NRL tipping cheat sheet: How to solve your weekly struggles when it comes to footy predictions


It’s that time of year when many frustrated footy fans look at the standings in their tipping comp and think why bother. 

You’ve already fallen off the pace because those sure things you were so certain of winning proved not to be the case. 

Those bloody Tigers have cost you by winning, then you start backing them and they go down to the Dolphins. And the Dragons? A nightmare to predict – it was so much easier the past few years when they were consistently incompetent. 

But don’t despair. There are ways to turn the tipping tide, make up ground on the leaders and you never know your luck, you could make a Lazarus-like rise from the ashes, just as Glenn did with the Storm in the 1999 Grand Final.

Here are the rock solid*, 100% guaranteed** and scientifically tested*** methods that can take you all the way to footy tipping competition glory.

* – solidity may vary
** – not a guarantee
*** – at the Ponds Institute.

Be ruthless: Don’t tip who you want to win but who you think will win. If you ever express the phrase “I can’t back against my team” or you can’t cheer for a team you despite to win, then you are tipping with one hand behind your back. 

There is no room for sentiment in footy tipping. 

Late Mail counts: Keep an eye on team changes. For the vast majority of players it doesn’t move the needle too much either way if they’re in or out unless a team has half a dozen or so of your honest first-graders out. 

Nathan Cleary hoists a high bomb. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

But when a big name is sidelined, those key players make a world of difference. Any time the Trbojevic of the Tom variety is not in maroon, Manly are reduced to mere mortals but they can beat anyone if he is firing from the back. 

Mitchell Moses’ impact at Parramatta is similar – they won two out of three to start the year but have gone down to the Tigers and Raiders since he broke his foot. 

The Panthers with Nathan Cleary in the side over the past four years when they have made the Grand Final have won 72 and lost just 11 for a phenomenal 87% success rate. 

When he’s been out they’re still pretty damn good but have won just 19 of 27 for a 70% clip.

Follow the money – it’s the bookmakers’ job to know who’ll win: From the first 40 matches of 2024, the bookmakers’ favourites have won 24 times, which doesn’t sound too flash but it was heavily skewed by a rare occurrence of six outsiders getting up in Round 1. 

Home ground proving an advantage: The visitors are struggling this year with only nine wins coming for the road team from 38 matches aside from the first two in Las Vegas on neutral turf.

Seven of the nine wins on the road have been won by a team rated the underdog by the bookmakers.

Teams struggle after short turnarounds: The Tigers looked flat against the Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday night, backing up for one of their three five-day turnarounds this year. 

Although the Knights were coming off a five-day gap and a flight back from New Zealand last Friday when they hosted the Dragons and ran out comfortable winners but perhaps that had more to do with the opposition’s poor play than their travel fatigue.

Manly and Canterbury are the only two teams who don’t have the dreaded five-day turnaround this year – they must have slipped the drawmakers a fiver.

History matters: It’s too late for this year but never tip the Storm to lose in Round 1. Craig Bellamy’s pre-season build-ups are undefeated. 

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The Roosters have won 12 of their past 14 matches against the Knights heading into this Thursday’s game at McDonald Jones Stadium, a venue where the home side has lost just once in their nine most recent outings. So take your pick which version of history suits your prediction for this one.

There’s no point tipping the Titans in 2024: One thing that can be gleaned from the first five rounds is that Gold Coast are well off the pace. The serious knee injury to Tino Fa’asuamaleaui means they have lost the player who made them competitive and Des Hasler could be on a hiding to nothing trying to restore his coaching reputation at the NRL’s graveyard.

Back streaks to continue: If a team is winning, or losing, three matches in a row, the likelihood is their formline will hold. The old “that just means they’re one step closer to a win/loss” theory is one to avoid.

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Trust nobody: Last and certainly not least, whether it’s a workplace comp or a bit of “friendly fun” among family and friends, they’re all your mortal enemies. They will lead you astray by lulling you into a false sense of security with comments like “I only tip the teams based on the colours of their uniform” or “I don’t treat it too seriously”. 

Lies. All lies. They’re all out to get you. In tipping, like all mind games, only the toughest survive. 

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