Saturday, 12 February 2011

Super League - Round 1 Preview

My blog posts are kind of like buses; you wait around for ages and then two appear at once. Only, I hope this blog post is of more use than a trailing bus.

And whilst I won’t be loaning anyone £250 in the imminent future, hopefully the below might help you to earn £250 in a more cost efficient way than visiting a loan shark.

So with the first slate of games due to kick off in around thirteen hours, I thought it may be useful to do a general preview of the upcoming games although obviously such previews will be “blind” – this is the opening game of the season and you never know what will happen.

I would also note that there is much to be gained from just watching. Seeing all 14 sides in action in the first week will offer valuable clues and every year, the operation of the market changes a little. Whilst liquidity is likely to be low due to competing events, there could also be some clues as to how it will operate throughout the season.

It all starts at 1 PM with Huddersfield v Warrington, which has the potential to be an outstanding match with the added spice of former Huddersfield fullback Brett Hodgson set to make his Warrington debut. Currently, Warrington are the favourites on Betfair, trading in the 1.5s, and with neither side having significant injury concerns, such odds are to be expected.

Previously, value in the first week has been readily apparent, but with all games set to be televised and with home advantage having been wiped out, pre play value may be tough to spot. However, liquidity is to set to be a major question mark this season. It dipped significantly last year and with this game being played at the same time as Manchester United v Manchester City in the football, it may be practically non existent.

However, if there is sufficient liquidity, then I would probably look to lay Warrington. With no form to speak of, 1.5 looks slightly too low. Yes, Warrington should be favourites and they will be keen to avenge last season’s playoff loss to Huddersfield but if Huddersfield can beat Warrington at Warrington, then with just Brett Hodgson switching sides, is 1.5 a fair starting price?

Following this, Rugby League adopts its own 6 Nations game as Harlequins take on Catalans. Again, with football matches in full flow and with England playing Italy in Rugby Union, liquidity may be sparse. With both sides having new coaches, much will be unknown in this game and identifying value before the match may be difficult.

That said, it says a lot that I would be reticent to lay Catalans from the off. On paper, the French outfit look a far superior side to the English team but the first twenty minutes will provide much information and it may be worthwhile keeping out of the market until then.

Two hours later there is further conflict as Sunderland take on Tottenham in the football and Wales play Scotland in the Six Nations. Of course, my eyes will solely be focused on the spectacle that is Wakefield v Castleford.

On paper, this looks a knockout and at 1.3, Castleford’s odds reflect that and may even appear generous. However, there is much to suggest that this local derby could go the other way.

Firstly, Wakefield are traditionally quick out of the blocks before stumbling pre-season. Indeed, they have won their last three opening matches. Add in a “backs to the wall mentality” and a lift from the takeover of the club, and an upset is not a too unrealistic possibility.

However, every time my eyes are brought back to the squad listings, the sheer gap between the talent levels of the two teams looks too big to be bridged. However, this is rugby league – where anything can happen.

After this, comes Saturday’s main event, and Grand Final re-run as Wigan Warriors take on St Helens. Wigan look set to field a settled squad and the only changes are likely to boost their already strong forward pack whilst Saints are without stand off Leon Pryce, who controlled their attack in many games last season before a late season injury ended his campaign early.

1.6 for Wigan would therefore appear to be fairly generous. They were by far the dominant side in the Grand Final and despite the return of Kyle Eastmond, there is little in the Saints side to suggest a dramatic improvement. That said, with a new coach in Royce Simmons – as I am keen to say, you never know.

As someone who only focuses on the match markets, my strongest feeling on this would be to take the unders on the points market. Neither side have dynamic pace out wide and both have strong forward packs. It is very easy to see the game developing into an arm wrestle type affair where points are at a premium.

Moving onto Sunday and whilst some will be waking up with a Rugby League hangover, I’ll be rooted in my chair waiting for the games to begin.

At 12, Crusaders take on Salford which, in fairness, is unlikely to be a mouth watering prospect for most, although locals will be interested in the return of Gareth Thomas. However, Salford have made several off-season acquisitions and it will be interesting to see if they are able to gel as a side. Certainly, their acquisitions look better on paper to the declining players that the Crusaders have been able to sign.

1.7 for Salford does appear to be a good price, but given the number of off-season signings, there is a possibility that they may take time to gel and consequently, the best approach could be to just watch the first twenty minutes.

The next game – Bradford v Leeds is likely to go one of two ways. Either the Bulls come out fired up and play with the intensity that you would expect in a derby match when debuting for a new coach, or Leeds’ superior skill levels shine through.

I have been unimpressed by Bradford’s off-season recruitment in general, and with halfback Marc Herbert missing, there will be enormous pressure on the talented but inexperienced Kyle Briggs who will be trusted with the duty of controlling the Bulls against a side who has won three of the last four Super League Grand Finals.

It should be too much, but the odds of 1.5 represent that Leeds are without star players Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock and that the Bulls should have much motivation for the clash, although Leeds too cannot rest on their laurels with a new coach to impress as well.

Finally, the weekend ends with the match that looks the toughest to call as Hull FC take on Hull KR and despite my criticisms of FC in my season preview, I would agree with this game being an even one as the criticisms related to FC’s lack of strength depth.

However, everyone will be raring to go in the first week and so it is really difficult to compose a starting position for this game. Indeed, after the previous 8 hours of Rugby League, I don’t think anyone would blame you if you took this one off.

Obviously there was a lot of indecision in the above, but that’s to be expected in Week 1 and one of the strengths needed when trading Rugby League is the ability to hit reverse gear instantaneously. The bounce of the ball, the ball of the referee’s whistle, slipping on the turf, taking your eye off the ball as you make a carry, and misjudging a tackle are all so important. It’s no overreaction to say that such events are what decide rugby league matches these days, and if you know that No. 16 is going to knock on at 69:23, well, congratulations on your lottery win.

So that is how I see, or fail to see, this weekend developing. However, what of my aims for the year?

If liquidity continues to decrease, then my trading style will have to become less frenetic and more managed – with longer term positions adopted which I can struggle with given the random sequence of events which make a rugby league match.

More than ever however, I need to be more consistent. Where I identify value, I must be bold. I must hold onto value – even if means I am wrong for the feeling of losing £50 is far better than the feeling of missing out on £500. Being right 100% of the time is meaningless if you are merely adding 1 + 1. It is far better to be right 63% of the time when trying to multiply 42 * 33 * 6 * 12. The problem is, that for a perfectionist, the trend is to add 1 + 1. However, there can be no more “What If” posts even if hindsight is a beast that never sleeps.

So I hope my earnings to have a higher range than before but to provide the highs and the lows. And if I can do that, maybe I can get back to the approach I adopted in 2009 which resulted in a huge enjoyment of trading as opposed to the constant feeling of regret and annoyance which was the mainstay of 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Nice preview Craig.

    I like Salford on the Handicap (-4) So I'd steer clear of that if I was you.

    I'll probably be a Southern Softie and miss most of the ganes today though.

    Good Luck