The Cowboys saved Erin Molan's tipping weekend with a last-minute win in Round 4.

My scientific study on NRL tipping

I'm the first to admit my tipping leaves a lot to be desired. Take for example Round 4, when I was only saved from a 'none for' by a miracle conversion and extra time field goal from a captain of a team that was yet to win this year. Thanks JT and Cowboys, I owe you big time!  

I enjoyed a promising start to the season, leading a couple of tipping competitions after Round 2, but my luck (to say nothing of my wise and erudite expertise) seems to have run out. It's not a particularly inspiring position to be in with a fair few rounds still to go.

There's no denying this could be a long and pretty disappointing year for my tipping again. But, like North Queensland, could I possibly pull off a freakish come-from-behind resurgence to the top of the tipping table? And how might I do it? 

I cannot predict the future, I can't afford to hire David Middleton to do extensive weekly research (but happy to take free advice if you're offering, Middo?), and I have never been particularly good at maths so using numbers and formulae to make my predictions isn't going to help either.  

See how all NRL.com's tipsters are travelling

My horrific failure last week has got me thinking… what makes a good tipster? How much of it is luck? How much of it is knowledge? Can factoring in too much data have a negative impact? How big a part does genuine good luck play when trying to predict results in a competition where anything can – and does – happen, and when major upsets are a weekly occurrence?

And yes, for all those who have followed my tips for a few years now, I KNOW picking the Raiders every single week doesn't always help, but I genuinely believe they will win every single game they play, so I shall continue to bleed green in my tips. YES – even last week against the Roosters I thought Canberra would win!

So in the spirit of good, credible journalism I began my research with Mr Google. But after an hour of searching variations of 'how do you tip winners in the NRL', 'tips for tipsters in sport', 'how not to be a loser in your tipping comp', I was no closer to finding the answer.

So I thought, who better to ask than last year's official NRL Tipping winner – 18-year-old Harley Dickfos? I assumed this kid must have been born-and-bred NRL obsessed. How else do you beat thousands and thousands of footy tragics in the biggest comp around? But it wasn't the case.

"I joined the NRL Tipping Comp about a week before the season commenced with my mates. I had watched a couple of NRL seasons and of course all the Origin games, but I had never followed the game closely," Harley told me.

"My first three weeks I started off about average, I was ranked about 20,000th. Then from the fourth to the seventh week, I correctly tipped 28 straight matches. From there, I held my lead, nervously, right to the last week.

"I believe the key to my success was not being biased. I didn't support my local team (the Broncos), and therefore I always had fair judgment. Secondly, I am a big stats man and I paid close attention to form as well as history. One stat that stood out, I remember, was St George Illawarra hadn't won at Canberra since 2001. Thirdly, I got a lot of advice, and by the end of the season I was mulling over every single tip and watching every single NRL game. 

"At the same time, luck played a huge part in my win. If one of those games during the streak didn't go my way, I probably wouldn't have believed I could have done it. I remember the game, where Newcastle beat Melbourne on the hooter and as it happened, I had tipped Newcastle.

"Winning the tipping competition as an 18 year-old has definitely been a highlight of my life. Not only did I receive an incredible prize of $10,000 and tickets to the NRL Grand Final, but it played a role in my application for a job with the elite data collection company, Champion Data."

Well then. I will certainly struggle with the bias element but the studying of stats could work. And luck… well it's got to come sometime!

Given my loyalty to the Raiders, it was refreshing to discover a current joint-leader of this year's NRL.com tipping comp is as passionate about his team as I am about mine. Yes, the Newcastle Knights' early season success has played a big part, but it's not the only reason he's on top. Jack Brady actually works for the official NRL website, so he lives and breathes the game.

"In all honesty, I'm pretty meticulous when it comes to tipping. It's probably the competiveness in me, really. Winning is fun – it's a disease," Jack said.

"It's all about the bragging rights in the office, well it is for me anyway. Those rights are a good thing to have when it comes to both tipping and NRL Fantasy.

"When it comes to tipping, I think back to the previous times the competing teams played, and obviously how they have been tracking in recent times, and come to a decision from there, as many usually would.

"However, sometimes you can't help but have urges when it comes to deciding on tips. Like this weekend for example, I just can't help but think the Raiders will win against Manly. Considering how average they have been playing, I think Ricky will have them ready to unleash, and considering they beat Melbourne last Easter, they definitely have past form on this particular weekend – which I'm ready to capitalise on.

"I can't say I have won a tipping competition in my life though. I daresay it's due to my loyalty. I'm a massive Knights fan and I'm probably only leading the NRL.com competition off the back of their current form because I pick them every bloody week, no matter what. 

"Everyone in the office is sick of my smugness both due to Newcastle's and my own form, but you can't help singing when you're winning."

Well said Jack, whose illuminating insight concludes my scientific study on tipping. 

After careful analysis I have decided that tipping with my heart and not my head is bound to get lucky one of these days, so it's the Raiders to down the mighty Sea Eagles by roughly 40 points on Saturday evening. If you're a resident of the magnificent Albury-Wodonga region, head to the Lavington Sports Ground to witness this great spectacle. And happy Easter and happy tipping to you all! 

Follow Erin on Twitter: @Erin_Molan

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