the Dolphins in a classic maiden derby last Friday. The 0-4 Tigers have named the same starting 13, leaving Adam Doueihi at fullback. Daine Laurie is dumped to the reserves along with Alex Seyfarth and Shawn Blore as Jake Simpkin, Justin Matamua and Starford To’a get a promotion to the interchange.
What We Like: If not for a three-try, four-minute burst against the Bulldogs, the Tigers wouldn’t have scored more than 12 points in 2023. They’re $1.80 to post under 12.5 this week. The Broncos shouldn’t have too much trouble piling on tries, though, and Kotoni Staggs ($2.25), Ezra Mam ($2.35) and Jordan Riki ($3.90) shape as good Anytime Tryscorer options.
Final Thoughts: There’s only one way to go here and it’s the Broncos. Enjoying an eight-day turnaround after a classic derby against the Dolphins, Kevin Walters’ side should relish the chance to take on the hapless 0-4 Tigers. Reece Walsh and Adam Reynolds continue to light it up every week – while also guiding the Broncos through rough patches in matches – and their youthful-but-hardened pack lays a tremendous platform. The Tigers are treading water and are ripe for a heavy defeat as they prepare to face a team with a winning record for the first time. Sheens is sticking solid with his bizarre spine reshuffle and Laurie’s complete omission defies logic. The Tigers have won their last four against the Broncos but recent trends won’t save them.
Best Bet: Handicap – Broncos -15.5 @ $1.90
NRL Tips – Cronulla Sharks V New Zealand Warriors
History: Played 46: Sharks 28, Warriors 18
Last meeting: Round 14, 2022 – Sharks 38 d Warriors 16 at Moreton Daily Stadium
Team News: Cronulla’s only change to the side that crushed the Saints on Sunday sees Braydon Trindall (ankle) return on the bench for Oregon Kaufusi (HIA). Ups and downs for the Warriors, with hooker linchpin Wayde Egan back for Freddy Lussick, while Te Maire Martin has been ruled out and replaced by Ronald Volkman at five-eighth. Tohu Harris has been named but must be in considerable doubt with a knee injury; Josh Curran would be a logical replacement.
What We Like: All four of the Sharks’ games have over the total line, while all four of the Warriors’ have gone well under. The visitors’ remarkable defensive turnaround in 2023 – conceding on 14.5 points a game – should help this go under 42.5. Ronaldo Mulitalo ($1.57) and Sione Katoa ($1.76) are cautiously priced with both boasting six tries in eight career games against the Warriors, but Will Kennedy is $2.03 despite leading the NRL with five this year.
Final Thoughts: Nicho Hynes’ return immediately transformed the Sharks into the team that shot up the ladder in 2022 – but he and the vast offensive arsenal around him were allowed to run roughshod by the Dragons. The 2023 Warriors are a different proposition and the hosts must be willing to get into the grind. Shaun Johnson has turned back the clock, while the team’s metamorphosis composure- and resilience-wise under Andrew Webster is something to behold. The Sharks should still get up at home…but the 3-1 Warriors have covered in every game and are being shown little respect with a 10.5-point line.
Best Bet: Handicap – Warriors +10.5 @ $1.90
NRL Tips – Canterbury Bulldogs V North Queensland Cowboys
History: Played 43: Bulldogs 24, Cowboys 19
Last meeting: Round 21, 2022 – Cowboys 28 d Bulldogs 14 at Salter Oval
Team News: Canterbury have named Josh Reynolds for his first top-grade game for the club in six years, replacing Fa’amanu Brown, who dislocated his shoulder in the loss to the Warriors, on the bench. North Queensland, coming off a pressure-relieving win over Gold Coast, have lost Murray Tuilagi (knee). Peta Hiku returns from suspension for the injured Gehamat Shibasaki and Brendan Elliot gets a wing call-up. Jeremiah Nanai’s two-game ban sees Heilum Luki start and Mitch Dunn come onto the bench, while debutant Riley Price joins the interchange for injured veteran James Tamou.
What We Like: Josh Addo-Carr has scored four tries in his last three games and 10 in his last nine against the Cowboys – so $1.81 to score (or $5.10 to grab two or more) is looking pretty good versus Kyle Feldt, whose opposing wingers in his last two games have both crossed twice. Valentine Holmes is $2.35 in the Anytime Tryscorer stakes after getting off the mark in spectacular style last week.
Final Thoughts: A pick ’em to finish the round with the market unable to split the Bulldogs and Cowboys, who are both 2-2. The Bulldogs’ two-game winning run was snapped by the Warriors, though they were far from disgraced in a cliff-hanger – they’re just lacking a bit of direction and polish. The Cowboys’ 24-12 defeat of the Titans was far from perfect, but a dominant second-half display at both ends of the field – and Tom Dearden’s dominant display – would have pleased Todd Payten. The visitors have a few out, though, and the odds look dead right: this is anyone’s.