Who will WIN the NRL Wooden Spoon?Posted on 03/02 by Joe Gann
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With a new and improved version of the Newcastle Knights about to be unleashed on the competition, this year’s battle to avoid the wooden spoon appears to be a straight fight between the Wests Tigers and Gold Coast Titans.
Following a hat-trick of last placed finished, the Knights hit the transfer market in aggressive fashion, tying up deals for Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Jacob Lillyman, Aidan Guerra, Tautau Moga and Connor Watson, who all look likely to slot straight into the starting line-up and galvanise a playing group for whom losing games had become standard practice.
The squad overhaul has led many to believe that the Knights will be a threat to the top eight rather than occupying a place in the lower reaches of the ladder this season.
The chaotic events of 2017, in which Titans coach Neil Henry departed the club in acrimonious circumstances following a very public feud with Jarryd Hayne, ended with the team finishing the campaign slumped in fifteenth position. Recent recruitment hints of a change policy with the club learning a valuable lesson after being burned by the failed Hayne experiment; the Fijian international’s move to the Eels finally put an end to his disappointing spell on the Gold Coast.
Although a high-profile name hasn’t been discounted, an emphasis on young player development is an important facet for the future health of the club for new coach …Brennan.
The loss of James Tedesco and Aaron Woods together with the Newcastle Knights’ impressive shopping haul has combined to paint a bleak picture for the Tigers’ 2018 prospects. Despite accruing some impressive signatures for the upcoming campaign - Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs), Benji Marshall (Broncos), Russell Packer (Dragons), Ben Matulino (Warriors), Chris McQueen (Titans), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Taane Milne (Dragons), Robbie Rochow (Storm), Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings), Pita Godinet (Sea Eagles) – have all joined up with the joint venture side – punters are predicting a miserable year at Campbelltown.
Wests and the Knights battled it out to avoid the unwanted wooden spoon moniker last term with the Tigers prevailing by four points, culminating in a fourteenth position finish.
The Gold Coast Titans must be approaching the upcoming campaign with a degree of trepidation, despite the welcome news concerning the takeover of the club and betting prices at this early stage suggests that they will be deep in the mire.
History is on the side of the Tigers at least – if they were to end 2018 at the foot of the competition ladder, it would be their first wooden spoon in club history.
Coach Ivan Cleary will be determined to avoid such ignominy, and he has already overseen a steady improvement in his side after taking over the reins from Jason Taylor mid-season. He inherited a club in turmoil and has made good progress in a relatively short period; the final months of the season saw a burgeoning competitive streak develop with young academy graduates forming the nucleus of a new-look Tigers.
There are certainly grounds for optimism at the club now that Cleary has had time to gauge the merits of his playing staff and has recruited accordingly. It seems incredibly harsh that his side is already being written off, but the desire to prove their doubters wrong may provide an additional motivational factor when the action begins.
The odds reflect how far the Tigers and Titans have far adrift of the rest of the competition, in the eyes of the punters, with the Bulldogs the next fancied side in this unwanted mini competition
2018 NRL Wooden Spoon odds
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