NRL Betting: The season so far
As the Representative Season takes centre stage, David Murdoch takes a breather to review the NRL season so far.
As Australia and New Zealand do battle in the traditional ANZAC Test, and the Country and City boys duel for places in the New South Wales State of Origin team, it's time to take the opportunity to review the hits and misses of the NRL competition so far.
The Sharks are the feel good story of 2012.
After dropping the first two games of the season, making it 10 straight losses since the back end of last year, the boys from the Shire have rated 10 out of 10.
With Paul Gallen posting herculean numbers and Todd Carney leading them around the Park, Cronulla has won five straight for the first time since 2008.
Just how they manage without these two during the Origin period will test they're depth, but they're well placed in third on the ladder to take a few hits without their star pair.
(Started at $12.50 in premiership betting, now $6 second favourites)
In just 14 months, Coach Anthony Griffin has transformed the baby Broncos into the baby Boomers. How Griffin has managed to compensate for the loss of Immortal-in-waiting Darren Lockyer is a mystery.
Some suggest Brisbane have enjoyed an armchair ride because of their virtually permanent slot on Friday nights. Perhaps that theory has some merit. The Broncos have played four teams who've had a five day turnaround and won them all.
They're also yet to meet any of the form teams of the competition, but Brisbane has won its past five, and 14 of its past 16 matches. They've also won 11 of their past 12 at Suncorp.
It's a bankable stat for the team as they also look to limit the damage during the representative season.
($4.00 favourites to win premiership and account for 19% of the market volume)
The Melbourne team of 2007 was the last team to start a season 7-0. And if history repeats they will go on to win the premiership.
Billy Slater continues to mesmerise, scoring nine tries in the opening seven matches of this season, including five tries in four matches at AAMI Park. He may be considered the best player in the world, but I'd suggest most coaches would plumb for Paul Gallen if given the choice at the moment.
But I digress!
The streak will have to come to an end sometime, and yet they're set up to do anything if their big three of Slater, Australian Captain Cameron Smith and half Cooper Cronk are firing.
The round seven clash against the Bulldogs had a finals feel about it, with Des Hasler's men doing his best to keep the ball away from Slater and slow the game down. Melbourne still prevailed 12-6.
History says you can't go to Melbourne and expect to win by scoring six points.
Noteworthy stat for coaches and punters alike - The Storm have lost only once in 125 matches in Melbourne when conceding 16 points or less.
($25 out to $85 in premiership betting)
Parramatta hasn't been last on the ladder for six consecutive weeks since the dawn of time.
Well, not that long, but you get my point.
These are dark days at Parra.
On the bright side, the Wests Tigers, Titans and Panthers are only one win away from them on two wins and Manly is three wins ahead, clinging to the eight on for and against.
It was their 29-20 win over the Premiers in round five which applied the paddles to their top-eight hopes this year and there was enough in their narrow loss to the Sharks in round seven to prove it wasn't a false dawn.
But they're about to lose their best player for the Representative Season, so Chris Sandow needs to find form and fast if they're going to mount any sort of challenge.
($35 out to $100 to win premiership)
The Panthers 30-0 defeat at the hands of the Wests Tigers was a case of deja-vu for the mountain men, with Manly having beaten them 30-0 the week before.
The Panthers loss to the Wests Tigers matched an unwanted record of seven consecutive losses at Centrebet Stadium.
If only they could play every match away from home!
It's going to be a long year for Ivan Cleary's 'Jekyll and Hyde' Panthers. They've spanked both the Roosters and the Eels this season, but a one-point loss to the Sharks in round five seems to have been the straw that broke their back. Since then they haven't scored a point while conceding 60.
Games against Newcastle, Melbourne, St George and the Cowboys await them.
($7.50 second favourite sat the start of the season, now $15)
Potential Premiers at the start of the season, the Tigers have had a shocking start.
Before thumping the Panthers 30 blot in round seven, the Wests Tigers hadn't scored 20 points in a match all season, making them the only team to achieve this milestone. Their attack had been woeful, matched only by their defence.
In fact, the Tigers only win before then had come in controversial circumstances: a 17-16 in golden point against the Sharks in round one.
So what happened to make the Tigers finally click without Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington and Robbie Farah for most of the match? I say they got a bit of working class about them, dragging Ray Cashmere out of the coal mines to play his first NRL match since Rd 26, 2008 and his first for the Tigers since 2005. That may have been a Sheens' master stroke.
Luckily, with games against Parramatta, Gold Coast and a bye to come, things could turn around pretty quickly for the joint venture club.