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View from Down Under: Roosters lead Grand Final favorites ahead of NRL season opener

Michael Gordon of the Sydney Roosters in NRL action

The NRL season gets underway this weekend with the three clear favorites set to get off to a winning start.

The Sydney Roosters lead the 2017 premiership-winning Melbourne Storm and the runner-up North Queensland Cowboys as the bookies’ top tips to take out the 2018 trophy ahead of the first round.

The Roosters are slight favorites to go all the way this season at $5 (+400) to win the Grand Final, with the Cowboys on $5.50 (+450) and the Storm at $6 (+500).

The Roosters open their season on Saturday with what is sure to be a testy confrontation with the Western Tigers.

James Tedesco, a 90-game veteran of the Tigers, switched allegiances to the Roosters in the offseason and his first outing against his old club will be closely watched by fans and former teammates.

The Roosters will also boast the services of former Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk, who will likely inject another level of creativity around the breakdown.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have welcomed Benji Marshall back to the club after several seasons, along with Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer and Chris McQueen.

The Roosters are paying $1.30 (-333) for the win on the Sportsbet board, with $3.50 (+250) for the Tigers.

Melbourne third in NRL odds

Craig Bellamy’s Melbourne still appear the side to beat as they look to repeat their dominating 2017 and become the first side since the Brisbane Broncos in 1992-93 to go back to back.

The Storm showed ominous form last month to down Leeds 38-4 in the World Club Challenge ahead of their season opener at Canterbury Bankstown on Saturday.

Despite losing Cronk to the Roosters this season, and Billy Slater to a shoulder strain this week, the Storm are -250 favorites to make a seamless return to the NRL, with +200 on offer for the Bulldogs.

Cowboys great Johnathan Thurston will bring up his 300th NRL match when North Queensland hosts the Cronulla Sharks.

Thurston has been absent from the Cowboys lineup since injuring his shoulder in the second State of Origin match last year and watched his side fall just short in the Grand Final from the sidelines.

The Sharks, who had their premiership defence ended in thrilling fashion by the Cowboys in last year’s finals, welcome Josh Dugan from the Dragons and Penrith’s Matt Moylan this season.

The Cowboys are on $1.50 (-200) to open with a win, with $2.60 (+160) for the Sharks.

Aussies Favored in second test

In Port Elizabeth, Australia enters the second cricket Test starting Friday as favorites to go 2-0 up in the four-test series against South Africa.

The Aussies cruised to a 118-run win over the Proteas in Durban earlier this week, and are on $2 (+100) to repeat the feat, with $2.65 (+165) for South Africa.

The Melbourne Rebels’ unlikely Super Rugby dominance is expected to continue when they host the ACT Brumbies on Friday.

The Rebels are the only Australian side with a perfect record after two matches and are paying $1.66 (-152) to continue it, with $2.23 (+123) for the Brumbies.

In the A-League, Melbourne City must beat Adelaide United if it is to remain in touch with the leaders. City is the slight favorite to win in Adelaide, with $2.37 (+137) for a win against $2.50 (+150) for a loss.