It’s not a discussion many people expected to have leading into the 2019 NRL season, but the Penrith Panthers are genuine wooden spoon contenders.

Nobody thinks their team will be the one left holding the wooden spoon at the end of an NRL season, but as we approach Round 11, the losses that have piled up are very real.

The Panthers, in particular, are just one loss short of matching their 2018 total already. At $2.81 against the Eels on Thursday night, they’re expected to suffer their ninth loss in just 11 weeks.

The idea of finishing 2019 with the unwanted culinary tool is something those at the foot of the mountains may need to start considering.

Once at $9 to win the premiership and $1.40 to make the Top 8, the Panthers are now out to $101 and $5. Thought to be finalists if not premiership contenders, their $5 price to have the least wins this season is both shocking and appealing.

Nobody anticipated Penrith would be part of this conversation, but now that they are, that $5 is worth a look.

Scoring just 12.7 points per game, their attack is the worst in the NRL. Whether it’s points, linebreaks, tackle breaks, running metres, offloads or try assists, it doesn’t matter. The Panthers are in the bottom three in the competition in every department.

Meanwhile, their defence concedes more than any other team at 24 points per game. NRL-leaders in missed tackles, opposing teams are breaking through with ease. Also at the top of the list in penalties conceded and second in errors made, the Panthers put themselves under plenty of pressure too.

You can usually point to one area a team is succeeding. Not the Panthers, though. They’ve been terrible right across the park. Their draw doesn’t paint a favourable picture for an immediate improvement either.

Each of their next four games are against current Top 8 teams including the Roosters and Rabbitohs. With another against the Roosters later in the year, a Round 19 matchup with the Raiders, and one against what will then be a healthy Sharks side before visiting the improving Broncos at Suncorp, there aren’t many games left that the Panthers can circle as winners.

Wooden spoon teams have finished with an average of 5.2 wins over the last decade. Remove the diabolical one-win 2016 Knights from the equation and history suggests the Panthers need at least six wins just to be a chance at not finishing last.

Lucky for them, there are another two teams also in the hunt.

Bulldogs – $2.88

The Bulldogs were always expected to be in the conversation due to their lacklustre team list. While the results have gone how most anticipated, the Dogs have at least shown some potential. With three wins already, they’re arguably playing above expectations. However, they’re still the favourites to finish at the bottom at $2.88.

We know the Bulldogs will fight hard and push teams close. Like last year, there’s a good chance they end with a good run as other clubs take their foot off the gas. But with the Storm and Raiders over the next fortnight, two games against the Roosters and another against the Rabbitohs, we call all but add five losses to the tally already.

Titans – $3

The 2019 NRL season was meant to be the year it all came together for the Titans. As we know now with only two wins in ten games, nothing is coming together at all. They’re now at $3 to finish last.

Big-money signings in Shannon Boyd and Tyrone Peachey haven’t produced what those on the coast had hoped. Meanwhile, Ash Taylor hasn’t kicked on to become the million dollar player his contract suggests he should be.

But the biggest issue might be their coach, Garth Brennan. He’s making the same mistakes every week, and surprise, surprise, the results are remaining the same too.

There isn’t a lot to suggest things on the Gold Coast will change any time soon either.