Get excited rugby league fans, the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership season is only days away!
On paper, the new season appears to be very open with clubs making some important signings, with other clubs have lost some big players.
Arguably the biggest off-season signing was made by the Brisbane Broncos when they signed premiership winner Adam Reynolds from the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Broncos have struggled in the halves in recent years and expectations from their fans will be that Reynolds can lead their young side around the park. Questions still remain about who will join Reynolds in the halves with coach Kevin Walters trying out numerous options in the trial matches.
2021 NRL premiers the Penrith Panthers will be aiming for another strong season and will again be led by captain Nathan Cleary and NSW Origin team mate Jarome Luai. The Panthers are a side stacked with young talent across the park and although they have lost Matt Burton and Kurt Capewell, they should again finish near the top of the ladder.
The Canterbury Bulldogs have spent big in the off season with Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Dufty and Tevita Pangai Jr all joining the club. The Dogs still have question marks around the halves and hooker positions and most pundits are tipping the side to miss out on finals footy again this season.
The Melbourne Storm should again finish towards the top of the ladder and still have of the best spines in the NRL with Ryan Papenhuyzen at fullback, Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes in the halves and Harry Grant at hooker. The signing of Xavier Coates from the Broncos will help them cover the loss of Josh Addo-Carr after he went to the Dogs.
The Sydney Roosters are of the NRL’s most consistent teams and coach Trent Robinson always has his side well-drilled and disciplined. After an injury-plagued 2021 season, the Roosters will be aiming to be back among the NRL’s elite. The return of Connor Watson to the club will add depth in the hooking role and the halves.
The Cronulla Sharks head into the new season with a new coach in Craig Fitzgibbon and some excellent signings from the Melbourne Storm in Nicho Hynes and Dale Finucane. If Matt Moylan can stay injury free and if he can combine well with Hynes in the halves, the Sharks could be a chance to play finals footy.
After losing to Penrith in the grand final last year, Souths will be keen for another big season, while the Manly Sea Eagles look strong and will be hoping the Trbojevic brothers can again lead them to the finals.
Long-suffering Eels fans will be hoping that 2022 will be ‘their year’ after consistently playing finals footy in recent years. The pressure will be on captain Clint Gutherson and halves pairing Dylan Brown and Mitchell Moses to deliver the Eels their first premiership since 1986.
The North Queensland Cowboys, Wests Tigers, the Warriors and the Canberra Raiders will be hoping for a much improved 2022 NRL season after being disappointing last year and missing the finals.
The Newcastle Knights finished seventh last season and the pressure will again be on star player Kalyn Ponga to lead his team to victory, especially after the off-season departure of Mitchell Pearce.
The Gold Coast Titans proved to be the surprise packet last season and snuck into the finals by finishing in eighth position. The Titans have an exciting group of young players including fullback Jayden Campbell, halves AJ Brimson and Toby Sexton and Queensland Origin forwards David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and if they can play consistent footy, the Titans can again make a push for the top eight.
This author believes the big improver in the new season will be the St George Illawarra Dragons (and no, it’s not because he is a ‘one eyed Dragons supporter’).
The Dragons were on track for finals footy last year after making a strong start to the season. That was before the infamous ‘BBQ-gate’ controversy which resulted in the sacking of Paul Vaughan and fines and suspensions for 12 of his team mates.
The Red V finished the season in a disappointing 11th position on the table and again missed the finals.
The Dragons have recruited strongly in the off-season with new signings Moses Suli, Jaydn Su’A and Moses Mbye, plus Francis Molo, Aaron Woods and George Burgess, who will add plenty of experience and depth to the forward pack.
The Dragons have a good mix of youth and experience with young guns Talatau Amone, Tyrell Sloan, Cody Ramsey and Jayden Sullivan all looking for big seasons after getting a taste of the NRL last year.
Expectations from Dragons fans is that the team will play finals footy this season, with many pundits tipping the club to feature in the top eight at the end of the season.
Speaking on Fox League’s season preview, rugby league great and former Panther Greg Alexander believes Dragons captain and halfback Ben Hunt could be a dark horse for the Dally M medal at the end of the season.
“I like their exciting young players, I like Amone and Tyrell Sloan, there is a player in him, he is very exciting but the biggest reason is Ben Hunt, I think Ben Hunt for the most of last year played footy like he was back in 2015, the best he has been in the Red V jumper,” Alexander said.
“I think Ben Hunt can challenge for the Dally M, that is how good a season I think is in front of Ben Hunt and if that’s true, then the Dragons play finals footy.”
So with the gruelling pre-season slog over for the players and trial matches complete, there is only one thing left to do and that is to start the 2022 NRL season, bring on the footy!