North Queensland Cowboys, Brisbane Broncos pick up the pace

PUNTERS have unloaded on North Queensland and Brisbane to win the premiership and plunged heavily on Cowboys half Johnathan Thurston to carry off an unprecedented fourth Dally M Medal.

Since both teams opened the 2015 NRL season with worrying losses, the Broncos have sprinted to five victories on the trot, while the Cowboys have hit back from a poor start to win their past three.

Thurston has been man of the match in all three wins over the Storm, Panthers and defending premier South Sydney, forcing bookmakers to slash his Dally M quote as the game's best player from $11 into $3.50 in recent weeks.

"After week one (when Brisbane lost 36-6 to Souths and the Cowboys fell 28-4 to the Roosters), punters put a line through the two Queensland teams," Tattsbet's Gerard Daffy told APN.

"But in the past month, 75% of money invested has been for those two clubs to win the premiership."

The Cowboys had been the best-backed team to win the premiership at $9, but after their second and third losses, touched $20.

Following Monday's 30-12 win over the Rabbitohs, they're now back into $6 and continuing to firm with Thurston all the rage to add the Dally M to his 2005, 2007 and 2014 successes.

Thurston and Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns, who since retiring has been elevated to immortal status, are the only three-time winners of the prestigious award first presented to South Sydney five-eighth Robert Laurie in 1980.

The Broncos are also back in the punters' good books.

They were backed from $11 into $9 before the season kicked off because of Wayne Bennett's return as coach and the arrival of representative star Darius Boyd.

However, their odds quickly blew out to $15 after their big opening-round loss to Souths and the injury to Boyd (achilles).

But five straight victories since and they're back into $7 and with the likes of Justin Hodges, expected to return from a hamstring injury against St George Illawarra on Friday night, Jordan Kahu and Boyd yet to return, Brisbane is looking well placed on top of the NRL ladder.

Souths, meanwhile, have not been as dominant without injured stars, halfback Adam Reynolds and strike centre Dylan Walker, while the Roosters have fallen out of favour with back-to-back losses.

PREMIERSHIP

Roosters $5, Cowboys $6, Rabbitohs $6, Broncos $7, Bulldogs $9, Storm $10, Panthers $11, Warriors $17, Dragons $26, Sharks $34, Knights $34, Tigers $41,

Sea Eagles $41, Eels $51, Raiders $101, Titans $101.



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