We already know that the Warriors have shown a tendency to play better throughout longer stints in Australia and that, since 2013, underdogs have started the NRL season strong. Now we’re looking into how betting trends can offer us a small glimpse into the future.
Betting trends can offer some fascinating insight into how a team is performing against expectations in the NRL. Bookmakers employ some of the most capable analytical minds and have tools at their disposal that allow them to compile accurate odds and lines. They consistently assess a team’s chances with far more accuracy than any fan could ever dream of each week.
However, they don’t get everything right.
This historical line data highlights just how dominant the Storm have been since 2014. They’ve not only covered the line at a 51.6% clip but have cleared it by a whopping 486 points. While talking heads around the NRL predict Melbourne’s downfall before every season, they routinely prove the experts and prediction models wrong.
Perhaps a little surprising, the Raiders have covered their line more often than any other NRL club since 2014 at 53.3%. While the market they’re in may play a part in that, so too does their inconsistency. The Raiders have been one of the best attacking teams in the competition over the last five seasons. Averaging over 23 points per game from 2015-2018 while no other club averaged 20+ across all four seasons, the Raiders finished 12th, 10th, 4th and 12th in defence. Until 2019, you never knew which version of the Green Machine would turn up each week.
The Warriors, on the other hand, are infamous for consistently producing disappointing results. Back them at your own risk; no team has performed worse against the bookmaker’s line than the Kiwi clubs 44.2%. Remarkably, their -395.5 points is worse than the Knights ( -339 points) who won three consecutive wooden spoons (2015-17) including a single-win 2016 season.
Looking at the more recent data from 2019 onwards, the Storm once again tops the points differential list. However, it’s the performance of the Sea Eagles, Raiders, Tigers and Eels that peaks the most interest.
Every season there is a team that nobody sees coming. One that, despite displaying positive signs and producing favourable results, is consistently underrated for much of the season.
The Sea Eagles and Raiders, in particular, have outperformed the market’s expectation to cover the line at 64.3% and 58.6% respectively. Des Hasler inspired a rise from 15th on the ladder in 2018 to 5th in 2019. Meanwhile, Ricky Stuart’s sudden change to the Raiders defence saw them concede just 15.1 points per game compared to the 22.5 points per game 12 months earlier.
It’s the over-performance across the last 12 months have give us a hint at what to expect in 2020. With expectations adjusted for the new season, a regression toward the mean should be anticipated for these two.
While past performance isn’t indicative of future results, both the historical and recent data can identify trends or offer at least some clues to how a team might perform against the bookmaker’s estimation.