Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Rugby League: NRL Return Preview

Rugby League: NRL Return Preview


Australia's National Rugby League will make its return on Thursday the 28th of May. Darry Worthington runs the rule of the tournament below. 

Image copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Live sport is starting to trickle its way back onto television screens with last week seeing the Geman Bundesliga become the first big European football league to start playing games again.

The first bit of rugby action that we'll see return is Australia's National Rugby League. While it's not exactly the most appetising course for Rugby Union fans to sink their teeth into, it is still some oval ball action.

Tournament Format
The tournament had gone two rounds before it was called off due to rising COVID-19 concerns. Now, over two months later, it will make its long-awaited return, with the Round 3 action getting underway on Thursday the 28th of May.

The tournament will run right up until early-October, although the sports commission is not actually publishing fixtures lists for any games after the fourth round at present. This makes sense as venues may need to change.

If all goes to plan, the regular season will end on the 7th of September and then we will move onto the play-offs, which will see the Top 8 teams square off over four or so weeks. It's then onto the Grand Final where the two sides that top the standings will go head-to-head to see who will be crowned NRL champions.

To Win Tournament Outright

Contenders

Sydney Roosters
2019 Season: Champions

The Roosters are looking for a threepeat this year, having won the 2018 and 2019 editions of the tournament.

Although they have lost Australian internationals, Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell, they still boast a formidable squad which was boosted by the signing of  Kyle Flanagan to bolster the centres.

The reigning champions have made the Grand Final in three of the last seven Grand Finals and have a magnificent record when it comes to finals rugby winning in all three of their previous final appearances.

They have endured a rather difficult start to the campaign, however, losing their opening two games. Their first defeat saw them go down 20-14 to the Panthers and their second was a 8-9 defeat to the Sea Eagles.

Melbourne Storm
Semi-Finalists

2017 Grand Final winners, the Melbourne Storm, will be looking to carry on from where they left off before COVID-19 delayed the season.

The Storm had won their opening two games beating the Sea Eagles by 14 points in the opening round and then beating the Sharks 10-12 in Round 2.

They have a very handy squad and also come into the third round with a clean bill of health as none of their players are listed as injured at the time of writing.

Canberra Raiders
2019 Finish: Runners-Up

Like the Storm, the Raiders were having a good time of it before the break having beaten the Titans 24-6 and the Warriors 6-20. They currently sit in third place on the ladder due to their inferior points differential to the Eels and Knights.

The Raiders have a solid pack and a decent backline as well. They will welcome back winger Jordan Rapana who returns from a failed stint in Rugby Union where he was plying his trade with the Japanese Top League club, the Panasonic Wild Knights.

Dark Horse
Paramatta Eels

The Eels have enjoyed a blistering start to the season that saw them beat the Titans 6-46 and the Bulldogs 8-2.  Their big Round 2 win over the Titans saw them to the top of the standings due to their eight-point superior points-differential to the Knights.

Despite their solid start to the season most bookies still have them at around the 10/1 mark to win the tournament outright.

The Eels may have a tough time in maintaining their unbeaten start to the season as they'll be missing solid hooker Reed Mahoney, while key back Dylan Brown is struggling with a back injury.

Verdict: Rooster or Eels
I'll be having a play on both these teams on the outright. The Roosters, despite a poor start, are still a solid side and you can expect them to move their way up the ladder in the coming weeks.

The Eels interest me as well as they have a handy enough squad and they looked really good in their last game before the break.

I'd recommend rather small punts on these sides as this season has been massively disrupted and I have no idea how that will affect teams.

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