Predicting who will make the NRL finals in 2022

The 2022 NRL season promises to be one of the most exciting yet with more player movement than ever making it one of the most unpredictable year’s ahead since the inaugural campaign in 1998. Penrith Panthers go into the campaign as reigning champions after their nail-biting 14-12 triumph over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in one of the most captivating Grand Finals date back in October.

It’s no surprise that the Panthers go into the new campaign as join-favourites to retain their crown with last season’s minor Premiers the Melbourne Storm. After an overhaul of their roster, the Rabbitohs are now outsiders to make it back to the Grand Final with Manly and their arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters backed before them to claim the 2022 title. Parramatta, Gold Coast and Canberra are next in the running with nigerian bookmaker featuring more odds on who will take home the crown next year.

Excitement is starting to build among NRL fans as the season slowly creeps up and players start to reach full flow in their pre-season training ahead of the new campaign. So, to add to the anticipation and taking into account every discussed above, combined with new recruits and changes in many team’s coaching staff, we have predicted how the 2022 NRL top eight will look at the end of next year.

1st – Penrith Panthers

The reigning Premiers look to have the strongest roster for the new year. Having retained much of the team that beat South Sydney in the 2021 Grand Final, the Panthers have recruited well in the shape of Sean O’Sullivan from the Warriors and Chris Smith from the Bulldogs. Ivan Clearly will esnure his charges don’t drop off despite winning the minor Premiership in 2020 and then big prize in 2021, with their biggest challenge likely to be motovation. It takes a good team to win a title but a great team to retain it and being the team to beat will bring a different kind of pressure. However, Penrith have proved to be the most consistent team over the last two years and with Nathan Cleary only getting better as he hits his prime years, it’s very likely we’ll see the Panthers in a third consectutive Grand Final in 2022 having topped the table for the second time in three years.

2nd – Melbourne Storm

I think everyone is still shocked Melbourne missed out on the 2021 Grand Final. They were the best team last season, highlighted by the fact they topped the ladder and scored the most points. They were unlucky in the semis against the Panthers in what was a swansong year at the club for many. Josh Addo-Carr, Max King and Dale Finucane are among those to have left the club in the off-season but recruits like Xavier Coates, Nick Meaney and Josh King will ensure the Storm stay among the competition’s front runners. While they are coached by Craig Bellamy, Melbourne will always be there or there abouts and another top two finish is more likely than not in 2022.

3rd – Sydney Roosters

Stats would suggest 2021 was a poor one for the Roosters given their high standards, but injuries undeniably played a huge part in their drop down the league. Although not catastrophic, their fifth-place finish last term felt a lot worse by the time Manly handed them a thumping in the finals. The retirement of several club legends will have many tipping Trent Robinson’s side for a repeat finish, but recruits Connor Watson, Renouf Atoni, Paul Momirovski and Kevin Naiqama – combined with the return of injured playmaker Luke Keary – will fire the Roosters back into title contention.

4th – Manly Sea Eagles

After a solid season and a top four finish in 2021, Manly fans were left shattered by their poor showing in the finals. Humbling defeats to Melbourne and South Sydney highlighted their inexperience but their young side is only going to get better. Despite what looks on the face of it to be some lightweight recruitment, the likes of Brad Parker, Josh Schuster and Haumole Olakau’atu could come of age this season in what looks like a golden generation of talent. A Grand Final place might again prove to be one step too far, but the Sea Eagles will be in the running.

5th – South Sydney Rabbitohs

With a little more luck, we would be talking about the reigning Premiers here, but there will be no hangover going into 2022 with a big overhaul on Redfern. Some huge names have departed the club including captain Adam Reynolds, Dane Gagai and Braidon Burns. The Rabbitohs chances in 2022 will depend on how Anthony Milford settles in with big pressure on his shoulders to replicate the form that made him one of the biggest names in the NRL. Many hold the opinion that Jason Demetriou may be in for a baptism of fire in his first season at the helm, and it could well go one way or the other, but the Bunnies should fall somewhere in the middle of people’s contrasting predictions on how they will perform next year.

6th – Parramatta Eels

Having signed nobody and shipped off some dead wood, Parramatta go into 2022 with pretty much the same team. The Eels have been on the cusp of something special for what seems like years now, but for whatever reason it has just not quite happened. Despite this they still have a star-studded squad and one the competition’s best players in the shape of Clint Gutherson. It’s hard to see the Eels winning the comp next year, but they will make the finals in a similar season to the last one.

7th – Cronulla Sharks

Another team with a new head coach is the Cronulla Sharks. NRL legend Craig Fitzgibbon is tasked with taking this underperforming group of players back into the top eight next season. Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes are among their big-name recruits and though several high-profile players have exited, it may just take the pressure off the 2016 Premiers. They should improve on last season enough to make the top eight.

8th – St George Illawarra Dragons

Dragons’ fans are excited and with good reason. Jaydn Su’A, Tautau Moga, Francis Molo, George Burgess, Moses Mbye, Moses Suli, Jack Gosiewski and Aaron Woods represent great additions for the Red Vee as they aim to bridge the three positions needed to make the finals. Their recruitment complements some superb home-grown talent, and that precious eighth-place spot could be theirs if head coach Anthony Griffin can get them to gel quickly.

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