The 2022 Super League season concluded 110 days ago with St Helens securing victory over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford, but what else happened in the season and why is it worth either building on or burying behind?
Every year records are set for teams and players and the history of Super League is continuously written, for example last season saw Bevan French score the most tries in a single game when he crossed over seven times against Hull FC.
That would be a statistic to remember but other teams such as Warrington Wolves it was a year to forget. The Wire recorded their lowest ever Super League finish as they placed 11th having found themselves in a relegation scrap.
For each team the 2022 season marked something momentous or something forgettable so here’s our ranking of what each club’s most impressive and depressive stats were during the 2022 season.
-Despite conceding an average of almost 23 points per game across the season the Tigers managed to limit St Helens to an average of just 15 in their two meetings, including an iconic win at the Jungle. That figure is the lowest average score that Saints managed against any Super League side in their Grand Final winning campaign.
– When their opponents scored 20 points or more the Tigers only managed to win on two occasions from a possible 15. Considering that the average points per team per game on the whole season was approximately 21.5, that could spell trouble for 2023 if they fail to win out in the high-scoring affairs.
-The Dragons won seven of the eight games in which their Australian playmaker Mitchell Pearce scored in. That included wins over the likes of Leeds and Wigan with the sole loss coming to Hull FC at home, one of just three home losses for the Perpignan side.
– The problem that persisted for the Dragons as it often does was their away form with only six wins away from the Gilbert Brutus stadium during the regular season. Adding in their Magic Weekend loss as well takes Catalans to eight away losses meaning only a 43% winning record on the road. For contrast during the 2021 season when they lifted the League Leaders Shield they won 10 from 12 road games, a huge increase up to 83% win rate.
– The Giants had an impressive season in general, placing third in the league and making it to the Challenge Cup final, although on the big stage they sadly fell short on both occasions with a narrow 16-14 loss to Wigan and then a crushing 28-0 loss to Salford in the play-offs. A positive for Huddersfield to build on though would be their home form during the regular season, which was the joint second best in the division with an incredible 12 wins from 13. That sole loss came to St Helens in round nine.
– Obviously the inverse of having such amazing home form and failing to capture the title would be poor away form and that was certainly true, just four wins and a draw across 13 games is far from good enough to challenge for the title. But more of a concern was the source of their tries. The Giants’ top scorer was veteran forward Chris McQueen who at age 35 found a purple patch as he recorded 15 tries in his 23 games, an impressive jump from his six in 27 prior to 2022. That clearly isn’t a sustainable way to score points so hopefully for Huddersfield the addition of the likes of Jake Connor, Jake Bibby, Jack Bibby, Kevin Naiqama and Esan Marsters among others will solve that problem.
– The 2022 season marked the second consecutive that FC missed the playoffs but they had a star emerge amongst their ranks with Brad Fash having a truly incredible breakout season. Whilst Fash is 26 this was a coming-of-age year for the forward as he earned all the honours at FC’s end-of-season awards. Both he and stalwart Danny Houghton ranked in the top three for marker tackles across the entire league, with 180 and 213 respectively. That sort of industrious work ethic is something that can’t always be coached so it will certainly be welcome as Tony Smith crosses the city and tries to revive the Black and Whites.
– FC saw their season dwindle out and that was in the end something that will have contributed to Brett Hodgson’s sacking. Across the last 10 games of the season FC won just three times but more concerning was the nature in which they were losing. Over just that period of 10 games they allowed an average of 32.4 points per game with the season being rounded off with a defeat at home to their cross-city rivals, 36-4, in a game during which the Robins only had a squad of 16 men. That’s something Smith will have to work on, for context St Helens conceded only a further 50 points across the entire season with 374 over 27 games relative to 324 over 10 games.
– The Robins had an up and down season as they made the Challenge Cup semi-finals but failed to make the playoffs. One key strength that they displayed was that once they went ahead they rarely gave up that lead. On seven of the nine occasions that they headed in at the half leading they went on to win, with the exception being their round 13 and round 25 defeats to Catalans and Wakefield respectively in which they went eight and six points up but conceded without reply to lose out.
– For all the brilliance of retaining their half-time leads and turning them into two points at an incredibly impressive percentage the Robins only won on the road four times, two of which saw them run out to big leads and hold on. If Willie Peters is going to come in and improve Rovers’ fortunes then their form outside of Craven Park needs to take a steep increase, particularly with the failure to win in their ’14th away game’ which saw them lose to rivals FC at Magic Weekend. An away record of four wins from fourteen will require a boost in order for Peters to return KR to the play-offs.
– Rohan Smith took over from Richard Agar and transformed Rhino’s season as he lifted them from the lower end of the table to eventually finish fifth before making a run to the Grand Final. Despite losing his first game in charge against Salford Red Devils, Smith took Leeds on an incredible run of form and actually finished the regular season with a record of 11 wins from his 16 games, a record that was only surpassed by St Helens. Put that kind of form across a full season and there’s plenty to look forward to for Rhinos. More impressive was that Smith oversaw seven wins from seven at Headingley making their home a fortress.
– That impressive home form obviously means that Rhinos’ away form under Smith left something to be desired but it was the manner in which they defended in those games that was actually the problem. A loss to relegated Toulouse by a margin of 20-6 was the lowlight but an average of over 24 points conceded per game was the major issue. The statistics get even worse when you exclude the two teams who placed 11th and 12th and just analyse Smith’s team’s defensive woes in the seven other away games when the club conceded almost 28 points per game. For context Toulouse conceded the most points across the entire season and they only allowed an average of 27.5 points per game.
– The rebranded Leopards earned promotion last season as they won 26 of their 27 games with 25 wins on the spin following their round two loss to second-placed Featherstone Rovers. Whilst it’s hard to analyse the success and failures of Leigh given the lesser quality of opposition they faced it’s undeniable that scored over 1,300 points is impressive with the Leythers surpassing 30 points in 25 of their 27 regular season games. Despite top try-scorer Nene Macdonald heading to Leeds there will still be plenty of tries in their 2023 Super League squad with their 2022 campaign seeing over 8.5 tries per game.
– It’s hard to find a worrying stat for a team that won 26 of their 27 regular season games, especially when they’re also recruited incredibly well, but the trend of Super League of recent years has been that what comes up must go down. In the current format of one-up and one-down relegation and promotion that’s been in place since 2019 the newly promoted side has gone straight back down, something that will worry Adrian Lam’s side.
Salford Red Devils
– Salford made the playoffs as they bounced back from a poor 2021 campaign that saw them finish 11th and their Man of Steel Brodie Croft was a key reason for that. Croft became the second Australian scrum-half to win the award for the Red Devils in four seasons and if they can retain him then that will be incredible for Super League. Croft registered 25 try assists, fourth most in Super League, with the main beneficiary being Ken Sio who registered 26 tries in his 28 appearances to come second on the scoring charts.
– A negative aspect of Paul Rowley’s maiden campaign in charge of Salford would be their terrible start which saw them win just three of their opening ten games. Even worse was the fact that the Devils won their opening two meaning that they went on a streak of just one win in eight, something that almost cost them their playoff appearance. During that period they managed a measly 18 points per game before turning it on for the remaining 17 games. A duplication of those seven losses in ten could cost them dearly considering they play the other five teams expected to place in the bottom six (using bookmakers odds), including Leigh twice.
– It’s hard to find a specific statistic that was most impressive about Saints incredible season where they landed the League Leaders Shield and Grand Final double. The American sports idiom is that “offence wins games but defence wins championships” and that’s the case with Saints. Conceding just 13.85 points per game over the course of the season, that figure represented the lowest total over a season with a minimum of 27 games since Saints themselves in 2019 when they averaged 13.6.
– Whilst it’s hard to find a worrying stat for a team that has won four consecutive Grand Finals the worry could be that the architect of their last three Grand Final victories, Kristian Woolf, has left for the NRL. Whilst club legend Paul Wellens is set to take over he’s never coached a professional men’s side and will have to buck the trends if he’s to lift the Grand Final in his first season. The most recent coach to lift the trophy at Old Trafford in their maiden season as a head coach was Michael Maguire in 2010 with Wigan so if anything is against Saints it could be history.
– Trinity had a difficult season as they found themselves in a relegation battle but it was their form near the end of the season that helped them avoid the drop and also the thing that they can be most hopeful about as they head into 2023. Wakefield won four of their last five games with the season finale against Huddersfield being a loss in overtime. That run of form extended to five wins in seven with the eighth game being an overtime loss to Champions St Helens. Even still they managed to beat Saints in the reverse fixture as they became the only side to win at the Totally Wicked Stadium all season in their round 26 matchup.
– Whilst the end-of-season form was something to behold the worries for Wakefield as they enter 2023 still surround them. Tipped by many including the bookmakers to fall out of Super League they have a huge task on hand with one of the youngest squads in the competition. Whilst the youth of Corey Hall and Lewis Murphy certainly boosted them last season there’s lots to be said about experience, something Wakefield could lack in 2023. Of the eight players to start 18 or more games in 2022 (two thirds of the season or more) three have left and two are the talented yet inexperienced Hall and Murphy. Add in Super League’s youngest coach and it could be a cause for concern for Trinity in 2023.
– Warrington had a poor season by their standards and even found themselves in somewhat of a relegation battle as they eventually finished 11th. The shining lights and the focus that Wire fans will have for 2023 is their impressive young backs. Amongst players with over 100 carries young Matty Ashton ranked first for average gain at over 9.5 metres on his way to 13 tries. Ranking fourth was centre Connor Wrench with an average of 9.1 metres whilst fellow youngster Josh Thewlis managed nine tries in 19 appearances and has since been rewarded with the number two shirt.
– Obviously with an 11th placed finish, their worst ever in the Super League era, there’s plenty to pick at for the Wire to improve on but the most concerning stat has to be where there wins came from. With Daryl Powell taking the helm for his first year at the Halliwell Jones they got off to a flyer with three wins from three however won just seven of their remaining 24. That included a victory over relegated Toulouse, one over a Salford side in round 27 that was without any significant starters and a win at Magic Weekend over a Catalans side that struggled on the road. Just four wins from 12 against the top six, which is ultimately where Warrington intend to be, doesn’t spell success for 2023.
– The superb Bevan French was obviously a highlight as he tallied an average of over 1.5 tries per game with his seven try romp of Hull FC aiding that average significantly but he wasn’t the only one who ran riot scoring tries. Matt Peet’s first season saw the Warriors score the most points of any side averaging over 30 points per game, the most a Wigan side had managed since 2014, or that any side had managed since St Helens in 2019. That imperious scoring record meant that Wigan were the only side to have a perfect home record as they won 13 from 13 at the DW with an average scoreline of 38 points to 10.
– Losing just eight times across the regular season, and once in the playoffs for a total of nine, it was the inability to score that was Wigan’s weakness. Unlike St Helens and other playoffs they couldn’t rely on staunch defence to win the gritty games with four of their nine losses seeing them score 12 points or less. A further two losses saw them fail to go past 18 points giving Wigan a record of six losses from six when they managed 19 points or fewer. It’s obvious that teams will lose more often when they fail to score more than the equivalent of three converted tries but for context St Helens managed three wins with less than 18 points, Huddersfield three, Catalans two and Leeds two as well. The inability to win gritty games should be a major worry for Wigan.