NRL 2024 – Best Outsiders to Make the 2024 NRL Grand Final

By: James Salmon
NRL Betting Tips
Best Outsiders to Win the NRL Grand Final 2024

The Panthers and the Broncos entered the season as the favourites to make what would be their second consecutive Grand Final against one another, but they are far from the only teams with a chance to take out this year’s flag. A number of sides sit just below them in the betting, particularly now that the Broncos have notched up a few losses early in the season, while there are also some teams further down the pecking order that, all going well, are capable of springing a surprise. On this page, we will take a look at the best outsiders to make the 2024 NRL Grand Final. 

Favourites to make the 2024 NRL Grand Final

Best Outsiders to make the 2024 NRL Grand Final

Melbourne Storm

The Storm aren’t exactly a long odds outsider to make the Grand Final, but courtesy of the Panthers and the Broncos there is a little bit of value for them to make it through to the big dance. This is a team that knows how to go deep into the finals. They have only failed to make it to the Preliminary Finals or better once in the past nine seasons, and four of those times have made it through to the Grand Final. That’s a pretty good strike rate. Last year they made a Preliminary Final but were a long way off the pace set by the Panthers and Broncos, as evidenced by the thumping defeat they copped in that game as well as in the Qualifying Final, but they are capable of improvement this season. A major reason for that is the fact that Ryan Papenhuyzen will, touch wood, be playing, which he wasn’t for the vast majority of this season. With him alongside the likes of Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes, they have started the season as well as nearly anyone in the league, with an 8-0 win over the Panthers in the opening round setting the tone for a strong beginning. This team is well and truly good enough to play in the Grand Final, and looks like decent value to do so. 

  • What brings them here? The Storm are always in this conversation. They finish top four ridiculously consistently and constantly put themselves in a position to make and win Grand Finals, and this year looks no different. 
  • What has changed? Not too much from a players perspective for the Storm. Justin Olam is a notable loss while Tariq Sims has gone overseas, and Jayden Nikorima too, while Tom Eisenhuth will suit up for the Dragons – lucky him. Shawn Blore is their only acquisition, coming down south from the Tigers. 
  • Injury update: Further helping the Storm’s cause, at least at this stage, is a virtually vacant injury list. Sua Fa’alogo has had an ankle issue but is expected to be available by Round 7. 

Bet on the Storm to make the Grand Final @ $3.50 with PlayUp

Sydney Roosters

The Roosters’ 2023 season was a wild ride, and this year they and their fanbase will be hoping for a little less inconsistency and hopefully, a season which resembles the latter stages of last year. They flew home to make the finals and then work their way into a semi-final, but if they can avoid the kind of disastrous mid-season slump they had last year – admittedly a largely injury inflicted one – then their aspirations for season 2024 will be a lot higher than a semi-final. Their start to this year has been solid without being outstanding; a win over the Broncos in Las Vegas was a strong way to start and a 48-6 defeat of the Rabbitohs would have been very satisfying, but a couple of tight losses – some pretty solid, such as against the Panthers, some very poor, such as against the Bulldogs – saw them split their first six games at three apiece. But they are far from the only team among the Premiership favourites who haven’t started the season exactly as they would have wanted. Unfortunately they again have a reasonably hefty injury list, but for the most part those aren’t long-term and with close to a full side to choose from it’s easy to see them going deep into the finals. After four years of making the finals but failing to make it past the semis, the Roosters have it in them to again return to the big dance in 2024. 

  • What brings them here? The Roosters have been finalists every year since 2013 with the exception of 2016, and have the talent to go a long way this year.  
  • What has changed? There will be a fair few changes for the Roosters this season – some bad, some good. They have lost each of Fletcher Baker, Jaxson Paulo, Paul Momirovski, Drew Hutchison, Jake Turpin, Corey Allan and Ben Thomas to other teams, but they have picked up Spencer Leniu from the Panthers, Dominic Young from the Knights and Lewis Murphy from the UK.
  • Injury update: Billy Smith is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, while Spencer Leniu is out suspended until Round 10. Other injured players include Sandon Smith, Dom Young, Sam Walker and James Tedesco, but they should all be back between Rounds 7 and 9.

Bet on the Roosters to make the Grand Final at $4.50 with PlayUp 

New Zealand Warriors

The Warriors flew up the ladder last year to finish in the top four, but like the Storm they were a level behind the Broncos and the Panthers and got hammered against both of them throughout the course of the finals. But nonetheless, they made a Preliminary Final in their first year under Andrew Webster after finishing 15th the season prior, and while many will view that as something of an overachievement, they will be out to prove those doubters wrong. While it is possible they will fail to replicate last year’s effort, the flip side of the coin is that they could improve further with another year under their belt and a couple of big acquisitions, and some good form early in the season suggests that could well and truly be on the cards. Two losses to start weren’t ideal, but they were both by just four points against good teams and they followed it up with three consecutive wins which got more impressive by the week. They have been one of just a handful of teams that has put in a solid showing every week, demonstrating a consistency which was a feature of their game last year. They might not have the talent of some of the top sides, but the Warriors are a really reliable and, to put it simply, very good side. With a year of finals experience behind them, if they can finish in the top four again this year – which is certainly not out of the question – they’re far from the worst value option on the table to make it through to the Grand Final.

  • What brings them here? The Warriors’ 2023 season was a big surprise to many, with New Zealand’s only side coming from the clouds to make a Preliminary Final, and they will be hoping to go one (or two) better this year.  
  • What has changed? The Warriors, as mentioned, have a big acquisition in the form of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and they have also secured Kurt Capewell from the Broncos and Chanel Harris-Tavita. But there are quite a number of outs, too, with all of Viliami Vailea, Bailey Sironen, Josh Curran and Ronald Volkman playing elsewhere this year and Brayden Wiliame retiring. 
  • Injury update: The Warriors have quite a lengthy injury list early in the season. Marata Niukore won’t be available till Round 14 due to a foot injury, while Luke Metcalf has unfortunately fractured his leg and doesn't yet have a timeline for his return. Demitric Sifakula is also out indefinitely with a knee, Bunty Afoa isn’t available till about Round 11 with a hamstring, while Freddy Lussick will be available the week prior from suspension. Dylan Walker should be available in Round 8 after a knee injury.  

Bet on the Warriors to make the Grand Final at $6.00 with PlayUp 

North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboys are a team capable of causing plenty of damage, and for an underdog to make the Grand Final that is exactly what we want. It was in 2022 that they improved out of sight, jumping from 15th the year prior to third and making a Preliminary Final. They were unable to sustain that improvement in 2023 and won just 12 games, but even within last season they demonstrated what they are capable of at their best. They started the season really poorly and looked likely to finish towards the bottom of the ladder, but a scintillating run of form saw them knock off a bunch of Premiership contenders in a row and fly into not just finals calculations, but Premiership ones. Unfortunately, as quickly as that form began it came to an end, and they missed the finals, finishing in 11th place. But that run of form was an indication of what this team can do when they’re humming, and at the start of this season they have been. In their first five weeks they won four games and generally by big margins, with three of those wins coming by 13 points or more. Admittedly, however, those were generally against average teams, and when they faced the Broncos they went down 38-12. Inconsistency has become a little too synonymous with this team than they would like, but they are the kind of team that can beat anyone on their day. Their top end ability means that the Cowboys have a pretty big range of potential outcomes this year – it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see them miss the finals, but equally it’s not hard to see them going deep into the finals, and at long odds they look like one of the better value selections to make the Grand Final. 

  • What brings them here? It’s now been two years since the Cowboys tore themselves off the bottom of the ladder, and having endured a down year last season relative to the one prior they have started this season positively. 
  • What has changed? The Cowboys have lost Peta Hiku to the UK, as well as Mitch Dunn and James Tamou to retirement and each of Riley Price, Jake Bourke and Taniela Sadrugu to other teams. Meanwhilee, Viliami Vailea comes across from the Warriors. 
  • Injury update: The Cowboys are reasonably healthy early in the season, but the few injuries they do have are bad ones. Zac Laybutt is out for the season with a knee injury, as is Coen Hess, while Jamayne Taunoa-Brown should be back around mid-season from an Achilles. Heilum Luki is expected to be available by Round 9 following an ankle injury.  

Bet on the Cowboys to make the Grand Final at $8.00 with PlayUp  

Parramatta Eels

After making their first Grand Final in over 20 years in 2022, the Eels failed to even make the finals, last year, finishing with a 12-12 record. This season they are more likely to be around that mark again than return to the very top, but at decent odds they aren’t the worst bet to go deep into the finals. Their start to the season was pretty solid, with a couple of wins in their first three games and a competitive loss at the hands of the Panthers, though a loss to the Tigers by a point and then the Raiders by 33 in a woeful performance was a little concerning. With Mitchell Moses out through injury they looked listless in those two games, but they bounced back immediately after with a really impressive and much needed defeat of the Cowboys to even their record at three wins and three losses. The Eels are absolutely as good as most of the plethora of other sides floundering around the middle of the ladder looking to snare a spot in the bottom part of the top eight, and while they are a rung below the likes of the Panthers, Broncos and Storm, when Moses returns they could easily get on a run and spring a few surprises 

  • What brings them here?  The Eels have been around the mark – at least the finals mark – for a number of years now, and while a Grand Final appearance seems unlikely, the odds mean it is not the worst bet going around.
  • What has changed? The Eels had a pretty quiet offseason. Jack Murchie and Waqa Blake headed overseas while Andrew Davey and Josh Hodgson retired, and former Sea Eagles Morgan Harper and Kelma Tuilagi made the move across from Manly.
  • Injury update: Mitchell Moses is the Eels’ most significant injury, with his foot injury expected to keep him out till Round 12. Haze Dunster also has a foot injury which will see him unavailable for a couple of months longer, while Arthur Miller-Stephen will miss the year with a knee. Toni Mataele is out until Round 11 with a hamstring, while Matt Doorey is due back from a facial fracture the week prior.

Bet on the Eels to make the Grand Final at $15.00 with PlayUp 

Newcastle Knights

The Knights’ barnstorming end to the 2023 season gave them plenty of reason for optimism entering this year, even if they did undergo a number of changes in the off-season. A 2-4 start to the season, however, was far from ideal, but they have played better than that record to the season. Out of those six games, Round 1 was really the only poor performance, a 16-point loss to a Raiders team that might be a little better than many people think. In the next five weeks they knocked off the Storm in a tight one as well as the Dragons easily, while their losses came by one point to the Cowboys, two points to the Roosters and eight points to the Warriors. They generally play really well on their home deck and should be able to win a majority of their games there, and with a number of very winnable away games through April and May – they play the Bulldogs, Dolphins, Tigers and Titans – they can turn things around and start winning a few games soon. The Knights should be able to put themselves right in the mix to play finals this year; admittedly they are a long shot to go really deep into the finals, but that incredible stretch late last year is hard to forget.  

  • What brings them here? After a disappointing first couple of seasons under coach Adam O’Brien and a disappointing first half or so of 2023, the Knights flicked a switch late last year and will be hoping to bring that momentum into this season.
  • What has changed? The Knights entered the 2024 season with a relatively different list to what they possessed last year. Kurt Mann and Dominic Young are notable omissions, while they’ll also be without each of Bailey Hodgson, Adam Clune, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Simi Sasagi. They did, however, pick up a couple of Panthers in the form of Jack Cogger and Thomas Jenkins, while they also snared Jed Cartwright from South Sydney, and Kai Pearce-Paul and Will Pryce from overseas. 
  • Injury update: The Knights have been fortunate with injury so far in 2024, with Tyson Frizell’s hamstring – for which there is not yet a timeline – the only one to report.

Bet on the Knights to make the Grand Final at $23.00 with PlayUp 

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Things are going from bad to worse for the Rabbitohs, who entered the season hoping to compete for a season and now look unlikely to even get near the finals. There is no denying just how significant a role injury has played, and their Round 6 loss to the Sharks in which they had to play the second half with just 14 players was reflective of their season to date. That took their record to 1-5, and while injury has been significant a number of those losses have also simply not been near the standard that they would expect to play at – a 48-6 loss to the Roosters and a 34-4 loss to the Warriors prime examples. There is still a fair bit of uncertainty around injury timelines at the time of writing which leaves things a little bit up in the air, but at their best this is still a team that is easily capable of playing finals, and if they do get there from the position they are currently in they will probably be a pretty dangerous team to play. With a tough couple of games to come following their Round 7 bye things could get out of hand pretty quickly if they aren’t already, but all of that is helping to really boost the odds of this team to do any damage this year. They are clearly up against it and have injuries and poor form to overcome to get there, but they’re the kind of team which could flip the script on its head pretty quickly and make the really long odds currently on offer for them to go deep into the finals look juicy very quickly. 

  • What brings them here? There was no value in this market to start the season, but a disastrous start has seen the Rabbitohs go from an expected top four side to potentially a bottom four one, boosting their odds to make the Grannie very quickly.
  • What has changed? Wighton coming across from the Raiders was a big acquistion, and the Bunnies also picked up Sean Keppie from Manly. Hame Sele, Blake Taaffe and Jed Cartwright, meanwhile, will all wear different jerseys this year.
  • Injury update: Where to start? Tevita Tatola and Tyrone Munro were the latest additions to the injury list from that injury-riddle Round 6 loss and both may spend an extended period on the sideline, while each of Jai Arrow, Lachlan Ilias and Richie Kennar are also TBC with their own injuries. Campbell Graham is expected to be available in the latter half of the year following a sternum injury, while Alex Johnston and Latrell Mitchell are due back in Round 10 from injury and suspension respectively.  

Bet on the Rabbitohs to make the Grand Final at $23.00 with PlayUp 

Canterbury Bulldogs

The Bulldogs underwent a massive amount of change over the course of the off-season, and entered the year with plenty of reason to think that they could finally begin to work their way up to the ladder in 2024. Unfortunately their first fortnight was a bit of a disaster, with an 18 and 19-point loss to the Eels and the Sharks respectively, but since then they have been pretty solid. A 32-point win over the hapless Titans got their season up and going while a couple of weeks later they knocked off the Roosters in an impressive display, but unfortunately they have also suffered a couple of tight losses. Sandwiched in between those two aforementioned wins was a four-point loss to the Rabbitohs when they were a little less injury-riddled, while in Round 6 they were really impressive at AAMI Park against the Storm but went down by two points. A 2-4 start doesn’t read particularly well on paper, but after the first two games they have been pretty good and have a whole bunch of very winnable games to come in the ensuing weeks. This team is looking a whole lot more robust than it has for a number of seasons now, and if they can continue to play the way that they have after the fortnight then the wins will begin to come. Even finals may well be a bridge too far for them this year and a Grand Final is most likely out of the question entirely, but they are the kind of team that could end up significantly outperforming what people are currently expecting from them. 

  • What brings them here? The Bulldogs have continually turned over their list since Cameron Ciraldo took over, and are gradually beginning to show some signs of improvement. 
  • What has changed? The Bulldogs continued their long-term list turnover in the off-season. They picked up, as mentioned, Stephen Crichton from the Panthers in what is a big get, while they also grabbed his teammate Jaeman Salmon, as well as Kurt Mann from the Knights, Blake Taaffe from the Bunnies, Jake Turpin and Drew Hutchison from the Roosters, Connor Tracey from the Sharks and Poasa Faamausili from the Dolphins. With all those ins there are also obviously heaps of outs; each of Jake Averillo, Corey Waddell, Kyle Flanagan, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Paul Alamoti have gone elsewhere in the NRL while Luke Thompson and Jayden Okunbor headed overseas.
  • Injury update: An extensive injury list is certainly not helping the Bulldogs’ cause. Karl Oloapu is out indefinitely with a neck injury, while each of Max King, Kurt Mann, Blake Taaffe and Harrison Edwards are TBC with their injuries. Ryan Sutton and Daniel Suluka-Fifita are due back in Round 12, and Jacob Preston in Round 9 from a fractured jaw.

Bet on the Bulldogs to make the Grand Final at $34.00 with PlayUp 

Best Outsider Prediction to Win the 2024 Grand Final

While there are a handful of teams that will almost certainly finish high up the ladder and be a Premiership contender come finals time, there are a number just a rung or two below who could spring a surprise. One team that stands out as particularly good value at this point in the season looks like the Knights. After an excellent end to the 2023 season, they have not started 2024 exactly as they would have liked to from a wins perspective, but they have still been really solid and are unlucky not to have an extra win or two to their name. With a number of winnable games to come they will likely begin to accumulate victories in the coming weeks, and their odds in this market are a good chance of being a fair bit shorter than what they are now in a few weeks’ time. 

Statistics

Recent upset Grand Final winners

  • 2016 – Cronulla Sharks 14 Melbourne Storm 12
  • 2015 – North Queensland Cowboys 17 Brisbane Broncos 16
  • 2001 – Newcastle Knights 30 Parramatta Eels 24
  • 1999 – Melbourne Storm 20 St George Illawarra Dragons 18

Recent upset losing Grand Finalists

  • 2019 – Canberra Raiders
  • 2017 – North Queensland Cowboys
  • 2011 – New Zealand Warriors
  • 2005 – North Queensland Cowboys

Current clubs yet to play in an NRL Grand Final

  • Gold Coast Titans – 2007 to Present

James is a sports writer from Melbourne, and has contributed to a variety of publications covering a range of sports including basketball, cricket, Australian Rules, golf and surfing to name a few. An avid fan of all of the above and more, James’ downtime is spent falling ungracefully off his surfboard, turning over footies and playing an out of tune guitar.

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