With three regular season rounds and four weeks of finals still to play, the Melbourne Storm are already $2.20 favourites to win the NRL Premiership. As other contenders collapse around them, the Storm stand firm atop premiership betting as the shortest-priced favourite in over a decade.
But do they deserve to be? Or has the market overreacted in its assessment of the men from Melbourne?
Do the Storm deserve to be favourites?
In a word – yes.
With three matches remaining in the regular season, the Storm have all but wrapped up the regular season crown, with the Broncos in need of a minor miracle to claim top spot.
A close look over the Storm’s last two seasons paints the picture of a side destined to win a title. Minor Premiers in 2016 with only five losses, and just four defeats this season – they are easily the best rugby league side in the world.
A closer look at their results this season creates even tougher reading for opposition sides. Two of their losses – to the Roosters and Eels – came when understrength during the Origin period. Had all their troops been available back then, there’s every chance they may have already wrapped up top spot for the regular season.
2016 Storm Vs 2017 Storm
Last season, the Storm came within one match of the Minor Premiership-Premiership double, going down narrowly in the Grand Final by the thinnest of two-point margins.
If the 2016 Storm came within two points of a title, it’s hard to see a team that now includes Billy Slater and Josh Addo-Carr doing worse.
At this point of the season last year, the Storm were $4.00 favourites for the title. That was with Cronulla looming ominously all season, and the Raiders and Panthers demolishing opposition defences.
Punters would kill for $4.00 about the 2017 Storm, but should they take as little as the current quote of $2.20?
Can anyone cause an upset?
For all the media bluster of late, there are only two teams with realistic chances of beating the Storm on Grand Final day.
The Broncos – currently second pick at $5.50 – are flying home with a wet sail. Scoring more than 30 points in five of their last seven matches, it’s impossible to doubt the talent of the 2015 Grand Finalists. There’s only one concern. They have lost to the Storm twice this season. Assuming the Storm do make the Grand Final, it’s hard to see Wayne’s baby Broncos turning the tables.
And then there’s the Roosters. Forget the first meeting between these sides in Round 16 when both were heavily impacted by Origin. Instead, turn your attention to last Saturday’s epic encounter in Melbourne where the Roosters nearly triumphed despite looking down and out on several occasions. In what is essentially a three-horse race, the $6.00 available about the Roosters seems to be the value bet.
For punters thinking about backing the Storm, there’s this to consider. We’re a long, long way from the big dance at ANZ Stadium. An injury to one of the big three, a finals match gone wrong, or a dodgy bunker decision, and $2.20 suddenly looks far less appealing.