Punters have jumped on the Cowboys and Bulldogs to perform in 2009, both clubs initially showing value after poor seasons last year. For the Dogs, it was their worst showing in their 73-year existence – made worse by the departure of marquee player Sonny Bill Williams.
For the Cowboys, they also had a horror run. Besides coaching dramas, which saw them dump highly successful coach Graham Murray, they were hit hard by injuries to fullback Matt Bowen and backrower Luke O’Donnell, slumping to cellar dwellers at season end.
With only 45 days until 2009 season kick off – punters have shown faith in both clubs, feeling that their additional recruits and new coaches can improve their results considerably.
The Bulldogs have firmed from $34 into $29, after recruiting classy Brisbane players Michael Ennis, Ben Hannant and David Stagg along with the major signing of no.7 Brett Kimmorley.
The Cowboys are considerably lower, coming in from $13 to $12, grabbing storm big man Antonio Kaufusi, former Souths monster Manase Manuokafoa and former Queenslander Willie Tonga along with the late signing of Shannon Hegarty.
Punters seem to like that fact that leading NRL coach Neil Henry is now on board at the Cowboys along with leading Queensland fitness guru Billy Johnstone, both men helping Queensland win last years Origin series.
Enforcer Carl Webb was also hit hard by injury in 2008 along with a regularly missing halfback Johnathan Thurston who struggled without his major forwards powering over the ad line.
Apart from 2008, the Cowboys have been a regular finals contender and many expect them to once again challenge at the back end of this season.
“It’s not often you have two teams who finished last and second last so well backed to win the premiership,” said Sportingbet Australia’s Bill Richmond.
“But the Cowboys have recruited some quality after they were cruelled last year by injuries.
“Changing coaches mid-season didn’t help their cause much either.”
The other major off season recruit in the coaching stakes was Wayne Bennett’s shift to the St George Illawarra Dragons where many feel his experience and patience could finally bring joy to the Red and White joint venture club.
“They are into $15 to win the premiership. We’ve written twice as many bets on them as any other team which could be because of the Bennett factor,” Richmond said.
“We’re happy to lay them at that, we can’t see them winning.”
Manly are early favourites at $4.25 ahead of Melbourne at $5.50, Cronulla at $9 and Brisbane and the New Zealand Warriors next at $11.