Almanac Rugby League – 2022 NRL Round 23 and NRLW Round 1: can you ever have too much rugby league?

 

I think it’s fair to say that after a season that looked for so long like a case of who Penrith would beat in the Grand Final, we finally have a genuine competition heading into the finals. The Storm have regained their mojo while the Rabbitohs and Roosters are surging at the right time. The Sharks are prowling and the Eels, on their day, are capable of beating anyone. The Cowboys are not without their chances too although I have a feeling that this will not be their year, and the Broncos deserve a place in September but are still noticeably off the pace against the very best sides.

 

Round 22 showed us how much Penrith need Cleary, Edwards, Fisher-Harris and Luai (in that order), and that the Eels are lost without Moses. But the Roosters are coming with their classy backline and even more grunt up front with the addition of Lodge. But, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, they’ll probably have to come from the lower half  of the eight. Likewise, Souths are humming with Murray in superlative form, Mitchell always ominous, an honest pack and a winger of the highest calibre in AJ. They’re a chance of top four and, if they do get the double chance, may go to the last game of the year again.

 

The demise of Manly has been a disaster and a lot of healing needs to go on there. But they simply have to retain Hasler who has carried himself well during the recent trying weeks. Canberra came hope, mathematically possible, but their season is over, mathematical probability.

 

Of the rest, the Bulldogs look best placed to be positive about 2023 with a new coach, a couple good buys and positive signs on the field as they end their season. It’s hard to find much of a constructive nature to say about the remaining teams who look likely to make up the numbers again next year.

 

Round 23 promises another collection of fascinating games starting tonight with the Rabbitohs v Panthers clash at Stadium Australia. The Bunnies are hot, the Panthers are still down on personnel. It’s now or never for Souths as they push for that top four spot and I expect them to seize the opportunity. The Storm showed how to blunt Kikau so it will be interesting to see who Souths use to stifle the giant. Penrith will be hoping to avoid further casualties.

 

The Cowboys will be hoping to regain their form against the Warriors in Townsville and should do so. They were not disgraced against the Roosters, competing well in spite of the gloom cast over their week by the death of Paul Green. The Warriors showed that they can play (if the right Johnson shows up). But they’re less of a threat on the road. Cowboys for me.

 

Broncos v Storm should be another good contest. This will be a helpful measuring stick for the Broncos as a finals proposition. Melbourne are rebuilding strength as September approaches and have had the wood on Brisbane for years. What a statement it would be if the home team got up! But Melbourne want that fourth spot and that is enough for me to pick them as my winner here.

 

The Eels v Bulldogs game promises to be a ripper! This is one of those games Parra simply has to win but has a habit of losing. What a blow that would be to their confidence. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are on the up in spite of their loss in NZ. Positive developments off the field this week will have them ‘up’ for this one and all too willing to cast a pall over their opponents. Be that as it may, I think the Eels will scrape home, especially as Moses returns.

 

A few weeks ago, the Sea Eagles v Sharks game might have been match of the round but I fear this could become one way traffic at Brookie, and not in favour of the home side.  I know I rave too often about Nicho Hynes, but what a player he’s become so soon. And with a rejuvenated Moylan alongside him the Sharks have real bite. A long afternoon in prospect for the Sea Eagles, especially now that Jake Turbo is out for the rest of their season.

 

The Roosters already have a healthy points differential; it will only expand when they take on the Wests Tigers on Saturday night. This is a bit like a Group 1 winner running against a Wednesday afternoon maiden field in Kilcoy. The only question is ‘how far’?

 

On Sunday the misfiring Dragons host the (temporarily) inspired Titans at WIN Stadium. The Dragons were a bit unlucky against the Raiders but a sceptic would also say it was karma. I think that result will spur Ben Hunt and his mates to do a job on the Titans. When did they last win two in a row? Brimson looks like he’s back to his best which is a good thing because, at his best, he’s lethal. But he’ll need a lot of help from his teammates to get up in this one.

 

Finally, the Knights are at home to the Raiders who want to keep the dream alive. ‘Sticky’ is back at the helm which is a bonus for the capital combination; the Knights have had more than one off-field drama to distract them this week. The Raiders to stay alive, technically.

 

So my winners this week are the Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Storm, Eels, Sharks, Roosters, Dragons and Raiders.

 

The 2022 NRLW season also kicks off this weekend. With considerable player movement between clubs since the 2022 season, it’s more than a bit of a challenge to pick the likely winners.

 

We start on Saturday afternoon with the Eels taking on the defending premiers, the Roosters. On paper you have to go with the Roosters – a formidable backline includes halves McGregor and Temara as well as power centres Kelly and Sergis. Then there’s Togatuki, Brill, Power and Joseph up front. Hard to go past. The Eels will look to experienced players like Hanisi, Foliaki and Taufa up front and Penitani to get them moving ahead.

 

On Sunday afternoon we see perennial powerhouse the Dragons up against the Titans. The Saints feature the dynamic Tonegato at fullback and emerging talent Pearson at halfback behind a strong pack that features Albert, Apps, Bent and Wheeler. The Titans have recruited well with a solid set of forwards including the evergreen Hancock, experienced Mato, and energetic Gray and Hale. Their backs include the likes of Nicholls, the two Browns and Pelite. So this shapes as a great clash. I tend to favour the Dragons based on their more settled look.

 

The late game has the Knights at home to competition heavyweights the Broncos. Newcastle look much stronger this season with the addition of Upton, Boyle and Southwell to bolster returning stars like Dibb and Teitzel. Although Brisbane feature a few new faces, there’s a solid core in Robinson, Ciesolka, Bass, Aiken, Briggenshaw, Lenarduzzi and Hall. So another great tussle in prospect. I won’t be surprised to see the new look Knights give a good account of themselves but I think the Broncos have a bit more depth and might scrape home.

 

So my NRLW winners are the Roosters, Dragons and Broncos.

 

 

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

Comments

  1. Roger Lowrey says

    Go Rabbitohs!

    Do it for Father Arthur Moynihan, your old 5/8 from the 1949 Grand Final (see here my FA piece 6/9/19).

    I do hope you are on the side of the angels here Ian.

    RDL

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