This week’s podcast guest is Champion Bets NRL analyst Steve Green.

We’re seven rounds in and he’s had a decent look at every team. We ask him what he’s learnt and how we can use that to find some value in the markets.

Punting Insights:

  • Changes in the NRL from 2016 to 2017, and the impact on results.
  • Steve’s own approach and how it’s evolved over many years.
  • His bolters and sliders for the 2017 season.

Today’s Guest

NRL analyst Steve Green

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Podcast Transcript

Mark Haywood: So my guest on today’s podcast is our NRL analyst here at Champion Bets, Steven Green. I just wanted to get you on about this stage of the season, because I think we’re seven weeks in, if that’s right?

Steven Green: Yeah, it is round 8.

Mark Haywood: Yeah, and it’s probably a good time to get your thoughts on how everything’s coming along. Just before we do that, if you just wanted to give everyone a quick idea of your actual approach, because definitely amongst the racing guys, but also amongst the sports guys, there’s a real range of the way they approach their betting. Some guys are really data and stats heavy, whereas others do it more opinion based, if you like. So, what’s your actual approach?

Steven Green: Certainly out of those options, I’d say I’m way more data influenced. Basically, my background was as a sports bookmaker about 10, probably close to 15 years ago for an American sports bookmaking joint that was set up over here. And that was where I came across the really stats based way of looking at things. At the time, rugby league was pretty unsophisticated in that sense. There were about two or three key stats they would stick up on the TV once every game, and that was about it. There wasn’t the fantasy sports sort of anything. So I started kind of trying to collect what the stats were out there and build a bit of a play rating model based on that.

So it was very much data focused on the players that were lining up each week, each team made plays, and some of those player ratings. But, I mean, as things have gotten a bit harder in the sense that the bookies have sharpened up and people are now a lot more savvy with stats, I’ve also kind of evolved and started looking at team momentum, which is also gauged by stats, but also gauged by a little bit of judgement and opinion. So if you look at, that a team who they have played and the strength of their opponents is very relevant as each team has only played six out of a possible 15 teams. We have some teams that have had all four of the top four teams last year, and you’ve got other teams that haven’t played one, or haven’t played any or maybe played one or something.

So, when those teams meet and I have their win/loss records and stats and so-forth, you have to be a bit more sophisticated. Think about the quality of their opponents, which there’s lots of elements, but at its foundation, that’s kind of what my approach is it’s stats-based, and then on that build up, a bit of an educated opinion based on a range of factors.

Mark Haywood: And as you said, there is a bit more opinion these days. Obviously, you watch a fair bit of the footy. Have you always been a fan of the game?

Steven Green: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. 99% rugby league for me. I am absolutely obsessed with the game and re-watch game, then, you know, I’m a bit of a nightmare to watch with because I’ll often rewind things just because if someone has missed a tackle or there’s been a gap in defence, I want to know exactly who was liable. I’m not going to rely on the commentators to tell me that someone, someone had missed a tackle or there’s a poor read in defence somewhere else I’ll take a note of that. So I do watch the games very intensely. I think you have to and that’s what complements the data approach. If I was just looking at the numbers and the abstract sometimes you’d be led astray.

For instance, James Maloney, who’s a player for the Sharks, on my ratings he’s just horrible, whereas he’s now being spoken about as a potential Australian half. And it’s probably fair enough, because there are things in the stats that’s kind of clouding with his rating and you have to be willing to move away from objective stats and use your instinct and your knowledge to be a bit more accurate.

So yeah, love the game. Watch tonnes of it. And that’s I think a key advantage I think I have over maybe the pure stats people out there.

Mark Haywood: And you started with Champion Bets last year and had a really good season, a really profitable season. Have you stuck with the same approach this year or has it evolved at all or developed anything new?

Steven Green: The kind of fundamental approach has stayed the same. But every year unfortunately the interpretation of some of the rules changes so you have to look at the model and decide if it still applies to the 2017 season.

So, for example I think that despite popular opinion, the game’s actually slowing down a little bit again around the ruck. Some of the teams are able to really just grind their opponents down and just hold them to one try or no tries.

Defence is dominating. So my model from last year, attack I think dominated probably a little bit more and a team like the Raiders were able to get within an inch of the Grand Final. Blasting teams off the park. That approach has yet to be seen whether that’s going to work with the defensive grip f the Sharks and the Storm and so forth.

So, basically you don’t change a winning formula and last year was pretty good I thought. But, you know, it’s not as good at the moment. Although, that was mainly due to last week. But yeah, I think you’ve just got to adapt and note that sometimes there are real trends and things that are particular for a season. Just make sure that you’re capturing those changes.

Mark Haywood: In looking at the first seven weeks of this season. Would that be a major observation, do you think?

Steven Green: Yeah, I think there’s been a lot of player movement over the last few years and some squads have taken a while to settle a game over that time. And right now, my main observation is that I think a lot of that player movement has slowed down a lot. There’s still talk about players moving and there always will be, but some teams have really assembled much stronger squads than what they’ve had in the past. And so the Dragons sitting on top would have shocked a lot of people. A lot of people tipped them to come last, but I was a bit more bullish on them as I thought that they had recruited well.

I think that things have changed. It’s not a repeat of 2016. It’s just that sometimes you do get very slow in change where the same top four teams are up there and only changes slowly. But this year I think you could see a few different teams up there in the top four. I see St George being a front-runner.

I think the conservative nature of a lot of the teams, you know there’s 15 minutes left in the game and they just start controlling possession. I think teams are becoming a lot more ruthless and copying the successful teams’ like the Storm over the last decade or so.

Mark Haywood: And the biggest bolter so far for the season?

Steven Green: Dragons have won 6 on the trot and been pretty convincing in a lot of those matches. I think they’re far and away the biggest bolter. I think Manly have a lot of potential. And probably people have underrated their potential. Yeah, I think on current form they are probably two biggest shocks.

Mark Haywood: And the reigning premiers the Sharks, how have you seen their season so far?

Steven Green: Yeah, they’ve been the bane of my existence. Again, I thought after losing Barba and Ennis and it felt like everything fell into place last year and I think there were a lot of people including myself that thought this year they’d come back to the pack. But the last two weeks they have been the best team in the competition again, it actually looks very much like what happened last year. So, I’m not going to get caught out again. I’m going to watch them very closely and make sure my models aren’t missing something because the stats say they shouldn’t be going as well as they are. They’re conceding a lot of penalties and making a lot of errors and somehow they’re still coming away and winning well against good teams. So they’re doing something that is unique and I’ve kind of got to figure that out.

So, yeah, Sharks are definitely one to watch, but if you held a gun to my head and said, “Who’s going to win the comp?” right now I still wouldn’t say the sharks. I think they’re just getting the job done at the moment and we’ll see what happens once Origin comes around and they have to lose a few players.

Mark Haywood: You had a small number of future’s bets before the season at some very juicy prices. How are they looking?

Steven Green: Yeah, so in a nutshell some good, most bad. My approach to future’s betting is to keep it small and take the long value when it’s there. So a lot of the times people, once something hits fifty to one, they think that it’s, you’re basically just guessing or it’s a crapshoot or whatever. But if something, in my opinion, if something should be twenty to one and it’s twenty-five to one or it’s fifty to one, well its worth taking rather than taking something at $8 that you think should be $6, 50, or $7, I’ll take the bigger margin and more speculative play any day of the week.

And it might be hard for a subscriber sometimes to follow because it’s like, oh well, they want to see instant results. But if you place enough good value, bet the good odds, then in the long run you’re head.

Mark Haywood: And looking forward now that you’ve seen a decent block of the season, are you able to make a call on who you think in terms of grand finalists?

Steven Green: I mean, I’d be rude not to but I’d say it very speculatively with Origin still to be played, it’s just such a big factor in the middle of the year. If Cameron Smith or Cooper Cronk get injured then the Storm are going to struggle.

With all the risks out there, on current form the Storm have looked the team to beat. I think the fact that the Storm had been missing a few players there and thereabouts they’re still doing what they’re doing. Once they get everybody on the park, their team on my system is the best team on the competition.

I like the Dragons. I think they’ll keep shocking a lot of people. I think they’re a really good team but I do worry about their depth a little bit

The team that I think will play off against the Storm in the Grand Final is the Canberra Raiders. Last year those two teams played in the playoffs to the grand finals and it was a superb match. I think the Raiders attack and the Storm defence are both very strong.

Outside of those two. Panthers have got upside still. The other real bolter is the Titans. They have shown enough that once they get some players back they can maybe make the top 8. We will be looking to back them once their squad gets a bit stronger.
Very even comp, I couldn’t even tell you who is going to come last. It’s a great year for punting.

Mark Haywood: You are pretty optimistic about the rest of the year and being able to find some value?

Steven Green: Yeah, I’m a little bit annoyed at the volatility so far to be honest. Usually I am bit more consistent. Had two perfect rounds in the first six rounds, but yet, not that much profit to show for it. So, the nines hurt. That took a bit of getting over in terms of how could I get back from those nines bets. And then last week, also hurt. A few close losses there so I do still feel like I’m seeing the ball okay and the tips are generally pretty solid. Every now and then you probably mess one up, but I’m pretty confident that we can build on what we did last year and could actually be done a little bit better. So, yeah. Looking forward to the rest of the year already.

Mark Haywood: So I think we’ve covered everything now. So thanks for your time today, Steve.