YOU only have to look north to find the two teams punters are backing to win the NRL flag.
Last year’s grand finalists the Brisbane Broncos are the $4 favourites with CrownBet.com.au to go one better in 2016.
But the team that vanquished them, the North Queensland Cowboys, are hot on their heels at $5.50.
Just two weeks removed from yet another thrilling game, where the grand final rematch finished 21-20 in favour of the Broncos, these two teams look set to face off again in the big one.
Remarkably, they are the only two teams being backed for the title, with the next best the Cronulla Sharks at $10.
It’s tight from there, with eight teams sporting odds of between $12 and $19.
The Broncos have started the season in brilliant form, winning five of six, their only blemish coming by a point to the Penrith Panthers in round three.
They did what they had to do to dispose of the Gold Coast on the weekend, 24-16, four individual try scorers enough to withstand a late comeback from the Titans.
The surprise packet Melbourne Storm, who many thought could take a tumble in 2016, sport the same 4-1 record as the Broncos, but are $15 to win the flag, despite sitting in second place.
They only just limped over the line against the Newcastle Knights, who have been backed by sportsbet.com.au punters to go through the season winless.
But efforts like that 18-14 result against the Storm make that look a long way off.
The Canberra Raiders are another surprise packet, winning three of their opening five games to go with a draw, and they did what few have been able to do – go to Belmore and whack the Canterbury Bulldogs, 22-8.
The Dogs, who are $12 for the title, had not lost at the ground since 1990.
But the Raiders defied 26 years of history thanks to another tour de force by star Jarrod Croker, who bagged two tries and three conversions to almost single handedly beat the Dogs.
They have been wound in to $19 and could represent some serious value in the NRL premiership markets, especially with English superstar Josh Hodgson doing the business. But more on him later.
The Raiders captain has again won high praise for his efforts so far in 2016 and legendary coach Wayne Bennett reckons he should be in the New South Wales side for Origin One.
“If I was a NSW selector he’d be the first guy I’d be picking in the centres for them. I love him. I love what he brings,” Bennett said.
“He’s consistently good every year for Canberra, if they’re looking for something they haven’t got.
“He did a great job.”
The Cowboys, South Sydney Rabbitohs ($14), Sharks, Bulldogs, Titans and Parramatta Eels ($12) are all 3-2 making up a glut in the middle of the table.
2016 NRL Premiership market:
Brisbane Broncos ($4)
North Queensland Cowboys ($5.50)
Cronulla Sharks ($10)
Canterbury Bulldogs ($12)
Parramatta Eels ($12)
South Sydney Rabbitohs ($14)
Manly Waringah Sea Eagles ($15)
Melbourne Storm ($15)
New Zealand Warriors ($15)
Penrith Panthers ($17)
Canberra Raiders ($19)
Sydney Roosters ($34)
Wests Tigers ($61)
Gold Coast Titans ($81)
St George Illawarra Dragons ($81)
Newcastle Knights ($331)
Odds provided by sportsbet.com.au
Who else but the great Jonathan Thurston for the 2016 NRL Dally M Medal?
Who else indeed.
The little master Jonathan Thurston has been at his match winning best once again in 2016 and he is the $5 favourite with WilliamHill.com.au to claim an unprecedented fifth Dally M Medal.
But what about Hodgson?
The Raiders star has been loyal to Canberra and that is bearing fruit, as he sits on top of the Dally M Medal leader board with 10 points after five rounds.
Some say he was the best hooker in England and he is proving that in Australia, with a series of stellar performances making him one of the hottest commodities in the NRL.
Laurie Daley was the last Canberra player to win the Dally M Medal in 1995, but they have a gem in Hodgson and he is, without doubt, the early front runner.
New Zealand Warrior Ben Matulino has also impressed this season and sits second, three points behind Hodgson with seven. He is a massive $41 chance and might be a cash out candidate if he can put together a few more solid performances in the early going.
The Storm’s Jesse Bromwich ($41), Bulldog Moses Mbye ($13) and Rabbitohs’ legend Greg Inglis sit just behind Matulino on six points.
2016 NRL Dally M Medal winner market:
Jonathan Thurston ($5)
Anthony Milford ($7)
Josh Hodgson ($9)
Greg Inglis ($11)
James Tedesco ($11)
Moses Mbye ($13)
Sam Burgess ($15)
Corey Norman ($21)
Ben Hunt ($26)
Cooper Cronk ($26)
Shaun Johnson ($26)
Roger Tuivasa Sheck ($26)
Keiran Foran ($34)
Cameron Smith ($34)
Michael Morgan ($34)
Daly Cherry-Evans ($34)
Jesse Bromwich ($41)
Josh Dugan ($41)
Ben Matulino ($41)
Bryce Cartwright ($41)
Odds provided by WilliamHill.com.au
Odds tight in 2016 State of Origin betting
Origin Game One: New South Wales vs. Queensland, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 8pm AEST, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Origin Game Two: Queensland vs. New South Wales, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 8pm AEST, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Origin Game Three: New South Wales vs. Queensland, Wednesday, July 13, 2016, 8pm AEST, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
New South Wales is the $1.87 favourite to win the 2016 State of Origin Series, with Queensland breathing down its neck at $1.93 with sportsbet.com.au.
Queensland has won nine of the past 10 Origins, wresting back the honours last year, after New South Wales had ended an eight year drought in 2014.
The popular belief is Queensland was an ageing team last season and is set for a rebuild, giving the Blues a big chance, especially given they get two games on their home deck.
Blues coach Laurie Daley said: “We are excited to be playing two games at the Home of the Blues.”
“Playing in front of a full stadium of loud, proud Blues fans … that is Origin.”
New Maroons coach Kevin Walters said he was relishing the prospect of his first series in charge of the squad.
“Playing two games in Sydney presents a big challenge for us, but it’s one the entire group is looking forward to,” Walters said.
“History shows just how important the opening game of the series is so it’s crucial we get off to a positive start.
“In recent years we’ve had some excellent support at ANZ Stadium and we hope to see a sea of maroon once again in the Queensland supporter bays.”
Origin One kicks off on June 1 with the Maroons heading to ANZ to take on the Blues at home.