SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Kurt Capewell of the Panthers celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round three NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at Panthers Stadium on March 25, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The NRL has arrived at a crucial stage of the season. The ladder has begun to take shape, with the best teams battling to win the regular season pulling clear of the chasing pack.

The also-rans are left to fight it out at the wrong end of the division, desperate for any crumbs of comfort and to salvage anything from their season.

How will the campaign go? Fans can often take their clues but the opinions of traders at the
leading online sports betting sites. Indeed, the oddsmakers are never far off the mark, and
it’s helpful to check up on how they have scored the campaign so far.

Which teams have impressed the bookies and are expected to go on to claim the glory?
In this article, we report on who the bookies are supporting and if the form of these teams is good enough to see them live up to expectations in the coming weeks.

Panthers pick of the betting

Every major betting site is hot on the chances of the Penrith Panthers. They are favourites
across the board, and when betting apps agree so strongly on something, it’s usually worth
paying attention to.

The Panthers have surged to the head of the betting and have done nothing but strengthen since. The betting suggests the team already has one hand on the minor premiership and are just as likely to finish as the Grand Final winners.

That stance from the betting experts will come as no surprise to fans of NRL who have
seen Penrith dominate during the opening half of the 2021 campaign.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 22: Brian To'o of the Panthers is tackled during the round seven NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Newcastle Knights at BlueBet Stadium, on April 22, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Penrith are tied with the Storm at the top of the ladder with their record showing 13 wins against two defeats. They have scored 456 points and conceded 145 points so far. Those numbers make them the division’s second-highest scorers behind Melbourne Storm, but they do carry the best defensive record by some margin.

Despite the two losses in the midst of Origin selection, the Panthers remain in pole position, but it’s still too early in the season to be celebrating. Nothing has been achieved yet, and there will be no time for back-slapping or self-congratulations in the Panthers camp just yet. Certainly not while they have Melbourne Storm breathing down their necks.

Cooking up a storm

The Storm have been the most exciting team to watch in this NRL campaign so far.
They have racked up an eye-catching 538 points, making them the league’s top scorers and by a considerable distance.

The team carries real flair in attack and have the players capable of breaking down any defence at this level and putting some big numbers of the board. Supporters have certainly had plenty to cheer so far this season.

Despite being the most ruthless side in the attacking areas of the pitch, Melbourne Storm trail the Penrith Panthers in the outright betting markets. They are second in line with 13 wins and two defeats, giving them 26 points.

The Storm must remain patient and wait in the wings, continuing their winning ways and hoping to pounce on any mistakes made by the current pacesetters. The betting with major online sportsbooks has Melbourne Storm as second-favourites in the regular season and Grand Final market.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Nicho Hynes of the Storm is tackled during the round eight NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on April 30, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Interestingly, traders believe they have a much better chance of winning the Grand Final than they do of ending top of the ladder at the conclusion of the regular season. Melbourne has a big price attached in the latter market, which is sure to catch the eye of value hunters.

Underdogs with bite

Who are the underdogs in the season capable of going close and upsetting the betting?

According to the outright markets, we should pay respect to South Sydney Rabbitohs and
Parramatta Eels. Neither side is expected to challenge the regular-season title, and that’s
understandable at this stage of the season. Still, they will be contenders for the Grand Final
prize during the extended campaign.

The Eels are third on the ladder with 24 points on the board, leaving them just two points off the pace set by the Panthers. The Rabbitohs are fourth in line and also have 24 points against their name, meaning a season win isn’t yet impossible, but time is running out for both.