The Penrith Panthers are the hot fancies to go back-to-back and win the 2022 NRL grand final but upsets do happen and there are a number of clubs who will fancy their chances of winning the premiership.
The 2022 NRL season is flying by. There are just six rounds of the regular season remaining before we enter the business end of the season and the finals campaign.
The Panthers are the team to beat without a doubt but a lot can happen between now and the end of the season.
A couple of injuries here and there and all of a sudden the door could be open for another club to nip in.
There is bags of quality in the NRL and it is all about peaking at the right time. Not only that everyone is capable of beating anyone in a one-off game in finals so the Panthers do not have the premiership in the bag.
Although they cannot be completely written off, it is looking as though it could be a bridge too far for the Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters this season. But there are six teams with genuine chances.
Let’s take a look at them.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way straight away. The Panthers are clearly the team to beat and if everything goes their way and clicks, they look set to go back-to-back.
They won the premiership in 2021 and despite losing a number of players from that side, if anything they have taken their game to the next level this season.
Ivan Cleary’s men have lost just the one game so far this season. You think only injuries to key players could stop them. But even then they have shown they have the strength in depth to cope.
Along with the Brisbane Broncos they have been the surprise package of the 2022 season and look set to go deep into finals.
With a bit of luck they could even go all the way. They have a side packed with quality. The proof being how many represented Queensland in State of Origin.
The return of Reuben Cotter from injury is huge, while Jeremiah Nanai has been one of the stars of the NRL this season.
Throw in Scott Drinkwater, Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden and the Cowboys are a top side. Keeping everyone fit will be crucial.
The Broncos have gone from wooden spoon contenders to premiership hopefuls in the space of a year as Kevin Walters has got them firing.
The addition of star playmaker Adam Reynolds and forward Kurt Capewell has been crucial in their rise up the ladder. So too has the form of gun youngster Selwyn Cobbo.
Again there is quality throughout the side and if the Broncos get on a roll in finals there could be no stopping them.
Coach Craig Fitzgibbon is living the dream in his first season in charge of the Sharks. They sit third on the ladder right now and have been impressive all season.
Again they got the recruitment spot on ahead of the new season with both Nicho Hynes and the experienced Dale Finucane arriving from the Melbourne Storm.
They have brought a winning mentality to the club and it will stand them in good stead for the rest of the season.
The Storm are on a poor run but they have been hit hard by injuries. There is some light at the end of the tunnel with Xavier Coates and Brandon Smith closing on a return to the side.
The loss of Ryan Papenhuyzen for the season is a big blow but they have stacks of quality with arguably the NRL’s best player Cameron Munster in the halves.
And with coach Craig Bellamy guiding the ship you would be a fool to dismiss Melbourne’s chances of winning the grand final.
The Rabbitohs lost the grand final last season and since then coach Wayne Bennett has moved on. It was also a big mistake to let Adam Reynolds join the Broncos and they have had an indifferent season so far with an 11-7 win-loss ratio.
However looking at their roster they cannot be discounted. Any side with a fit and firing Latrell Mitchell has to be in with a shout. The gun fullback has returned from injury looking fitter than ever and could peak at just the right time.
Not only that they boast Cameron Murray, Cody Walker, top try-scorer Alex Johnston and Origin hooker Damien Cook.
The forward pack is super strong and the bunnies look a solid outsider.