2015 NRL Round 1 Betting Preview for Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders thanks to William Hill Australia.
6.30pm AEDT, Sunday, March 8
Remondis Stadium, Sydney
They finished in the bottom two slots last season but the Sharks and Raiders will be keen to put a disappointing 2014 behind them early on. The Sharks have put the ASADA scandal behind them and have high hopes while the Raiders will be looking to overachieve with a squad that can at best be described as fair.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has gone for experience over youth in his three-quarter line with Mitch Brown and Gerard Beale keeping out Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird. Ben Barba debuts at five-eighth for the club while Michael Ennis starts at hooker. Paul Gallen remains at lock with Matt Prior starting at prop. David Fifita has been named on the bench. Ricky Stuart has named five Raiders debutants while Jack Wighton shifts to fullback. Jarrod Croker captains the team for the first time. Shaun Fensom is a surprise inclusion as he recovers from a knee injury.
Cronulla lead Canberra 33-29 all-time and have had the best of the Raiders in recent times with nine wins in the last 15 matches. The teams met just once last year with the Raiders saluting 22-12 at Shark Park in one of the worst displays of football ever witnessed. Five of the last six games between the two sides have tallied 40 or more points. The Raiders have won two of the last three at Shark Park.
Cronulla had a fantastic Auckland Nines, reaching the final before going down in a courageous effort to South Sydney. They subsequently lost trial games to Manly and the Wests Tigers. Canberra had an ordinary Auckland Nines and then were demolished by the Knights but did enjoy a win over the Storm.
The five-eighth battle in this one means so much. A lot of expectation has been heaped upon Ben Barba and Blake Austin. The Sharks have struggled to get any sizzle in their attack and are hoping Barba provides it. Austin is seen as a saviour for the Raiders who have struggled to attract talent. Fans of both clubs are attaching all their hope to these two and will be desperate to see something in attack.
Stats That Matter
Cronulla had an NRL-worst 9-15 ATS record last year while the Raiders were only marginally better with an 11-13 ATS number. The Sharks are 9-10 ATS as a home favourite over the last three years and 2-3 ATS spotting more than a converted try. The Raiders are 11-13 ATS on the road over the last two seasons and are 2-14 (7-9 ATS) when getting a start on the road of more than a converted try.
The Sharks should win this one but it is a really difficult game to get a grip on. Cronulla theoretically should be back but have had some massive changes over the offseason while Canberra cannot be trusted at all on the road. Cronulla have the class in this one but it is a matter of them putting it together. Punters be wary of the big start though.
How It’s Shaping Up
Cronulla by 4
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Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders Betting Odds
Below we have 2015 NRL Round 1 comparison betting odds from leading Australian and International online sportsbooks for the game.