Here is a look at this week’s Australian National Rugby League schedule with odds via BetMGM as of Tuesday.
Sydney Roosters vs. Canberra Raiders, 5:50 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Roosters -10.5 (-121) Raiders + 10.5 (-114)
To compound last week’s loss to the Storm, the Raiders will be without two key players for the rest of the season due to injury. The loss of dummy half Josh Hodgson, who ranks seventh in the competition for his number of dummy-half runs, will force the Raiders to change their attack style. In contrast, the Roosters are coming off a straightforward 42-16 victory over the Cowboys. The Roosters’ offensive power continues to set them apart from the rest of the league. They rank first in average points with 29.8, which is 5.6 more than second-ranked Penrith, and 11.6 more than the No. 10 Raiders. The Roosters also have recent history on their side, winning their last three encounters against the Raiders. Expect the Roosters to take care of the Raiders and cover the -10.5 spread.
Melbourne Storm vs. Gold Coast Titans, 4 a.m. EDT Friday, Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
Storm -18.5 (-110) Titans + 18.5 (-125)
The Storm might consider themselves lucky to have beaten the Roosters last week, as their performance was not close to their best. This week the Storm will be looking forward to the potential return of three starting players. Key playmaker Cameron Munster is fit to play, which means the Titans will be in for a long day. The Titans will be happy after stealing a victory last week in the closing minutes against the battling Warriors. It was a scrappy game, as the Titans recorded 20 errors in the 80 minutes. A team like the Storm can turn those mistakes into points better than nearly any team in the league. Though -18.5 is a large spread, the Titans have the second-worst defense in the league, so the Storm will look to pile on the points and still cover.
Wests Tigers vs. Brisbane Broncos, 5:55 a.m. EDT Friday, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Wests Tigers -6.5 (-110) Broncos + 6.5 (-125)
Despite losing two in a row, the Tigers have shown they are not far off becoming a strong side. Before those losses, they won twice by margins of 28 and 16, scoring an average of 35 points. But they will be without Josh Reynolds, suspended for two matches for his kick to the head of an opponent last week. The Broncos found their first win last week after six straight losses, albeit against the bottom-of-the-ladder Bulldogs. But the Broncos also added to a long injury list. Assuming the injured Broncos players are unable to pass the fitness test, Wests Tigers -6.5 is where my money will be.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 1 a.m. EDT Saturday, WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Dragons -8.5 (-110) Bulldogs + 8.5 (-125)
The Dragons wanted to improve their offense, and last week against Manly they dumped 34 points and recorded their most convincing win of the season. The victory made it three wins in five games, leaving the Dragons full of confidence. On the other hand, after a humiliating loss to the Broncos last week, the Bulldogs and coach Dean Pay have parted ways. Along with this off-field distraction, the Bulldogs will be without both starting centers. Losing scoring power is not the news the Bulldogs were after, as they sit dead last in attack, averaging 10.4 points per game. It won’t be the highest-quality game, but I’m backing the Dragons to win by at least 13.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Newcastle Knights, 3:30 a.m. EDT Saturday, Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Rabbitohs -2.5 (+ 100) Knights + 2.5 (-137)
My early pick for match of the round, as it should be a close, high-quality contest. The Rabbitohs have been very consistent, winning four of their last five. In contrast, the Knights have been alternating wins and losses for the last six games. However, last week’s six-point loss to the league-leading Eels showed the Knights have the right ingredients. The biggest positive of the game was limiting the Eels to 10 points despite ranking fourth in average points at 23.3. While the Rabbitohs have been consistent, they have not been overly convincing. Last week’s win against the Tigers was the first against a top-eight side all season. In the previous three games against top-eight teams, the Rabbitohs were 0-3 against the spread. They will also be lining up without star offseason signee Latrell Mitchell due to suspension and solid contributor Liam Knight due to injury. This lineup reshuffle opens the door for the Knights to win.
Manly Sea Eagles vs Parramatta Eels, 5:35 a.m. EDT Saturday, Lottoland, Sydney
Sea Eagles + 10.5 (-125) Eels -10.5 (-110)
Since star fullback Tom Trbojevic injured his hamstring June 20, the Sea Eagles have lost all three games by an average of 16 points. Last week’s performance definitely gave the sense that the Sea Eagles lack confidence as they looked extremely flat, conceding 22 points in the second half. Their bitter rivals, the Eels, are playing their best football in years and are ranked fourth in offense and first in defense. Top player Mitchell Moses has a chance to return from injury, but considering the opposition, he might not be rushed back. I fully expect the Eels to run riot over the Sea Eagles and will take the Eels -10.5 as my lock of the week.
New Zealand Warriors vs. Cronulla Sharks, midnight EDT Sunday, Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast
Warriors + 8.5 (-125) Sharks -8.5 (-110)
The Warriors were forced to relocate to Australia months ago to allow them to continue playing through the pandemic. This strain is starting to show, as the team is struggling to score and hold off the opposition for the full 80 minutes. Reports are circulating that several starters will return to New Zealand for personal reasons after this weekend’s game. The Sharks were absolutely humiliated last week, conceding 56 points to the Panthers. The Sharks did manage to score 24 points off very limited attacking opportunities. Before that, the Sharks had been on a three-game winning streak, scoring 40 points twice. Expect the Sharks to bounce back and cover this spread quite easily against an unengaged Warriors side.
Penrith Panthers vs. North Queensland Cowboys, 2:05 a.m. EDT Sunday, Panthers Stadium, Penrith
Panthers -14.5 (-110) Cowboys + 14.5 (-125)
The Panthers trounced the Sharks last week, making scoring points look easy. The Panthers sit second on the ladder at 7-1-1. The Panthers’ strong attack is a concern for the Cowboys, who have the worst defense in the competition. The last two games have been particularly bad, with opponents scoring 42 points in each match. Expecting the Panthers to score 50-plus points again is a big ask, but I do see the Panthers winning by 20 or more.
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