By: Gerard Daffy
Last week we mentioned a few of the moves that have occurred to win this year’s NRL title so it’s time to have a look at the other end of the ladder. Sides can improve year on year in league, we have seen it so often, but the betting says that the Newcastle Knights will again be languishing at the bottom of the table when the home and away season finishes. The Knights are firm favourites at $1.85, but there has been early money for the Dragons who are now $4.50, in from $5. There have been a lot of rumblings from the Dragons’ den which suggests all is not well and many think they overachieved in 2016 when finishing 11th. The only other side to attract any interest has been Manly at $21 and while they have made a couple of significant changes to their roster, they also have a lot of work to do to improve on an ordinary 2016.
Money is beginning to roll in for this year’s Brownlow Medal and punters are of the view that Paddy Dangerfield will go back-to-back. Dangerfield opened at $6 and he has been the standout so far including one bet of $1600. Nat Fyfe and Marcus Bontempelli are on the second line at $9, followed by Dustin Martin. Rory Sloane ($17) is another who has attracted early attention but it seems as though UBET punters think the Gary Ablett dynasty has come to an end as we have only taken a couple of small bets on him at $17.
The Coleman Medal is also open now. West Coasts’ Josh Kennedy and Buddy Franklin from the Swans share top billing there at $4 just ahead of the Suns’ Tom Lynch ($6) but there has been an early push for GWS spearhead Jeremy Cameron, also at $6.
Rory McIlroy will be the big drawcard at the South African Open this week and he is priced accordingly. He opens at $3.25 to win in Gauteng and he has a stranglehold on the event. Equal second favourites at $15 are Brandon Stone and Andy O’Sullivan who won in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
The US PGA Tour remains in Hawaii for another week with the Sony Open to be played at the Waialae GC in Honolulu. Jordan Spieth returns to the Tour and is the opening $7.50 favourite ahead of Hideki Matsuyama ($8.50) and Justin Thomas at $15. Thomas defeated Matsuyama in the Tournament of Champions last week, so he is clearly in good form. Jimmy Walker has won this event twice (2010 and 2015) and is next in the market at $21.
The Big Bash continues and with finals fast approaching most matches mean that there is a potential finals position up for grabs. Betting on the Big Bash this year has eclipsed 2016, and it will be interesting to see what sort of an effect it has on the first of the ODI matches against Pakistan at the Gabba on Friday. Australia have opened at $2.50 to clean sweep the series 5-0, and punters have been keen to take that, as well as the $1.16 to win the series outright. Pakistan have attracted a few small bets at $5.25 to win the series, however there has been some sort of interest in them to win game 1 since they drifted to $3.80 from $3.50. The Aussies are into $1.27 from $1.30 and naturally there is a huge amount of interest in the player exotics with the inclusion of Chris Lynn. The Queenslander is on the fourth line of betting at $5 to score the most runs for Australia but such is his popularity that he has commanded close to 80 per cent of the early money on that option.
It was announced this week that Manny Pacquiao will travel to Australia in April to fight Aussie Jeff Horn for the WBO World Welterweight title. The venue is likely to be Suncorp Stadium and that will be an interesting process in itself as venues and arena’s around the country bid for the rights to hold the bout. Wherever it takes place, it is sure to be one of the big betting sporting events of 2017 and easily the biggest betting fight in this country since sports betting was first legalised. The Mundine/Green fight in 2006 set the betting benchmark in Australia but that was eclipsed by the Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather bout in 2015 (Mayweather won), but of course that was held overseas. UBET opened the market on the Horn fight on Wednesday with Pacquiao at $1.20 and Horn at $4.50, and not surprisingly all of the early bets have been for Horn and all from Queensland!
No side – not even the all-conquering Sydney FC – is hotter right now than Melbourne Victory, who have been crunched from $6.50 into $4.50 for the A-League title since Christmas. After a fairly ordinary start to the season, Muscat’s men have found their range, pouring in 15 goals in five weeks for as many wins. Besart Berisha and James Troisi have been particularly impressive through the winning streak and show no signs of slowing down. All of this spells trouble for their Round 15 opponents, Brisbane, who leaked three goals last week in their loss to the lowly Newcastle Jets. Punters have, of course, recognised this and early bets are flowing against the Roar at a 3:1 ratio.
The other notable fixture this weekend is the Sydney Derby. Sydney FC will no doubt be keen to maintain their unblemished record with a win over the Wanderers and the early money trail suggests they will oblige.
Adelaide continues to reign supreme at $3.50 atop the NBL title market, but it’s an absolute jumble below them. For example, in the past fortnight alone, Melbourne United has been $5 into $3.75, Sydney $4 out to $4.50 and Perth $13 into $5. Melbourne has been amazing since import Casper Ware showed up mid-season but five of their remaining eight games are away from home and Chris Goulding has a bung ankle. Sydney was at one stage considered a near lock for the silverware but the Kings have lost seven of their last 10 and are no longer the league darlings. Perth has been the best performed (and backed) side since Christmas, winning three straight to leap to second on the table. Not unpredictably, the Wildcats’ resurgence has coincided with the return of skipper Damian Martin.
So, what does all this mean? The competition is the closest it has ever been and every game is important from here on in.