Welcome to The Profits 2017 NRL Representative Round kicks off on Friday night between Australia and New Zealand at GIO Stadium, Canberra and The Profits NRL expert Scooby previews all the matches and shares his best bets.
Australia v New Zealand
The traditional meeting between the two teams has added interest this time around, with the 2017 RLWC at the end of the year. This game usually favors the Australians, as the usual combinations within their team require minimal time to prepare for this contest. It is a longer campaign when the Kiwis play their best, although cohesion should be high in their spine, with all of the players together at club level. It isn’t a good sign that the Warriors have been struggling so far this year and the pressure from the Australians will be relentless. The Kangaroos picked a fairly predictable team; with coach Mal Meninga picking some players on trust as opposed to form. Players like Ferguson and Merrin can consider themselves lucky to be picked; with other players ruled out through injury, they were forced to call players into the squad for this match. Regardless, it appears to be a strong team that will relish the direction that is offered from the more experienced players. The Kiwis have generally struggled to score points in this match, but have named 2 out of the top 5 try scorers in their team with Fusitua and Rapana taking their place in the backline. Still, getting possession out to these players in attacking positions is always difficult and the pressure will be relentless from the Australians.
- D. Boyd 2. B. Ferguson 3. J. Dugan 4. W. Chambers 5. V. Holmes 6. J. Thurston 7. C. Cronk 8. A. Fifita 9. C. Smith 10. D. Klemmer 11. B. Cordner 12. M. Gillett 13. T. Merrin
Interchange = 14. M. Morgan 15. J. Trbojevic 16. T. Frizzell 17. S. Thaiday 18. J. McLean 19. J. Maloney 20. J. O’Neill
- R. Tuivasa-Sheck 2. J. Rapana 3. D. Fusitua 4. D. Whare 5. J. Kahu 6. K. Foran 7. S. Johnson 8. J.Bromwich 9. I. Luke 10. A. Blair 11. S. Mannering 12. K. Proctor 13. J. Taumololo
Interchange = 14. K. Nikorima 15. M. Taupau 16. R. Packer 17. K. Bromwich 18. D. Watene-Zelezniak 19. B. Smith 20. E. Taylor
The Kangaroos head into this game as strong favorites and rightly so given a host of factors. Hope is always high for the Kiwis in this game but the fact is that they struggle in this matchup. Selections for the Australians have also raised some eyebrows, but with limited time to form new combinations, it is no surprise that Meninga has chosen to go with a team that was successful at the end of 2016. This game is the first for Thurston since suffering and injury for the Cowboys in Round 6, with doubt around his fitness being raised; nevertheless, he has quality players around them to ease the burden on him and provide the Kangaroos with numerous attacking options. The fact that the Warriors spine is the same one for Kiwis casts some doubt about their credentials in this game. The 4 players will find themselves working from a better platform with power through the middle coming from the likes of Taumololo, Bromwich and Proctor, although this intensity will need to be maintained and it is uncertain whether or not the players coming off the bench will be up to the task. History is a major contributor to games like this and it isn’t kind to the visitors. Since 1997, the Kangaroos have won 15 out of the 17 mid-season matches, with an average winning margin of 31-points. As a more recent indication, in their past 4 meetings the Kangaroos have won 3 of those by more than 13-points, with a narrow 6-point win in last years 4 Nations being the closest; nevertheless, the average winning margin of this team in 2016 against the Kiwis was 17-points. This trend looks to continue with a comfortable victory to the home team in very cold conditions.
Kangaroos 13+ @ $2.45
Play it safe = Kangaroos -7.5 @ $1.90 – Many believe that the added power of the Kiwis will cause the Aussies plenty of difficulties early on in this contest. If you still believe that they can control this early pressure and prevail, it may be a safer selecting this option, rather than the suggested bet.
Cook Island v PNG
This game features two teams with relatively unknown players, with just 4 recognised NRL players taking the field and even then, Nene Macdonald, Alex Glenn and Sam Mataora are the only familiar names. The PNG team plays in the Queensland Cup and they are equal first on the competition ladder; this provides reasoning as to why they are favorites for this game. They have demonstrated on numerous occasions this year that they are able to score points with smart play and speed to burn out wide. Expect a very physical encounter, it was just that when PNG caused an upset 2-point win over Fiji this time last year. Unfortunately, the Cook Islands appear unable to halt the Kumuls attacking ability, as well as ferocity in defence. The only time these two teams have meet, it was a 42-14 win for PNG and an almost identical score line is expected here. There are few agencies willing to offer a market on this game but if you can find one, take the Kumuls to win by 19+.
Tonga v Fiji
Tonga are strong favorites for this game after naming a very durable team, brimming with NRL talent across the park. Fiji have their fair share of NRL talent, but it is nothing compared to what Tonga possess. That being said, the Fijian’s will be up for a contest and it will be a lot closer than most are expecting. Tonga have shown in the past how they struggle to play measured and structured football; rather relying on power through the middle and bruising defence to get an edge in the match. Nevertheless, Fiji will relish this challenge, although they appear capable of only matching Tonga for a certain period of time. If Tonga can continue to pressure their opponents and limit their mistakes, there is no doubt that they can deal with what Fiji will throw their way. With doubt around how much cohesion this team can build in a short period of time, expect plenty of problems for both teams when planning an attack; the disruption is just a normal occurrence and no different to what comes from an NRL team changing their play. This will limit both teams in attack and defence, not reducing the points scored but the overall margin of victory.
Tonga 1-12 @ $2.80
England v Samoa
This game will take centre stage of Saturday’s triple-header; both teams are out to make a statement to other countries with a look towards the 2017 RLWC. England are still finding their feet under new coach Wayne Bennett but the idea of them featuring in this game was a request from the coach prior to taking the job. No doubt that this will be in order to bring the team together prior to the conclusion of the season. England head into this game as favorites with a strong team named, not to sell Samoa short though, they have a team that is full of NRL quality players. The inclusion of form players such as Milford, Leilua and Paulo ensures that Samoa will be more than competitive in this encounter. The loss of Widdop and Super League based playmaker George Williams hurts Englands chances, although they will look to dominate this matchup in the forwards. They have plenty of power in this area to call upon and with Josh Hodgeson at hooker, they will benefit from the momentum that is created. Samoa have their weapons to use but across the park, England appear to have a slight edge. Invest with caution on this game; these two teams have only met once in a thrilling encounter back in 2014. Samoa have demonstrated in the past that they can play above themselves and the same is expected here. Do not be surprised if they create an upset but rather than go with that, take them in line available markets.
Samoa +6.5 @ $1.90
City v Country Origin
There has been plenty of headlines around the build up to this match, in what is being billed as the “last time” this fixture will take place; this is not the first time that the concept has failed and been resurrected but due to the insignificance relating to NSW Origin selection. Nevertheless, there will be a match featuring two teams on Sunday afternoon for all to watch. The fact that the City team was struggling for numbers and couldn’t name a squad when required, demonstrates how their Country opponents have a slight edge in quality. Country will be out for revenge too, as they were beaten 44-30 last year in an unusual high scoring match. Playing with emotion is one thing; being able to deal with a new combination and prepare for a match in a short period of time will be difficult for both teams to deal with. Despite the light fading on this historic encounter and an obvious lack of quality players, this game still promises to be an exciting farewell for all to witness.
- M. Gordon 2. A. Don 3. E. Aitken 4. C. Blair 5. B.Kelly 6. C. Walker 7. T. Roberts 8. D. Finucane, 9. D. Cook 10. P. Vaughan 11. M. Aubusson (c) 12. K. Turner 13. J. De Belin
Interchange = 14. C. Watson 15. M. Prior 16. T. Sims 17. A. Elliott 18. D. Alvaro 19. J. Stimpson
- M.Moylan 2. C. Gutherson 3. N. Ross 4. T. Peachey 5. J. Addo-Carr 6. B. Cartwright 7. C. Townsend 8. J. Tamou 9. C. McInnes 10. P. Gallen 11. C. Sironen 12. D. Gower 13. H. Sele
Interchange = 14. J. Paulo 15. N. Cleary 16. P. Pauli 17. J. Marketo
The overall history between these two teams isn’t kind to the hosts, as they’ve won just 22 out of 92 matches played (with 3 draws); however recent history has been good, Country have won 4 out of the past 7 matches (with 1 draw). The strength of the two squads is interesting, with City appearing to have more attacking power on the edges. The respective spines of each team are fairly evenly matched, with a slight concern over the naming of Cartwright at 6 over Cleary. Country will obviously rely upon a power game being created in the middle with a strong set of forwards. Their pack looks to be better equipped with added support coming off the bench. It may come down to the fact that Country will have to drag their opponents into an “arm wrestle” and beat them there. Expect the contest between the two starting packs of forwards to be very exciting. It is hard to go past Country for the win and this opinion is echoed through betting markets; this is only further supported by the “strike weapons” of both teams and their performances at club level. The City team will not let the result slip away; nevertheless, several players within their team will have to dramatically improve their form. The best option would be to invest on Country to cover the line and not much else, as confidence around the result is fairly clouded.
Country -2.5 @ $2