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9th to 16th: Where Did It Go Wrong in 2022?

After 25 rounds, we have our top eight ready to take the next step in September and October. But what about the bottom eight? Which teams were unlucky to miss out and can expect a better 2023? Which teams disappointed? Which teams are due for a cleanout?

Brisbane Broncos (13W, 11L)

It’s hard to decide if Brisbane’s season was a success or a failure: while they won 13 games and were in top eight contention for most of the year, they crashed hard, losing their final three games to Melbourne (60-12), Parramatta (53-6), and St George Illawarra (22-12), as Canberra overtook them. 

Once the disappointment fades, you could argue that Brisbane’s young team ran out of gas after a big year and a heavy Origin workload. Adam Reynolds was worth every cent (Souths are still probably kicking themselves over letting him go) and gave Brisbane the extra bit of class they were lacking. They also had an 8-5 winning record at Lang Park, including a 38-0 “away” win over Manly Warringah in Magic Round. Though there were some behavioural issues during the late-season slump that would be concerning.

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St George-Illawarra Dragons (12W, 12L)

After their controversial finish to 2021, many expected the Dragons to be a bottom four team in 2022.

But, to their credit, they stayed in finals contention for most of the season before finishing just outside the eight. They had big wins over the Gold Coast and South Sydney, beat the Sydney Roosters on Anzac Day, and had a controversial win over Canberra in horrendous conditions at Wollongong. 

Ben Hunt carried the Dragons at times, and enjoyed some redemption to seal Queensland’s Origin win. Hopefully the powers-that-be at the joint-venture club do whatever they can to keep him, as a return to Queensland with The (Redcliffe) Dolphins will be tempting.

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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (9W, 15L)

After making the preliminary final in 2021, Manly regressed in 2022. Not surprisingly, Tom Trbojevic only played seven games, but the Sea Eagles didn’t do themselves any favours over the “Pride Jersey” fiasco. The fallout saw them their last seven games, including heavy defeats to the Gold Coast, Cronulla-Sutherland, and Canberra.

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7W, 17L)

While sacking a coach can be a band-aid solution sometimes, Mick Potter replacing Trent Barrett after the Magic Round loss to Newcastle turned the Bulldogs’ season around.

Potter allowed the Dogs to play with a freedom not seen in a couple of seasons, with wins over Parramatta, the Wests Tigers, the Gold Coast, and Newcastle, as their big recruits Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton shined.

While the Bulldogs fell away late (though they finished on a high by beating Manly Warringah), they have more cavalry coming in 2023, including new coach Cameron Ciraldo, Reed Mahoney (Parramatta), and Viliame Kikau (Penrith).

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Gold Coast Titans (6W, 18L)

Like Newcastle, the Gold Coast fell from finalists to also-rans. The rot started early, leading Canberra 22-4 at half-time in Round 3 – only to lose 24-22.

After an ugly win over the luckless Tigers in Round 4, the Titans lost five in a row, with Justin Holbrook lucky not to be the next coach sacked – joining Michael “Madge” Maguire, Barrett, and Nathan Brown.

At least high-scoring late-season wins over Manly Warringah and Newcastle, and the huge final round comeback against the Warriors, ensured the Titans would enter the off-season on a bright note.

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Newcastle Knights (6W, 18L) 

After top eight finishes in 2020 and 2021, Newcastle fell away in 2022, with coach Adam “Windscreens” O’Brien lucky to keep his job.

The Knights lost 12 straight from Round 3 to 15, including two big losses to Penrith and consecutive embarrassing losses to Parramatta and Melbourne (by a combined 89-4).

Then there was the off-field drama with Kalyn Ponga, as his season ended after the Round 19 loss to the Sydney Roosters following multiple concussions.

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Warriors (6W, 18L)

While it was another rough year for the Warriors, fans would have cherished their long-awaited return to Mt Smart Stadium: they beat the Wests Tigers 22-2 in Round 16 on their return home, and then belted the Bulldogs a month later. Unfortunately, their season ended in embarrassment: blowing a 26-12 lead against the Gold Coast – at Mt Smart – to lose 27-26 in Golden Point.

Overall, the Warriors were on the wrong end of a few heavy losses, conceding 40 points or more six times (including 70 against Melbourne on Anzac Day). Nathan Brown was sacked mid-season and replaced by Stacey Jones, with Andrew Webster to take over as head coach in 2023.

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Wests Tigers (4W, 20L)

Like a melodramatic soap opera, the poor old Tigers lurched from one disaster to another as they collected their first wooden spoon.

They lost Madge midseason (and interim coach Brett Kimmorley didn’t seem to add much, with Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall taking over in 2023), lost players in the controversial loan period, and were literally robbed of an upset win in Townsville. Even their redemptive win over Brisbane at Lang Park the following weekend was soured by Jackson Hastings (one of the Tigers’ best) breaking his leg after a ‘hip drop’ tackle from Patrick Carrigan. That Lang Park win was the Tigers’ last gasp, losing their final five games from there: including a 72-6 humiliation against the Sydney Roosters – the heaviest ever loss for the joint-venture club – and a 56-10 hammering against Canberra.

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