NRL restart: Our tips for 2020’s shortened Dally M Medal race

Dally M Medal Race tightens in shortened season

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The NRL 2020 premiership makes its triumphant return from COVID-19 hiatus this week – leaving rival codes in its wake – in the form of a reshaped rugby league season. The usual 25-round NRL schedule has been reduced to 20 rounds (including the two rounds already played in March) to account for the two-month lay-off.

And while the NRL odds focus on the path to Grand Final day (now scheduled for 25 October) and the ultimate team prize, the NRL trophy, the truncated regular season has created a fascinating race for rugby league’s highest individual honour, the Dally M Medal.

A member of the rugby league media votes on every match of the regular season, dishing out Dally M Medal points on a 3-2-1 basis. Read on to check out where the Dally M 2020 votes went in the opening two rounds, how the Dally M odds and Dally M tips are shaping up, and the elements to consider before diving into Dally M betting.

FORWARDS GET EARLY DALLY M 2020 JUMP IN BETTING

North Queensland Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo and Canberra Raiders back-rower Elliott Whitehead share the Dally M 2020 lead with four votes heading into the restart. While Whitehead remains a rank outsider in Dally M betting (he polled just three votes in total in 2019), Taumalolo is a perennial contender.

The Cowboys’ wrecking ball was the joint winner with Cooper Cronk in 2016 and has polled exactly 19 votes in each of the last three counts to finish eighth or better. After yet another strong start to 2020, Taumalolo’s Dally M odds will remain short; he is currently on the second line of betting.

Forwards (excluding hookers) have traditionally struggled for recognition in the Dally M stakes – Taumalolo is the only winner from the engine-room since 1989 – but there are some genuine threats among the NRL’s packs.

Brisbane’s 20-year-old front-rower Payne Haas is on the fourth line of Dally M betting after his fourth-place finish in 2019. He and fellow Broncos forward Thomas Flegler picked up the maximum three votes in their side’s impressive two wins so far in 2020.

Other forwards figuring prominently in Dally M tips include South Sydney back-rower Cameron Murray and Raiders duo Josh Papalii and John Bateman.

TEDESCO GETS STRONG SUPPORT FOR BACK-TO-BACK MEDALS

Regarded by many as the world’s best rugby league player, James Tedesco surged to a popular Dally M victory in 2019 with a whopping 34 votes. The Roosters fullback – who managed to pick up two votes already in 2020 despite his team’s 0–2 start – is the favourite to claim the gong again. He would join Peter Sterling (1986–87), Gavin Miller (1988–89), Andrew Johns (1998–99) and Johnathan Thurston (2014–15) as a back-to-back winner of the award.

The favourite to carry off the award again, Tedesco faces stiff competition from rival Dally M custodians Tom Trbojevic (Manly), who picked up three votes opposite Tedesco in NRL round 2; Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors); Clint Gutherson (Parramatta); and Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle). ‘RTS’ won the Dally M in 2018, with Ponga second, and he managed a top-five finish last year, despite the Warriors’ lowly standing. The Warriors’ grim prospects in 2020 will likely stymie Tuivasa-Sheck’s bid for a second medal, however.

Meanwhile, the only other current player with a Dally M Medal to his name, dual winner Cameron Smith (2006 and 2017), can never be counted out of the running. The incomparable Melbourne skipper was runner-up to Tedesco in 2019 with 31 votes – and punters will continue to flock to Smith’s Dally M odds, which currently sit at great value.

WIGHTON THE VALUE NRL BET OPTION

Jack Wighton started 2019 under intense scrutiny following an unsavoury off-field incident. But after being switched to five-eighth by Canberra coach Ricky Stuart, he ended the year as a NSW and Australian rep, with a Clive Churchill Medal on his mantelpiece.

Despite his man-of-the-match showing for the hot-shot Raiders in NRL round 1, Wighton remains generously priced in Dally M odds. He finished equal 15th in last year’s count, but the stage is set for him to develop into the premiership’s dominant player.

Playing alongside regular vote-getters Bateman, Papalii, Josh Hodgson and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad appears his biggest obstacle.

The same hurdle confronts fellow pivots and well-backed Dally M 2020 contenders Luke Keary (Roosters) and Cameron Munster (Storm), who are both inside the top 10 betting-wise but are competing with marquee teammates Tedesco and Smith, respectively, for votes on a weekly basis.

Enigmatic Cronulla number six Shaun Johnson is one of the great underachievers in the award’s history and is best avoided in Dally M betting.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE HALFBACKS GONE?

The Dally M Medal was won by a halfback 16 times in the award’s first 38 seasons – the most of any position.

But aside from the Eels’ Mitchell Moses, who finished third in 2019 and is on the third line of Dally M betting this season, number sevens are conspicuous by their absence in Dally M tips.

While veterans Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles) and Mitchell Pearce (Knights) are yet to win the award, there’s plenty of value in the duo’s NRL odds to carry off the Dally M in 2020. High-profile halfbacks Nathan Cleary (Panthers), Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs) and Michael Morgan (Cowboys), meanwhile, are well down punters’ pecking order.

With only 18 matches left to impress the judges and accumulate votes, this year’s Dally M Medal race promises to be one of the closest on record. Many of the usual suspects and previous winners are already off to a flyer but there’s room for a bolter or two to defy the Dally M tips and NRL odds, and land high on the leaderboard.

Sportsbet has Dally M betting options, Dally M odds and Dally M tips available on the Dally M 2020, among a wide range of NRL odds and futures. Bet now.

NRL POST-COVID-19 RESTART

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