The following are previews with betting tips for Finals Week 1 of the 2022 NRL season.
The Eels produced a strong end to their season with three consecutive wins, including a scintillating last-start victory over Melbourne which propelled Parramatta into the top-four in a huge result for the club. They face the difficult task of taking on the reigning premiers, although the Eels are one of the few teams to beat Penrith this season and the only team to beat them twice. Penrith are backing up from a loss to North Queensland, albeit missing virtually their entire preferred 17 after coach Ivan Cleary elected to rest his troops.
Penrith will welcome a whopping 15 players back into their squad, with Scott Sorensen and Mitch Kenny the only players named who took the field last week. Superstar Nathan Cleary will also make his long-awaited return from injury in a massive boost. Resting such a huge number of players is an interesting move from the Panthers but it could pay massive dividends at the end of the finals series. Meanwhile, Parramatta are unchanged.
While the Eels have had the measure of the Panthers this season, the physicality of their encounter with the Storm may be a liability, particularly against a fresh opposition. While resting large parts of your squad can be considered risky before the finals, the coherence of this Penrith squad and the return of Nathan Cleary should get the reigning premiers over the line.
Betting Tip: Eels +7.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
A narrow last-start loss to the Eels has cost Melbourne a top-four berth in a devastating result for the club, although somewhat understandable given their injury woes this season. They will face the Raiders, who produced a dominant end to their season with four consecutive wins to drag themselves into the top-eight in a massive achievement for Ricky Stuart and his squad. Canberra dominated the Tigers in a huge 56-10 victory last week and they will be hoping to carry that momentum into this match.
Melbourne have named star halfback Jahrome Hughes to return after he was rested last week in an otherwise unchanged line-up. Meanwhile, Canberra will welcome Jack Wighton and Elliot Whitehead back into their starting squad at five-eighth and second-row respectively after they were also rested in the final game of the regular season.
The foundation of Canberra’s comeback to make the top-eight this year has been the devastating physicality of their middle rotation. The Raiders are uniquely placed to challenge Melbourne’s ruck dominance and given Melbourne have conceded disappointing consecutive losses against the Roosters and Eels this match shapes as a fascinating elimination final. While Canberra will undoubtedly push their opposition, expect the big-game experience and play-making prowess within this Storm 17 to get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Raiders +8.5 @ $1.85 (Bet365)
North Queensland have been the surprise packet of 2022, having produced a huge turnaround from their 15th placed finish last season to sit comfortably within the top-four. The Cowboys were dominant in a 38-8 victory over Penrith last week, albeit with only two of their preferred squad in the team. They will face a similarly resurgent Cronulla outfit who have enjoyed a fantastic season in Craig Fitzgibbon’s rookie coaching year as the signs look bright for the Sharks’ future. The Shire club has had an impressive close to their season, with six consecutive wins seeing them carry plenty of momentum into the finals.
The Cowboys’ only change comes with the return of Coen Hess from suspension on the bench. Tom Dearden will also line-up after successfully returning from a ruptured testicle last week. Meanwhile, the Sharks will welcome Toby Rudolf, Dale Finucane, Will Kennedy and Connor Tracey in a massive boost for their premiership campaign.
Cronulla enjoyed a solid 26-12 win over the Cowboys in round 18 and will benefit from a home-ground advantage but both teams will be bristling with confidence after successful seasons. With both these teams generating a huge amount of momentum through the ruck when they are in form, this match could be decided in the first quarter if either team can get a roll-on. This match could go either way but expect Cronulla to come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Sharks -2.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
The script for the 2022 finals series could not have been written better, with arch-rivals the Roosters and Rabbitohs meeting each other for an elimination final in a particularly fascinating contest given the Tri-colours produced an impressive 10-point win over Souths in the final game of the regular season. Both teams endured turbulent starts to the year and will be disappointed they were unable to break into the top-four given their respective form surges at the back-end of the season.
In a massive boost, Souths’ skipper Cameron Murray has been named to play after suffering a head-knock in the opening minute of last week’s game. Damien Cook will also return from covid protocols at dummy-half, pushing Siliva Havili to the bench. For the Roosters, Joey Manu will be sidelined for up to three weeks in a devastating loss for their team. Wingers Joseph Suaalii and Daniel Tupou will make a timely return from injury, Pushing Paul Momirovski to centre to cover the injured Manu. Victor Radley will also return from concussion at lock in a big boost to an otherwise unchanged 17.
Expect a fiery, physical match with Souths sure to be fired-up after a loss last week and the likes of Jarred Waerea-Hargreats, Victor Radley and Matt Lodge providing plenty of aggression for the Tri-colours. While the loss of Joey Manu is huge for the Roosters, expect mastermind coach Trent Robinson to cover the absence of his star centre up against the relatively inexperienced coaching team headed by Jason Demitriou at South Sydney. This match could go either way but expect the Roosters to get the result.
Betting Tip: Roosters -4.5 @ $1.95 (Playup)
Sharks -2.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)