It’s the end of 2022, the first year since 2019 unaffected by Covid lockdowns and removal of border restrictions. Some things stayed the same while other dynasties were born. Here’s our take on the year it was.
Related: 2022 NRL Results
Panthers Stronger in 2022 as They Go Back-To-Back: Can They Three-Peat in 2023?Embed from Getty Images
The Penrith Panthers consolidated their 2021 Grand Final victory over South Sydney in Brisbane by taking out the 2022 decider at the first capacity NRL Grand Final since 2019, with their 28-12 victory over the Parramatta Eels.
Dylan Edwards was a deserved Clive Churchill Medal winner with an outstanding performance at fullback.
It’s an incredible stat that Penrith have only lost eight premiership matches in their last 69.
While the post-match celebrations will give the other 16 clubs ammunition for 2023, they are on the cusp of being the first team in 40 years to win three consecutive titles. The last to do so: the great Eels side from 1981 to 1983.
Queensland Prevail to Regain State of Origin TitleEmbed from Getty Images
Queensland regained the State of Origin shield after winning the series 2-1 over New South Wales. It was the 23rd time the Sunshine State has won the series.
With Billy Slater making his debut as head coach of the Maroons, they stunned the Blues in Sydney in their 16-10 win. The home team rallied late but were denied a final play after Isaah Yeo was held down close to the Maroons line with referee Ashley Klein calling full-time.
The Blues made amends in the second game at Optus Stadium in Perth with thirty unanswered second half points on their way to a crushing 44-12 victory. Nathan Cleary scored 22 points (2 tries and 8 goals) to level the series.
In a physical and emotional decider at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland powered home in the final twenty minutes with tries to Kalyn Ponga and Ben Hunt, wrapping up the series with a 22-12 win.
During the series 13 players made their debut with 7 representing Queensland and 6 New South Wales.
Kangaroos Win Twelfth World Cup Title With Samoa Runner’s UpEmbed from Getty Images
Australia took out the prestigious World Cup title for a third consecutive time after defeating Samoa in the final by 30-10.
Before the tournament they were ranked fourth thanks to the lack of tests played over the last four years. With their triumph, Australia have regained the number one spot in the IRL rankings.
The Kangaroos proved they are the best team in the world, remaining undefeated in six matches and scoring 286 points while only conceding 42.
And with that, Josh Addo-Carr made a huge statement after being snubbed for New South Wales during their 2022 campaign loss.
For their part, Samoa fought back well after copping heavy criticism in their opening day humiliation against England, to make the final.
The tournament exposed the lack of development in the European nations with Ireland, France and Scotland failing miserably.
Slow Progress for the Dolphins: Failure to Land Marquee SigningEmbed from Getty Images
It’s not too far away from the Dolphins making their debut in the NRL competition.
While the Dolphins have made progress in building a squad under veteran coach Wayne Bennett, they’ve struggled to land the marquee player that would give the club their star attraction.
They tried to get the services of Kalyn Ponga and reportedly offered a huge amount of cash to Cameron Munster who eventually turned them down to stay at the Storm. Dylan Brown was linked with the club before being offered a bizarre six-year option to remain at the Eels until 2031.
Maybe the latest rumour that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck may return from rugby and look to resume his NRL career at the Dolphins could come to fruition.
It shouldn’t be discounted that the Dolphins have purchased some experienced players who are either at the twilight of their careers, and fringe players looking to have a secure NRL spot.
The last team to make the finals in their debut season was St George-Illawarra Dragons who were runners up to the Melbourne Storm, winning their first title in their second NRL season.
Pride Gets the Better of Manly: Where Next for the Beleaguered Eagles?Embed from Getty Images
The embarrassment of the year award goes to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.
It backfired through lack of consultation with players, highlighted the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community with the emotions caused by the debate and ultimately ended the Sea Eagles chances of making the semi-finals.
This controversy highlights the reason why Ian Roberts is the only official gay player to play in the men’s game over the last 30 years and why it’s hard to see why any other player would want to come out of the closet. However, Toby Rudolf said in an interview with Fox Sports Jake Duke, that despite being identified as a heterosexual, his sexuality is fluid.
While seven players decided to take a moral stand, many quickly pointed out that while they decided not to wear a pride jersey, they were happy to promote gambling.
Des Hasler paid the price and it’s a long road back to recovery for the northern beaches club, both restoring supporter confidence in the club as well as uniting the team. Incoming coach Anthony Seibold has a big step up in coaching maturity to make this all happen given his exits from Brisbane and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The concept is good, the execution of the jersey was appalling.
Rising to the Top: Nicho Hynes Accolades After Departing the Melbourne StormEmbed from Getty Images
Nicho Hynes and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks needed each other.
Hynes finally was able to settle into a permanent halfback role where he successfully partnered up with veteran five-eighth Matt Moylan. Meanwhile, the Sharks put away the disappointment of running 9th in 2021 to finish second in 2022. New coach Craig Fitzgibbon gets kudos for the improvement in the Sharks side.
With the success, Hynes shared the accolades of winning the Sharks Porter-Gallen Medal, the Dally M Player of the Year and NothingButLeague Player of the Year awards. There’s little doubt that his arrival at the Sharks was the most influential signing of 2022.
Disappointingly, the Sharks were eliminated in straight sets and will be keen to make amends in 2023.
Warriors Finally Come Home: 1,038 Days Between Mount Smart Stadium GamesEmbed from Getty Images
One of the most emotional events of 2022 was the homecoming of the New Zealand Warriors after enduring a lengthy stay in Australia.
The Australian rugby league community were thankful of their efforts to keep the competition going with sixteen teams, but it took a heavy toll on some players and also coach Nathan Brown who stood down during their time at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe.
While Ken Maumalo scored the Warriors last try at Mount Smart Stadium on August 30, 2019 in their loss to South Sydney Rabbitohs, captain Tohu Harris scored the first Warriors try in their win over the Wests Tigers 22-2.
A return to normality with new coach Andrew Webster will hopefully see a focused and competitive Warriors side in 2023.
Jeremiah Nanai Proving to Be a Star in the MakingEmbed from Getty Images
There were many players who had breakthrough seasons in the NRL. Here’s who the NothingButLeague team believe deserve kudos.
The rise of the North Queensland Cowboys from potential wooden spooners, to hosting a Grand Final qualifier gives weight to Todd Payten emerging as an elite coach in the competition. They were by far the biggest moving team during 2022 having finished second last in 2021.
Jeremiah Nanai had a great season and looks to be a superstar in the making having made his debut for Queensland and Australia during 2022, all before he turns 20 next Feburary.
Fullback: Scott Drinkwater (North Queensland Cowboys)
Wingers: Murray Taulagi (North Queensland Cowboys), Taylan May (Penrith Panthers)
Centres: Izack Tago (Penrith Panthers), Will Penisini (Parramatta Eels)
Five-eighth: Tom Dearden (North Queensland Cowboys)
Halfback: Nicho Hynes (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Props: Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders), Reuben Cotter (North Queensland Cowboys)
Hooker: Reece Robson (North Queensland Cowboys)
Second Row: Jeremiah Nanai (North Queensland Cowboys), Hudson Young (Canberra Raiders)
Lock: Pat Carrigan (Brisbane Broncos)
Honourable mentions to Xavier Savage, Shaun Lane, Siosifa Talakai, Herbie Farnworth and Dom Young.
Vale to Our League LegendsEmbed from Getty Images
It was enough tough year for the rugby league community as they lost some greats of the game.
In February, rugby league great Johnny Raper lost his battle with dementia at the age of 82. Raper captained the Australian international side and was part of the St George Dragons side which won eleven consecutive titles.
The news of Paul Green’s shock passing in August rocked the rugby league community as he was still active in the game as late as 2021 when he coached the Queensland Origin team. He played 162 NRL matches between the Sharks, Cowboys, Roosters, Eels and Broncos. However, his biggest achievement came as a coach where he won the Cowboys maiden title against the Broncos in the dramatic 17-16 win.
More recently, Queensland Cup player Liam Hampson, aged 24, lost his life while on holidays in Spain with a few NRL players including AJ Brimson and Jordan Riki.
Other notable deaths include Olsen Filipaina, Frank Curry, Rockie Laurie, Bill Ashurst, Kevin Beardmore, Paul Broughton, Bob Cooper and Ken Wilson.
Thank you for being part of our readership in 2022 and look forward to your support in 2023.