The NRL 2022 sees a return to normality with all teams returning to play in their home stadiums. Excluding the Warriors, who will lay in Queensland, it looks unlikely that we will have a bubble situation. There is no clear cut favourite for this year’s premiership.
NRL 2022 Season Betting Preview
Brisbane Broncos – 25/1
Should be more stable this year after adding experienced leaders in Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell. Coach, Kevin Walters, has just renewed his contract until the end of 2023. Walters is severely inept tactically, continuously chopped and changed the side last year. Brisbane are still yet to set a spine in stone. If Brisbane gets off to a losing start expect the media to put them and coach Walters under the spotlight. There are some expectations for Brisbane to improve this year, but I have no confidence in Walters as a coach. Reynolds is on his last legs, having suffered from hamstring injuries recently. Reynolds fitness is a major factor for Brisbane’s season. If he misses parts of the season they’ll repeat last season’s situation, continuously rotating their halves. Brisbane show signs of life, but have the potential for another dire season.
Canberra Raiders – 20/1
Canberra had some dramas off-field last season, the players publicly fell out with coach Ricky Stuart. Those issues seem to have been put to bed now but I’ll be waiting for them to prove it first. Canberra were one of, if not, the worst teams ATS wise last year. They had a habit of leading at half time and losing. Canberra hasn’t made any serious additions, nor had they lost any key players. Canberra did sign Jamal Fogarty from the Gold Coast. Fogarty has the ability to steer them around in attack, allowing star player Jack Wighton to play his natural game. Fogarty was injured in Canberra’s final trial and will miss 4 months of the season. Forcing Stuart to play a rookie, Brad Schneider, at the key position of Halfback.
Only 12 have done it before. Canberra Raiders five eighth Jack Wighton set to play his 200th NRL game in green on Friday night. Congratulations, Jack. https://t.co/wsvO7kHVPO#NRL #WeAreRaiders #wearecbr #rugbyleague pic.twitter.com/HenVD4UyCV
— The Greenhouse (@TheGHRaiders) March 6, 2022
Whilst having no experience at the NRL level Schneider is a player for the future. In 2019 he led his high school team to win the NRL Schoolboy Cup in 2019. If the Raiders stay focused they can be a tough outfit to face. They will challenge for a top 8 spot but I can’t see them challenging for the premiership.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – 25/1
After years of dealing with salary cap issues, the bulldogs have finally been able to make some signings. Adding Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton, Brent Nadon, Matt Dufty, Tevita Pengai-Junior, Paul Vaughn and Brandon Burns. Talks are the bulldogs don’t have to worry about a three-peat of last place finishes. There are expectations for a top 8 spot, however, I wouldn’t be too optimistic. They’ll rely heavily on Matt Burton at 5/8 whilst having an average, at best, forward pack. Their little depth and spine players won’t do a whole lot to help Burton. Matt Dufty at fullback could offer a lot of flare, when he has the ball in space he’s hard to catch. However, Dufty has an abundance of stupid mistakes in him and is often exposed in defence.
They’re still unsure of who to partner Burton with in the halves, Averillo, Wakeham or Flanagan. I also wouldn’t have Jeremy Marshall-King anywhere near my top 10 hookers in the league. They have too many reserve grade quality players to fill in the gaps. Pengai-Junior, Thompson and Hethrington are prone to suspension because they lack discipline. I struggle to see them finishing higher than 13th. Fans will quickly be looking towards 2023 when Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney arrive.
Cronulla Sharks – +1700
With a new coach, key signings and resigning off contract players, everything’s coming up Cronulla. Adding experience amd professionalism with Dale Finucane and Cam McGinness. Signing Nico Hynes to play halfback, a position they chopped and changed all last year. Cronulla are expected to make the top 8 this year and build towards something big in the future. The only thorn in their side is Matt Moylan. Moylan is habitually injured and has never performed at expectations since his days at Penrith.
— Cronulla Sharks (@cronullasharks) March 7, 2022
Other than that they have a quality spine with a lot of potential to improve. A hard working forward pack with good depth and an explosive backline. I believe they’d be better off giving Moylan the flick and going with Conor Tracey at 5/8. They have a relatively easy schedule to begin with, which will allow them to work their way into the season. They have a habit of playing better teams close, they’ll turn a few of those losses into wins this year. This Cronulla side could be dangerous come finals time. They may end up in a preliminary final, but I don’t think they win another premiership this year.
Gold Coast Titans – 22/1
Gold Coast have one of the top starting forward packs, led by Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, David Fifita and Kevin Proctor. On its day it’s the most damaging in the league, but they lack depth. With no real impact bench players, unless they relegate a starting player to the interchange. They also have a very weak spine with halfback Toby Sexton still essentially a rookie, only having played 4 games in 2021. Former fullback AJ Brimson yet to play a game at 5/8. Brimson has been injury prone throughout his short career, only managing 58/92 regular season games.
The Titans also have a rookie fullback in Jayden Campbell and a hooker that lacks an abundance of NRL experience in Erin Clark. They don’t have any spark in their centre/wing positions. Gold Coast only managed to scrape their way into the top 8 last year on point differential. Yet to prove themselves as a team that is strong, tough and consistent in defence. I can see them regressing this season and missing out on a finals spot.
Manly Sea Eagles – +700
Manly have increased their squad depth through blooding younger players throughout the last couple of seasons. Depth has been their Achilles heel over the past few seasons. They can be tough in defence but will need to be consistent. Last season they showed that, with Tom Trbojevic and James Saab, they can score from anywhere on the field. If they can keep their squad relatively fit throughout the season, most importantly star fullback Tom Trbojevic, I expect them to finish in the top 4 and compete for the premiership.
Melbourne Storm – +450
Melbourne finished last year’s regular season 1st, however lost in the preliminary final to Penrith. They’ve lost key players Dale Finucane and Nico Hynes along with Addo-Carr. They acquired rising star Xavier Coates from Brisbane. Playing home games back in Melbourne is a big advantage. To me, this seems to be one of the weaker squads they’ve had in some years. They have some off-field squad issues with Tui Kamikamica being stood down on an assault charge. Along with Brandon Smith and Cameron Munster receiving a suspension for being filmed with a “white substance”. It is also yet to be confirmed if unvaccinated forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona will be allowed to play. There will also be injury concerns over fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who will be out til week 3.
Munster with the 🍬😂 pic.twitter.com/ZAWU1muKOL
— Melbourne Storm (@storm) March 4, 2022
I expect them to compete for the top 4. Craig Bellamy’s last contract year, they’re likely to group together and put in. I believe they’ll again fall short in the preliminary finals.
New Zealand Warriors – 33/1
The Warriors have been forced to play all of their home games in Australia since 2020, due to Covid. They have now committed to basing themselves in Redcliffe, Queensland, for the 2022 season. In my opinion, they have one of the best squads they’ve had for some time. A strong forward pack will do a lot to help Shaun Johnson. Johnson will be partnered in the halves with Kodi Nikorima. They also have last year’s stand out rookie, Reece Walsh, at fullback. They have a relatively young backline (centre/wing), but they’re bigger bodies and will help make meters out of their own end. The Warriors are a notoriously difficult team to pick and can be very disappointing. They often win as underdogs and lose as favourites.
After a few years of instability, I expect them to put a season together this year and push for a top 8 spot. Another team that could be dangerous come finals if they make it. As long as they don’t start to feel sorry for themselves, being away from NZ, they’re in for a good year.
Newcastle Knights – 28/1
After back to back top 8 finishes Newcastle is in for some regression this year. Newcastle had a full strength spine for most of last season and scored the second least points. They have since lost their leader and halfback, Mitch Pearce. Their replacement captain and hooker, Jayden Brailey, will be out injured for the majority of the season. They have one of the stars of the league at fullback in Kayln Ponga. A player who can put the team on his back and win them games, but he’s a bit of a diva and often seems disinterested. He has been made captain until Brailey returns, which could keep him focused, but I’ll wait to see it first.
Seasons ago they looked to be building one of the better forward packs in the league, but have stagnated. Their forward pack bounces between beating their chests against terrible teams and running for the hills against top sides. They also have a coach who has a new excuse each week when they don’t perform. Jake Clifford shows some promise but I don’t think he’ll excel with Adam Clune and a backup hooker. Newcastle has the potential to be one of the bottom sides this season.
North Queensland Cowboys – 40/1
Since losing to Melbourne Storm in the 2017 grand final the cowboys have finished in the bottom 4 of the league every year. I’m not sure this year will be any different. The team shows some signs of promise in Scott “The Gunslinger” Drinkwater, Hamiso “The Hammer” Tabuai-Fidow. They still rely far too heavily on Jason Taumololo to lead the forward pack and drag them downfield. Taumololo has been battling injuries over the last couple seasons and is touch and go for round one. Their spine could gel together over this season and come good with Reece Robson at hooker, Chad Townsend and Drinkwater in the halves and The Hammer at fullback.
End your weekend on a high looking back at the best of yesterday's trial win 😊 pic.twitter.com/ck72ozmRj4
— NQ Cowboys (@nthqldcowboys) February 20, 2022
They have the strongest home advantage in the league playing in the humidity of far North Queensland. I’m not sure their forward pack will have the go forth to allow the spine to set up tries for the backline. Coach Todd Payton is still inexperienced and lacks professionalism. With their spine, backline and home advantage they have the potential to win more games this year. To finally break out of the basement their forward pack will need to come through in a big way.
Parramatta Eels – +1200
Parramatta has a settled spine, albeit their last season with Reed Mahoney at hooker. They’ll be looking to finally break their 36 year premiership drought. Whilst they have a side that should be in the top 6, they just don’t have enough quality to win a premiership. Halfback, Mitch Moses, and fullback, Clint Gutherson, are two great NRL players. Neither are at the representative level, which is required to win a premiership. They have a few of the better forwards in the game in Junior Paulo, Isaiah Papalii and Regan Campbell-Gillard. They don’t have anyone to come off the bench and make an impact. Last season their problem was their backline, especially when they were without Sivo and Ferguson. They lacked a star player out wide to finish for them and were exposed in defence far too often. This season they look even weaker in that department. They’ll need a big season from Dylan Brown at 5/8 this year, who was pedestrian last year. They’ll be in the finals but will fall short of a grand final appearance and that long awaited premiership once again.
Penrith Panthers – +450
The 2021 premiers have lost some talent with Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell and Paul Momirovski departing the club. They have only replaced those players with talent from within the clubs lower grades. However, Penrith has the best lower grade sides and junior competition in Rugby League. Izack Tago looks to be a potential weapon. Tago was the 2021 leading tryscorer in the NSW Cup whilst playing second row. He will be used in the centres for Penrith. Tago, who resembles Villiame Kikau in size and stature, will be playing along side Kikau in what looks like an incredibly dangerous attack. Nathan Cleary’s fitness will be paramount to the side’s success, returning from shoulder surgery. Penrith, who won the premiership with the least experienced side in the NRL last season, are already been written off by most pundits. I wouldn’t be so quick to put a line through them.
Whilst I don’t believe they will be as dominant as last year, conceding less than 12 points a game in a season that saw total points markets soar past numbers they’d ever been set at, if they time their run and are fit come finals time they’ll be extremely tough to hold out. Defence wins premierships and last year no team was close to defending like Penrith.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – +850
Grand finalists in 2021, Souths will do extremely well to get back there in 2022. After losing the longest serving coach in NRL, Wayne Bennet, most pundits expect Jason Demetriou to pick up where Bennet left off without a bump in the road. That’s a lot of expectations and massive shoes to fill for a rookie coach. The most difficult part of this will be to do it without Adam Reynolds at halfback, who again most pundits are under selling, simply claiming “Cody Walker will step up”. The problem is Cody Walker isn’t a game manager. Walker needs a game manager to allow him to play the way he does. As well, Cody Walker lacks the kicking game Adam Reynolds has. Reynolds kicking game allowed Souths to control field position. Field position allowed Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Damien Cook to play the way they did.
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) March 5, 2022
They have some great forwards in Cam Murray, Jai Arrow, Kolomatangi and Tom Burgess but they lack the depth that is needed. The main downfall that prevented them from winning the premiership last year was their lack of talent in their backline. Their most talented player out wide, Dane Gagai, has since left the club for Newcastle this season. At best Souths will flirt on the fringes of the top 8 this season.
St George Illawarra Dragons – 30/1
St George has recruited well in the off-season, bringing George Burgess, Moses Mbye, Francis Molo, Jayden Su’a, Moses Suli and Aaron Woods to the club. They’ve managed to get rid of a lot of dead wood in the process. They have some talented youth that show a lot of promise to fill in vacant positions. They have a lot of depth in the forwards, some strike out wide in Lomax, Suli, Ravalawa and Ramsey, and if their spine can gel together and perform throughout the year they’ll push for a top 8 spot and make their first finals appearance since 2018.
Sydney Roosters – +550
The Roosters had a season filled with injuries in 2021 but were able to blood some players they wouldn’t have otherwise and build depth for 2022. They are the favourites amongst the pundits to win the 2022 NRL premiership. Many are saying “look at all the players they had out last year and they still made the 8, they’ll win this year”, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. In reality, the only key players they’ll have this year that we’re significant and missing last year are Luke Keary and Viktor Radley. The rest have since retired. They have an ageing squad, which would imply their squad is more likely to suffer from injuries.
Their season’s success will heavily rely on the fitness of Luke Keary. Keary is injury prone with a history of concussions. Their other half, Sam Walker, already suffers from back and shoulder problems at 19 years old. Walker took a pretty serious head knock in their last trial game. Who knows how his body will hold up throughout his second season in the NRL. They have the talent to push for a top 4 spot but it’ll all depend on the overall fitness of the squad. The Roosters also have a tough schedule, having to play 5/6 top 6 teams twice. They’ll be in the finals and a dangerous opponent when there, but I don’t see them winning the premiership this year.
West Tigers – 66/1
Following a very dissatisfying season, the West Tigers will be looking to turn that around this year. I’m not sure how they will be able to do that. They have a squad littered with reserve grade players, a mediocre halfback in Luke Brooks, no strike out wide and the only bright spark seems to be Diane Laurie at fullback. They have recruited Tyrone Peachy, a good signing. Peachy hasn’t performed that well since his days at Penrith. If they’re to fair better than they did last season they’ll need to have a few unknowns step up and make a name for themselves. Hard to see them not finishing in the bottom 2.
Handicap Market – NZ Warriors @ +1500/+1100
This market is available on Bet365 and SportsBet. On Bet365 the Warriors are getting a +19.5 start (9.5 wins) @ +1500, whereas on SportsBet they are getting a +20.5 start (10.5 wins) @ +1100. I believe the Warriors will perform above expectations and are a good chance of making a finals appearance. To make the finals they’d have to win o11.5 games, which would bring their total wins on this handicap market to at least 20. That’s likely enough to cash this bet.
Canberra Top Try Scorer – Jordan Rapana @ +250 (Bet365)
Typically wingers score the most tries for their team. Bet365 have centre, Nick Cotric, and backup fullback, Xavier Savage, listed at shorter odds to score the most tries for Canberra than Jordan Rapana. Rapana has been Canberra’s leading try scorer in 4 of the last 6 seasons, including last season with 12.
Grand Final Quinella – Manly/Penrith @ +1400 (SportsBet)
We all know in sport that a teams season will be determined by their squads fitness, but that’s something we can’t predict. On the basis that every team was to stay 100% fit throughout the season it’s hard to see Manly and Penrith not competing for the premiership, @ +1400 I think there’s some good value in betting them to both make an appearance in the NRL 2022 Grand Final.
Season 2022 kicks off Thursday night with a blockbuster at the foot of the mountains between the 2021 premiers, the Penrith Panthers and the Manly Sea Eagles. For all your NRL weekly picks, analysis and discussions come join us in the SGPN #rugby channel in the Slack chat.