The year before a World Cup can feel like a torture when you know that some of the biggest matches in rugby union are officially next year.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of huge rugby league matches to watch in 2016. And what makes for an even better way to pass the time is to get involved in online sports betting and seeing for yourself what so many rugby league fans have already discovered: that any match can be fun and interesting with a responsible wager placed on it.
Below have compiled a list of four of our biggest rugby league matches in 2016 to help idle away some of the time until the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
As you’d expect from a huge sports event, the other thing to look out for will be the crazy amounts of money being wagered on the matches. Most of this is now done online, and whilst it’s impossible to get definite figures about the amounts being bet on rugby, suffice to say it’s pretty massive! If you’d like to try your luck, you can learn more from this site.
March 25: Brisbane Broncos vs. North Queensland Cowboys (NRL)
As if we need to even say it, expect no love to be lost when Brisbane hosts the Champion Cowboys on March 25 after that heart-wrenching lost.
Last season’s NRL Grand Final between Brisbane and North Queensland went down as possibly the greatest in the history of the NRL. In case you’ve somehow forgotten, the Broncos and Cowboys qualified for the Finals series after finishing second and third respectively in the regular season ladder. Brisbane would defeat North Queensland 16-12 in the elimination finals, but North Queensland would rally to win in the semi-finals and preliminary finals to set up a rematch against none other than Brisbane.
With Brisbane down this time 16-12 and just seconds remaining in the championship match, the Cowboys’ Michael Morgan raced to the right to draw three defenders, then before being tackled flicked to a streaking Kyle Feldt for the tying try. This set up a game-winning conversion attempt for captain Jonathan Thurston who then railed the attempt off the near post, sending the Grand Final to extra time for just the second time ever. There, Brisbane would knock on the kick off near their own 10-meter line, giving the Cowboys a clear opportunity to score a short range field goal and win their first Grand Final.
May 30-31: 2016 Super League Magic Weekend
Ok, this is actually 12 matches, but how can you not love the rugby smorgasbord that is the Super League’s annual Magic Weekend? This year’s matchups should be especially enticing as it is the League’s first year instituting a salary cap, introduced in an attempt to create more parity into the league.
While this current season is only a few weeks deep, that strategy seems to be working, as two of the usual Grand Final participants (Leeds and St. Helens) are mid-table or lower early on. And despite their sluggish start, perhaps the tasiest matchup of the weekend will be seeing how those defending champion Leeds Rhinos (the most successful Super League team in history) does against a Wigan squad looking to avenge last season’s Grand Final loss.
November 6: 2017 Rugby League World Cup Qualifying Playoff (Europe)
Just three spots remain for next year’s 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Two of these will go to the winners of the two Final Phase round-robin groups, and then one to the winner of a single knockout match on November 6 between the second place teams from each group.
Group A will feature a Serbian side looking to make their first World Cup appearance along with Welsh and Italian teams looking to qualify for their second straight Cups (but this time advance past the group stage). Likewise, Spain will be trying to climb out of Group B for their first appearance, but to do so they’ll need to get good results from matches against Ireland and Russia.
The runner-ups will vie for that final spot at the Leigh Sports Village in Leigh, England, a little under a year out from the 2017 League World Cup to be hosted by Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.
November TBD: Scotland vs. England/New Zealand/Australia (Rugby League Four Nations)
Like their rugby union team, Scotland is a rugby league nation that has just never seemed to be able to quite put things together since the turn of the century. Of particular note are their poor Rugby League World Cup performances, where they have failed to advance past the quarterfinals in their three tournament appearances.
However, the Bravehearts have shown promise recently, qualifying for the first time as the honorary fourth nation in the Rugby League Four Nations tournament, set to kick off sometime in November 2016. This of course comes after the Scots were the surprise winners of the 2014 European Cup, and the coming Four Nations Tournament will provide a nice measuring stick against England, New Zealand, and defending champions Australia ahead of the 2017 World Cup.