Can NRL Fantasy King Gareth Widdop Fire England to World Cup glory?

The 2017 domestic season ended miserably for Gareth Widdop, who could not prevent his St George Illawarra Dragons side slipping out of the NRL’s top eight and missing out on the finals, despite looking almost certain to qualify just a couple of months ago.

Widdop’s attention will now be turning to his national side, where he will be looking to help England overcome Australia and New Zealand and get back to the summit of world rugby league, after the southern hemisphere have dominated the World Cup over the last 20 years.

The likelihood is that Wayne Bennett – England’s head-coach – will put his faith in Widdop alongside George Williams or Luke Gale in the halves, with the hope that the St George captain can repeat his 2017 form on the international scene to fire the Wall of White to World Cup glory.

As fantasy managers and followers of the NRL will know, Widdop has been exceptional through 2017, with the player fully deserving of an opportunity to play in the finals. However, the Dragons’ failure could prove to benefit England, with the five-eighth linking up with his national team determined to end the year on a high.

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Australia are currently priced at $1.25 to win the World Cup on home soil, with OLBG providing customers with the latest rugby advice and 67% confidence that 2017 will be the year of the Kangaroo, but England and Widdop will have different ideas.

Widdop could have a big influence on the competition later this year, with the 28-year-old Yorkshireman consistently showing his class for St George throughout the 2017 campaign. The Dragons’ captain finished the NRL season as the competition’s second-highest point scorer, bagging 191 points despite only featuring on 21 occasions.

The English five-eighth proved to be the key creative cog for the Dragons throughout the 2017 NRL season, with Widdop grabbing ten tries and adding a whopping 18 try assists to that tally, which was only bettered by a handful of players, who made a lot more appearances – leaving Widdop as one of the competition’s most valuable players in fantasy leagues.

England will, of course, have other potential match winners in their squad for the World Cup, but with Widdop’s season cut surprisingly short, he will be well-rested heading into the competition and wanting to prove to his adopted country that he is among the world’s best.

Some of the English Super League’s top talent will be on show in the southern hemisphere later this year, and players including Williams and Gale – who will compete with Widdop for a starting berth in the halves – are sure to bring some excitement to the World Cup, having a combined total of 48 try assists for Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers respectively in 2017.

Despite others representing England in the World Cup, a lot of eyes will be on Widdop, who will be looking to impress after such a disappointing end to the 2017 NRL campaign. Australian fantasy managers have watched on as Widdop has impressed for the Dragons throughout the year, but their admiration could turn to envy, as the five-eighth aims to guide England to world domination.

Why Fantasy Managers Must Consider Overloading with Parramatta Eels

The focus at the minute is on Melbourne Storm in the NRL, with the usual suspects storming to a minor premiership playing some exceptional rugby league. However, they are joined by a host of clubs looking to cut them down, including Parramatta Eels, who have finished the regular season magnificently, with Brad Arthur’s side oozing confidence.

Parramatta finished the regular season with just one defeat from 12 rounds, fourth in the table, trailing only Melbourne, Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos. The Eels are without a premiership since 1986 and have not contested a final since 2009, with back-to-back wooden spoon finishes in 2012 and 2013 making the last seven years difficult.

However, Arthur’s side are in exceptional form following an impressive 26 rounds, with the Eels winning their last three fixtures of the regular season – beating the Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane and South Sydney Rabbitohs. That run of fixtures has seen one man impress and become an absolute certainty for the Fantasy Rugby League manager – Semi Radradra.

The powerful winger has been in exceptional form and has eight tries from his last three appearances, scoring four against Brisbane in a mesmerising display, before backing that up with a further three tries against the Rabbitohs in the 22-16 victory in Round 26.

Radradra has 20 tries to his name following the regular season, but his try scoring is not the only reason he will be popular amongst fantasy managers, with the winger also having five try assists to his name along with 23 line breaks. Added to that, Radradra has an average gain of 10.8 metres every time he carries the ball, making him one of the most devastating point scorers in the fantasy league.

Parramatta remain outsiders to become NRL champions later in 2017, with the likes of Melbourne and Sydney favourites. However, Australian free bets bookmakers have a number of offers for customers looking to place an unlikely wager on Arthur’s team. Other members of Parramatta’s squad will have to put their hands up during the finals, and Arthur will be hoping that creative duo Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses find their best over the remainder of 2017. Fantasy managers may be tempted to include one or both of the halfback pairing, who have the ability to unlock games, as Norman has shown in particular over recent weeks.

SEMI RADRADRA” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

Norman has scored just three tries over the course of the season, but he has nine try assists to his name, four of which came in the final two rounds of the regular season, as the Eels flexed their muscles heading into the finals.

If the likes of Norman and Radradra can continue their impressive form over the remainder of the season then there is every chance that we could see the Eels challenging the likes of Melbourne once again in the Grand Final. And for the fantasy managers, a brief look at Parramatta’s record over the closing stages of the regular season, indicate including some of their key men would not be a bad move.

Why Gareth Widdop Should be the Key Pick for Your Team

St George Illawarra Dragons’ captain, Gareth Widdop, has been in inspired form during the 2017 NRL campaign, and despite missing part of the season through injury, he has still shown why England coach Wayne Bennett holds him in such high regard.

Despite Widdop’s excellent form, the Dragons have struggled in recent weeks, and after challenging the Melbourne Storm towards the top of the NRL ladder during the early rounds of the season, Paul McGregor’s side have slipped to eighth and their place in the top eight is now in doubt heading into the final rounds of the regular season.

The Dragons have won just once in the last six rounds as well as having a bye round. However, despite McGregor’s side struggling, Widdop has shown the form that has made him one of the world’s best half-backs and a favourite for NRLCEOs.

Widdop has shown form that will surely see him included in England’s starting XIII for the Rugby League World Cup this summer, where the Wall of White will be hoping to topple Australia and New Zealand at the summit of world rugby, and defy the 9/1 rugby league betting odds that are currently being offered on the markets.

Whilst the Dragons have been struggling in recent weeks, Widdop has been excelling and has made the Team of the Week on the Dream Team on numerous occasions, with his creativity from five-eighth standing out over most in the NRL.

The 28-year-old Englishman has scored 127 NRL points this season from his 14 appearances, which is only bettered by five other players in the competition, while his average points per game ratio of 9.07 is only bettered by Nathan Cleary of the Penrith Panthers.

Widdop has 13 try assists in 2017 along with nine tries, making him the most influential player in the NRL. With the Dragons’ form slumping in recent weeks, they will be turning to their captain to guide them back up the league ladder and into contention for a place in the Grand Final later in 2017.

McGregor will be hoping that Widdop can continue his excellent form to guide his side back into serious contention for silverware, and it will take performances like he produced in the 18-14 defeat to the Canberra Raiders in Round 19, to push the Dragons on.

That evening, Widdop found himself on the losing side but his performance didn’t deserve that, with the 28-year-old grabbing a try and three goals as well as an exceptional try assist for his wing, Jason Nightingale.

He also blitzed the Sea Eagles as shown in the highlights below with a try and two try assists to help them to pile on 52 points against the high flying Peninsula club.

That evening, Widdop found himself on the losing side but his performance didn’t deserve that, with the 28-year-old grabbing a try and three goals as well as an exceptional try assist for his wing, Jason Nightingale.

Widdop is in the form of his life for the Dragons, and heading into a World Cup later this year, all of Australia will be aware of the damage the half-back could potentially do for England. However, between now and then, St George Illawarra fans will be hoping the 28-year-old can drag his side back up the NRL ladder, whilst continuing his excellent streak of creativity, which is seeing him dominate the Dream Team in 2017.

Why you must overload with Dragons players for clash with the Knights

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There are just six rounds of the regular NRL season remaining, and we are beginning to find out who will be competing for silverware later in 2017. The Newcastle Knights face the St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 21, with the two clubs having very different things to play for heading into the season’s run-in, as eight places on the league ladder separate the rivals.

Newcastle are currently at the foot of the table, having picked up just two victories in 2017. Nathan Brown’s side will be desperate to finish the campaign strongly and avoid picking up the ‘wooden spoon’ for the third consecutive year.

The Knights are without a victory since their Round 10 triumph over the Canberra Raiders, and this weekend will come up against a St George side who are looking to keep a tight grip on their place in the top-eight, with Paul McGregor’s side currently eighth in the ladder.

St George are currently priced at 7/25 to take advantage of the Knights’ recent slump down the NRL ladder, whilst Brown’s team are a generous 16/5 to cause an upset against the in-form Dragons, with comparison sites such as Oddschecker providing a number of offers on the fixture.

Despite Newcastle’s poor form in the NRL this season, they still have players that St George will need to be wary of. CEOs will be aware of who the danger men are for Brown’s side, with Nathan Ross, who will be lining up at full-back, scoring high points on the average.

Although his best form comes on the wing, Ross will line up against the Dragons at full-back, where he has played in his last four outings. Ross has failed to score in his last four appearances, and his last tries came against this weekend’s opponents, when he scored a hat-trick in the 32-28 defeat in Round 16.

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The outside back is not just Newcastle’s most lethal finisher, he is also the club’s top metre eater with 2,436 and 11 metre eaters, making him a useful player for NRLCEOs.

Dane Gagai is also in Newcastle’s line-up for this weekend’s clash, with the Queensland back also one of the top metre eaters for Brown’s side gaining 2,171. Gagai has been unable to replicate Ross’ try scoring feats, but despite only crossing the whitewash twice in the NRL this season, the exciting outside back showed his class for Queensland in the State of Origin, scoring twice in game two.

Perhaps CEOs looking to include a player from the struggling Knights should look to their half-back partnership of Brock Lamb and Trent Hodkinson who would still be available in most leagues.

Lamb is the club’s top scorer this season with 54 points, scoring just two tries. However, his partner in the halves has been a lot more productive, particularly after missing large parts of the season.

Hodkinson has 52 points, which have mainly come through his 24 goals, but the 28-year-old has also proved to be the Knights’ creative cog, scoring one try and adding five try assists, including four from his last four appearances in the NRL.

Lamb and Hodkinson will come up against the NRL’s most in-form player this weekend, with St George’s Gareth Widdop in the form of his life heading into the season’s run-in.

The England stand-off is one of the NRL’s leading point scorers with 147 from the season and playing some of the best rugby of his career, which is ideal for the English national team, who will be looking to the Dragons’ creative cog at the World Cup later this year.

Widdop is an absolute must for CEOs to consider captaining, having scored ten tries already this season as well as adding an impressive 15 try assists, including seven from his last four appearances – making him the competition’s most influential player this year.

Perhaps one of Widdop’s finest displays this season came in last week’s exceptional 52-22 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles, with the Englishman running the show from the halves. Widdop kicked eight goals during the game, as well as scoring one try and grabbing two assists, in a real man-of-the-match display.

It is not just Widdop that CEOs  should consider captaining heading into Round 21, with Jason Nightingale also in exceptional form for the Dragons. The winger has scored 12 tries this season – including three in his last two appearances – making him the club’s top scorer in 2017.

The New Zealander has also made a mammoth 2,422 metres from 263 carries, giving him an average gain of 9.2 metres and three metre eaters for the seasn. Nightingale’s fellow winger, Nane Macdonald, has made the most metres for the Dragons this season with 2,538 from 257 carries, giving him an average gain of 9.87 metres and six metre eaters.

Macdonald also offers a scoring threat, and despite not been quite as prolific as Nightingale on the opposite wing, he still has five tries to his name this season.

The Knights will be desperate to avenge the 32-28 defeat that the Dragons handed them in Round 16, but more important to Brown’s side will be giving themselves the best possible chance of avoiding the wooden spoon. However, they face a difficult task, with St George heading into Round 21 in exceptional form, with Widdop mesmerising anybody standing in his way.

CEOs will be looking at this fixture and taking the safe and sensible option by including Widdop in their team, with the hope he can continue his good form against the NRL’s bottom side. There is also good reason to include Nightingale in any team, whilst his fellow winger, Macdonald, could also do some damage to the opposition.