With Round 1 of the 2019 NRL season fast approaching, a few consistent trends identify themselves as early opportunities for punters to cash in.

Handicap Market

With only a summer of hyperbole and every team “training the house down” to work with early, it can be tough for punters to start the season.

However, one trend consistently cashes in for punters early in the NRL.


As mentioned this time last year, underdogs are a goldmine to start the season. Only twice in the last ten years have favourites covered more games than underdogs in the first five rounds of an NRL season.

YearUnderdogs Cover %YearUnderdogs Cover %

Square punters flood in to start the season and love a favourite. They’ll see a name on the team sheet that they recognise and side with them no matter the line. As a result, there is almost always some value in the underdogs who have covered at 57% throughout the early rounds over the last ten years.

An example: the Knights are being hyped up to no end. Despite playing with the second-worst defence in the NRL last season and coming up against a Sharks side they’ve lost against eight times on the bounce, the Knights have slowly moved out to $1.85 favourites. There’s a good chance they shorten even further by kickoff.

Head-to-Head Market

While underdogs have been a consistent winner in the early rounds against the spread, the favourites still win more than they lose straight up.

In the same ten years that underdogs have covered at 57%, the favourites have won 58% of games in Rounds 1-5 straight up.

If we boil it down just to Round 1, that number drops to only 51%.

So, if you’re looking for the big upsets, this is the week to find them. The Storm are the only consistent Round 1 favourite winning all of their season openers in that time.

Over/Under Total Points

This won’t come as a surprise to many but bears mentioning: the Under is the way to go early.

As teams try to integrate new players, take on new structures or simply blow out the cobwebs, it’s the attack the suffers. Sore bodies and lungs lend themselves to lapses in concentration and errors with the ball in hand.

It’s Under punters that benefit.

Using the same ten-year span, the Under has cashed in 58% of games inside the first five rounds of an NRL season. The opening to 2018 recorded a whopping 61% as high-powered teams like the Roosters and Rabbitohs didn’t produce the sort of points they were towards the end of the season.

With a bit of rain about in Sydney this weekend, the Under will only be more appealing.

First Try Scorer

It’s a funny market and one that can be hard to pick.

However, those that got on Latrell Mitchell last season ran away laughing. He led the NRL in scoring the first try of the match with six for the season.

Regular favourite, Corey Oates, finished second with four while far too many to mention claimed three each.

As most would expect, wingers claimed the most with 31% of first tries coming from the flanks in the 2018 round robin season. Centres were a fair way behind at 21% despite Mitchell leading the competition. Meanwhile, edge and middle forwards were evenly split a 14% and 11% respectively.

Tipping wingers is the way to go early, and this season, Oates is your man. Anthony Seibold’s left side attack at the Rabbitohs in 2018 was the best in the NRL. Expect it to run similarly in Brisbane with Oates, and his first try backers, the beneficiaries. At $13 to finish as the leading tryscorer, Oates is an option there too.

Halftime/Fulltime Double

It’s a tough market to tip, but there are some numbers from 2018 that might help heading into 2019.

The Roosters won the most games last season when leading at halftime with 13. On the back of owning the NRL’s best defence, opposition teams couldn’t reel the Roosters in when finding themselves behind early. The better defensive teams will be a strong option here again in 2019.

At the opposite end, the Panthers completed the most comebacks from a halftime deficit. They entertained the masses, but if the Panthers need to complete six comebacks again this season, we can expect similar results when it comes to September.