Rhys Sullivan attempts to predict where each team will finish what is expected to be an exciting 2022 season
16. Wests Tigers
Losing Adam Doueihi for the opening half of the season really hurts the Tigers ability to win games. While they won’t be as bad as some of the wooden spooners we’ve seen recently, they aren’t at the level needed to escape the spoon this season.
15. North Queensland Cowboys
On paper, the Cowboys have the worst full strength XVII in the comp. But games aren’t won on paper, and with Jason Taumalolo on that roster anything can happen. That said, I can’t see them doing much attacking with the spine they have.
14. New Zealand Warriors
Just like the Cowboys, the Warriors don’t have a very strong roster. Reece Walsh will be good, sure, but their forward pack shapes as one of the worst in the league and their halves combination shapes to be very hit or miss this season. But as we’ve seen so many times over the last 27 years, they’ll scrape together some wins through Origin and avoid the wooden spoon.
13. St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have a solid squad, but they still have too many holes to play at the consistency needed to push for a finals berth. If Ben Hunt can continue to play at the level he’s shown in preseason, I might be made to eat those words- but I’d do so with a smile on my face.
12. Newcastle Knights
Replacing Mitchell Pearce with Adam Clune could easily be one of the biggest downgrades since Melbourne replaced Cooper Cronk with Brodie Croft. The move means Kalyn Ponga will have to carry the team offensively, which so far, he hasn’t shown he can do at the level needed to play in the finals. And with Jayden Brailey missing the first half of the season, winning games just gets harder for the team.
11. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
To steal a phrase from NBA genius Masai Ujiri, the Bulldogs are “a year away from being a year away” in terms of competing for a premiership. The team has made massive improvements over the last 12 months, but still has way too many holes to get into the top eight. With the likes of Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau on board for 2023, however, it’s only a matter of time for the blue and whites.
10. Canberra Raiders
With Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad fully healthy, the Raiders should have fewer attacking problems than they did in 2021. That said, the team is still heavily reliant on Jack Wighton performing magic, which he couldn’t do much last year. And with the regression of Josh Hodgson, they lose a lot of the dynamism that got them to the grand final in 2019. They could make the 8, but at the moment I don’t see it happening.
9. Brisbane Broncos
The Broncos are an enigma this season. On one hand, the likes of Payne Haas, Adam Reynolds and Kotoni Staggs indicates that this team should be in the finals. At the same time, the core of this team is the same as the one that has won just eight of their last 42 games. If Brisbane get it together, they could sneak into the top four, but I’m going to play it safe and say they just miss the finals.
8. Cronulla Sharks
It’s a new era in Cronulla, but questions are still lingering about how Craig Fitzgibbon will structure his side. The Sharks are immensely talented with gamebreakers across the pitch, but where they end up this season depends on how the rookie head coach manages the team week in, week out.
7. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Let me preface this by saying this prediction is based on Tom Trbojevic regressing back to the mean after his insane 2021 season. If Turbo scores 28 tries again this season, they will obviously be much higher on the table, but I can’t really see that happening. He’ll still be a superstar, but he won’t get Manly those blowout wins they got last season.
6. South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs may have made the 2021 grand final but losing captain Adam Reynolds hurts the side massively. A lot will depend on how Cody Walker gels with new halfback Lachlan Ilias, but so far signs suggest that might take a bit of time. They could make another late charge into the third week of the finals, but I doubt they will do so by getting a second bite at the cherry.
5. Gold Coast Titans
If 2021 was a development year for the Titans, then 2022 should be the year they begin to put everything together. With game breakers all over the park, they are poised to be one of the best attacking sides in the league- the question is how will they go on the defensive end? For me, that’s the only thing stopping me from putting them in my top four.
4. Parramatta Eels
With so many key players ready to depart the club after this season, 2022 is make or break for the Eels. They still have the solid depth through the side that have made them such a strong team over the last 2 seasons, and I don’t see that changing this year. But the mid seasons drop in form have to end for them to break their 36-year premiership drought.
3. Melbourne Storm
The Storm have been the most dominant team in rugby league for the last six years, and that won’t change in 2022. The question is whether they can match it with Penrith and Sydney. While I think they can, in terms of regular season I can’t see them finding the consistency needed to finish above those two.
2. Penrith Panthers
The reigning premiers will be back for more in 2022, but one big question lingers – with no more Matt Burton, how will the team fare when Nathan Cleary and/or Jarome Luai are out? We all remember their disaster in TigerTown last season, and if that is the theme through this season then there’s no chance, they can pip the Roosters and Storm for the minor premiership.
1. Sydney Roosters
Between the return of Luke Keary and Lindsay Collins, the development of Sam Walker, and the presence of James Tedesco, Joey Manu and Angus Crichton, the Roosters are easily the most loaded side in terms of talent this season. Should they put it all together, they will practically be unbeatable on any given weekend. And they must be if they want to stay ahead of the Panthers and the Storm.