Almanac Rugby League: The 2022 season in review

You can never complain that rugby league isn’t always in the news – on either the front or back pages of the papers or all over the internet! Season 2022 was no different for all the best and worse reasons. The following are merely some of the stories that grabbed our attention during this year.

Possibly contrary to expectations, Queensland regained the State of Origin shield after a 2-1 series win. The Maroons had a surprise 16-10 win in Game 1 in Sydney where they had been unsuccessful for several years. NSW evened up the series with a thumping 44-12 triumph in Perth and were expected to go on to win the final game in Brisbane. But the Maroons scored one of their great wins against the odds with a hard-fought 22-12 win in the decider that was the roughest and most physical Origin clash in many years. With the result in doubt until the 78th minute, Ben Hunt plucked a Nathan Cleary chip kick out of the air at point blank range deep in Queensland’s territory before sprinting away to ice the game. It was probably one of the best games of the season.

 

In the women’s game, NSW ended Queensland’s recent dominance with a comfortable 20-14  win in Canberra. Isabelle Kelly dominated the match and scored the sealer while debutant Rachael Pearson had a good game with the ball in hand as well as kicking 4/5 goals.

 

The NRLW season played in August and September saw what may be a changing of the guard in the women’s competition. Perennial finalists Brisbane had their worst season to date and missed the finals for the first time in the competition’s history. The Dragons were solid but never fully convincing and bowed out one game short of the Grand Final to the big improvers, the Knights. The Roosters went through the regular season undefeated with consecutive titles seemingly at their mercy. But they, too, lost in the semi-finals to the up-and-coming Eels who had just scraped into the finals on the very last day of the regular season.

 

In the Grand Final, the Newcastle Knights held off and then ran away from the Parramatta Eels 32-12. It was a scoreline that did not reflect the closeness and intensity of a game which was only settled inside the last 10 minutes. Tamika Upton was awarded the Karen Murphy medal for best player.

 

Raecene McGregor from the Roosters won the Dally M, quite an achievement considering she didn’t have a contract with any club until just before the commencement of the season. With a further 4 teams entering the competition in 2023, it looks like there will be even more uncertainty as the competition continues to evolve.

 

To see the Jillaroos squad to contest November’s World Cup click here.

 

Penrith were expected to dominate the NRL season and so it turned out as the minor rounds passed – they led the competition by as many as 8 points before finishing two games clear at the top of the table. The surprise packets were the Sharks and Cowboys who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. The Cowboys, tipped by many as possible wooden-spooners before the season started, made the biggest improvement. Melbourne Storm had their poorest season in years when they finished outside of the top four and dropped out in the second week of the finals. With many of their players moving on at season’s end, the Storm will be an interesting club to observe when it all starts over again in March.The Broncos made good progress for much of the season and, at one point, looked like possible top four material before a late season form reversal saw them miss out on the finals altogether.

 

Penrith dominated the Grand Final against parramatta from start to finish to win 28-12, a scoreline that flattered the Eels who scored all of their points with two tries inside the last five minutes of the game. Speed, strength, mobility, cohesion, desire and execution were the hallmarks of the Penrith performance. Dylan Edwards was a deserving winner of the Clive Churchill medal for best on ground.

 

The gap in standard between the top six and the rest of the field was exposed as the season progressed. Manly suffered from a lengthy injury list, most notably the absence of Tom Trbojevic for several months. Canberra almost had their season derailed by a shocking refereeing mistake but fought back to make the finals and, in the end, acquitted themselves well. The Bulldogs were headed for a wooden spoon early on but a mid-season change of coach sparked a revival and, although they still finished well down the ladder, showed signs of better days ahead. But the inadequacies of most of the other teams were all too clear to see with not many silver linings apparent to the impartial observer.

 

Nicho Hynes emerged as the ‘buy of the year’ as he guided the Sharks to second place on the ladder, won selection in the NSW Origin squad and capped his season off by winning the Dally M medal for the code’s best player. Ben Hunt, so often unfairly maligned, almost single-handedly dragged the Dragons through the year; James Tedesco maintained a level of excellence rarely seen in the competition; Nathan Cleary has the code at his feet but blotted his copybook with a five match suspension for an ugly lifting tackle late in the season; Penrith’s Dylan Edwards displayed that he is up there with the very best fullbacks with his speed, evasion and back-up play.

 

Among the forwards, James Fisher-Harris, Payne Haas and Joe Tapine excelled for their respective clubs as front-rowers. The likes of Cameron Murray, Jake Trbojevic, Isaah Yeo and Shaun Lane exemplified the modern mobile forward. Harry Grant, Damien Cook and Api Koroisau were the dominant No.9s.

 

Joseph Suaalii, Rueben Cotter, Matt Burton, Jeremiah Nanai and Dylan Brown emerged as players of rare quality while the likes of Valentine Holmes, Joey Manu, Cameron Munster, Justin Olam, Daly Cherry-Evans and Latrell Mitchell enhanced their reputations as senior players at their clubs.

 

Technology was, as always, an easy whipping boy when it didn’t go the way of your team but, overall, got it right most of the time. The obstruction rule continued to be confusing to all and sundry. The ‘hip drop’ tackle became the focus of unsavoury tactics, drawing long suspensions later in the season. A successful change in the rules was the application of a penalty to the side in possession, rather than a ‘6-again’ call, for indiscretions when in their own defensive forty metre zone. On the other hand, seemingly unlimited ‘6-agains’ when defending your own try line rather than a penalty and sin bin tested the patience of players and spectators alike. Just ask the Raiders!

 

And the good news is that, as of tonight, there are only 147 sleeps until Season 2023 kicks off on March 2!

 

To see the Kangaroos squad to contest the World Cup starting late next week click here.

 

To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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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.

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