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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.

Five Metre Gap: Rd 1 Wrap

5 Metre Gap

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the opening round of the NRL which saw title-holders North Queensland win by six points whilst 2013 winners, the Roosters, were beaten by 32 points.

Warriors recruit Issac Luke made only one run in the first half as his side went into the break 28-4 down before eventually losing 34-26 to the Wests Tigers to continue their horrible round one record of recent years. The former Rabbitoh ran then twice in the second half but for a player of his experience it doesn’t seem enough impact. Other rakes across the weekend, such as Michael Ennis and Jake Granville in the Saturday night game, ran less but they had other players that were able to pick up the slack in their side. Luke’s team was going backwards for most of the contest and his level of impact wasn’t what coach Andrew McFadden would have been looking for.

Heading into round one a key area of interest was the impact replacement players would have given the reduction in interchanges to eight players this season. Roosters forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho was the biggest contributer, in terms of metres gained, for bench players across round one and did his best to try to get his team back in a game they ended up losing heavily in. The Kiwi and Tongan international’s 14 runs in 40 minutes on the park yielded 146 metres and he contributed 23 tackles missing none. I high benchmark for the rest of the season but a sterling effort nonetheless.

The efficient Cowboys only pushed one offload in their win over the Sharks on Saturday evening, the least of all 16 sides across the weekend. Content to spin the ball but not crowd attacking play their solid ball security (76% completion rate) in humid conditions continues to be a feature of the Cowboys game. This helps Paul Green’s side in attack with opposition players at times standing off waiting for the likes of Jason Taumalolo to off-load the ball when, at least on Saturday night, that wasn’t their path to victory.

Two Sydney sides, Manly and the Eels, had club debutantes Dylan Walker and Clint Gutherson respectively caught out when opponents crossed the line to open up the scoring in each of their loses to Canterbury and Brisbane. It’s a simple tactic for coaches to exploit inexperienced defensive combinations as new teammates learn to work together however that Bulldogs coach Des Hasler and Broncos coach Wayne Bennett (two of the most experienced coaches in the competition) did so early in their matches is illustrative of a simple but effective approach at this stage of the season. Walker’s blunder might be more of a concern as he was defending three in so he is a key defender who others follow.

Roosters halfback Jackson Hastings had a Sunday to forget as the tri-colours were humbled 42-10 by Souths. Down five tries to nil inside 27 minutes, and saddled with playmaking responsibility in the game, Hastings took boot to ball at the end of a set late in the first half when he had an overlap on his outside . Running the ball at that stage is normally a high risk play but five tries down is five tries down. Perhaps it is looking too much into a small sample of the 20 year-old’s performance but as was displayed later in the game Hastings can yield great results with his running game. Maybe coach Trent Robinson will point this out in the video review session this week.

Read more of Hamish’s blogs here (From the sideline of sport)