The 2022 NRL season is set to kick off on Thursday 10 March and while that still seems a long way off, most teams are using the off-season to boost their squads and make preparations ready for the pre-season that will kick off early in the New Year.
As teams look back on the 2021 season, there was an unprecedented gap between the top teams and the rest. This adds pressure at both ends of the table heading into the 2022 season. Those teams that made the finals are under pressure to build on that success and kick on, with aspirations of grand final glory once again and those that were way off the pace are desperate to move off the bottom rungs of the ladder.
The off-season has already seen a host of players transfers across nearly every franchise in the league and this will give plenty of sides the hope that the gulf in quality can be bridged and hopefully for fans, this will mean a more competitive NRL in 2022.
Whilst the season opener is still a few months away, we wanted to take a look at some of the favourites for the 2022 NRL season and four of the teams we expect to be pushing for a premiership.
Let’s kick things off with the reigning premiers, the Penrith Panthers. After a stellar season in 2021 in which they ran out victorious against a high flying Rabbitohs side in the grand final, we fully expect the Panthers to be challenging once again in 2022.
The side will keep the same spine as last season, adding some real stability to the squad, although Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Edwards are entering the final year of their contracts and the team will need to plan for their succession. Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai will once again provide the strength at the back and it would be no surprise to see the Panthers make the grand final again in 2022.
Ivan Cleary’s men had the best defence in the league last season, conceding just 286 points and they will be hoping to add to their grand final defence with a minor premiers’ finish in the regular season, improving on second-place last season.
The Panthers will be one of the favourites to lift the title in 2022. Get the latest odds from Betway with live betting, live odds and cashout options.
Over the past decade, the Melbourne Storm has been one of the most consistent franchises in the NRL, boasting five grand final appearances and five minor premierships in that period. Last season will be chalked down as a disappointment, losing to the Panthers in the preliminary final encounter.
Like the Panthers, the Storm has retained the spine of their team from last season and this will stand them in good stead for the 2022 season. They have lost Nicho Hynes in the off-season, however, he mainly played off the bench towards the end of last season.
Anything other than a place in the grand final would represent another disappointing season for the Storm and we expect them to be right in the mix in the coming season, both in the regular season and the end of season playoffs.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The South Sydney Rabbitohs put up an incredible season in 2021. Written off not once, but twice during the regular season after a run of terrible results and the loss of Latrell Mitchell, the Bunnies bounced back time after time and proved all the doubters wrong by running the Panthers all the way in the grand final.
The loss of Mitchell was a tough one to take, however, youngster Blakje Taafe stepped up and covered brilliantly, a hugely promising sign for the future. Alex Johnston was the leading try-scorer in the league in 2021 and Cody Walker the leading try-assister – a devastating combination that will wreak havoc on defences again this season.
There are question marks about their new coach, Jason Demetriou and the loss of long-serving stalwart Adam Reynolds will be a loss to the team. That being said, write off the Rabbitohs at your peril – we expect them to make the top four once again and push the Panthers and Storm all the way for a top-two finish.
The Sydney Roosters will be hoping to bounce back in 2022 after their 2021 season was ravaged by injuries. Three players were forced into retirement after long-standing injuries and Luke Keary was ruled out for the entire season after suffering an ACL injury in round three. Despite these injuries, the Roosters, under Trent Robinson, exceeded expectations with a fifth-place finish in the regular season before going down hard to the Sea Eagles in finals week.
The injuries kept coming for the Roosters and the return of some of those players will feel like a bunch of new signings heading into the 2022 season. The return of Keary is a huge positive and his partnership with Daily M Rookie of the Year Sam Walker is an exciting prospect for Roosters fans.
If they manage to keep their key players fit, we expect the Roosters to make the top four and like the Rabbitohs, they could push the Panthers and Storm all the way in 2022.
Best of the Rest
There will of course be many twists and turns throughout the season and there will be plenty of teams that fancy their chances of making the playoffs. Other teams we expect to push for the top eight in 2022 include:
- Manly Sea Eagles
- Parramatta Eels
- Newcastle Knights
- Gold Coast Titans
There is still a lot of water to pass under the bridge before the season kicks off in March, however, we are already excited to see how the teams are shaping up for the 2022 season and the prospects for a much more competitive season in 2022.