As February turns into March, many Aussies mourn the Summer they’ve lost. But not us footy fans, because it means the new NRL season is almost upon us, and if pre-season was anything to go by, it’s going to be one interesting season, that’s for sure.
So, what’s going to go down this season? There’s a new team – the Dolphins and there’s been a big recruitment change up for pretty much every team. This includes the Panthers, who have lost a number of their stars. How much will this impact their three-peat chances? Only time will tell!
Summary of 2022 NRL Season
The 2022 was epic, but two teams really stood out, and for completely different reasons – the Panthers and the Tigers. The Panthers were on fire yet again, with majority of their core players from the 2021 season coming back again for the 2022, so it was no surprise to see them at the top of the table. But the way they went about things, it was completely clinical. The Panthers lost just four games last season, and finished two games clear of the Sharks, who finished second on the ladder.
On the other side of the coin, what a disaster for the Tigers - the sacking of coach Michael Maguire, the club’s first wooden spoon and a mere four wins. They had two wins less than the Titans, Knights and Warriors last season. But the good news - the only way for the Tigers is up under the heroes of the club’s lone premiership in 2005 - Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall.
It’s been a busy recruitment period for a number of teams, and there will be many players running out in new kits in Round 1. Apart from the Bulldogs, no club has been busier in the transfer market than the Tigers and the joint venture has high hopes for 2023 as a result.
Apisai Koroisau (Panthers), Isaiah Papali'i (Eels), David Nofoaluma (return from loan), Charlie Staines (Panthers), David Klemmer (Knights), John Bateman (Wigan), Will Smith (Hull FC) and Brandon Wakeham (Bulldogs) are all quality players who will add plenty to the club.
The Panthers have probably been hit the hardest, as already explained; Apisai Koroisau and Charlie Staines are off to the Tigers, but they have also notably lost Viliame Kikau to the Bulldogs, along with Isaiya Katoa, Robert Jennings and Sean O'Sullivan to the Dolphins, J'maine Hopgood to the Eels, while Christian Crichton and Kurt Falls have both been released.
NRL Teams Most Under Pressure
The Knights, Dragons and Broncos were all massive flops in 2022 and their respective coaches are skating on thin ice. If things don’t start improving in the beginning of the season, all three could be gone by the season’s halfway mark.
The Knights finished last season in 14th position on the ladder, with six wins. They kicked off the 2022 season with back-to-back wins (against the Roosters and Tigers), but things quickly turned sour. They lost seven games in a row after that, with their third win of the season coming in Round 10 against the Bulldogs. The other three wins for the season came against the Warriors, Titans and Tigers again.
The Dragons finished last season in 10th position on the ladder, with 12 wins. They won their opening round clash against the Warriors, and then didn’t get another win until Round 6 against the Knights, which kicked off a three-game winning streak (with wins also over the Roosters and Tigers). They were hot and cold for the rest of the season, usually winning one game and then losing the next.
The Broncos finished last season in ninth position on the ladder, with 13 wins. They were looking a bit shaky in the beginning of the season but managed a seven-game winning streak in the middle of the season and were expected to make the Finals. Things didn’t turn out that way, as the Broncos absolutely imploded, and they lost five of their last six games to miss out on the Finals.
Top 3 Games of NRL Round 1
These are the absolute best games for Round 1, these three cannot be missed:
Eels v Storm (Thursday March 2, 7.50pm)
Both clubs have lost key players over the summer and could be vulnerable this year, the Eels most notably have lost Isaiah Papali'I, while the biggest loss for the Storm was Brandon Smith. A ripper to kick off the new season. It will be a testing game to see which players will gel together faster.
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs (Saturday March 4, 3pm)
Two of last year’s strugglers have both built up well and looked sharp in the trials - expect a fast, open game with lots of points. The Sea Eagles have gained Kelma Tuilagi from the Tigers, while the Bulldogs have the big scalp of Viliame Kikau from the Panthers.
Sharks v Rabbitohs (Saturday March 4, 7.35pm)
The two teams many believe are the greatest danger to Penrith’s three-peat go head-to-head in a Round 1 blockbuster. Both played great in the trials and ooze attacking class. The Sharks won both their preseason trial games, against the Knights (28-16) and the Bulldogs (36-16). While the Rabbitohs narrowly lost to the Sea Eagles in the first game (30-28) but won their clash against the Dragons (42-24).
It gets said before the start of every NRL season, but this season is set to be a cracker. We’ve got a new team entering, which means that one team will have a bye every week. Can Wayne Bennett sprinkle his trademark magic dust on the Dolphins and get them to the top eight in their first season? Can the Panthers three-peat, even after losing a whole bunch of core players? All questions that will eventually be answered, we will just have to wait a few months.