What chance does your team have?

NRL season 2022 starts in just over a month and so many of us have yet to have our hopes for the coming season crushed.

So it is time for me to share with you a dose of cold hard truth to prepare you for the inevitable crushing that awaits.

The wooden spoon
Lots of teams aren’t really in with a chance to start with.

If a team finished in the bottom eight in 2021 there is a 62.5 per cent chance that they’ll finish out of the finals again this year.

And for the teams that finished in the bottom four in 2021 – Bulldogs, Cowboys, Broncos, Wests Tigers – there is an over 60 percent likelihood that this year’s wooden spooner will come from that group.

In the 24 NRL seasons to date, just five sides have claimed 15 of the wooden spoons. 62.5 per cent of the time either the Knights (four), Eels (three), Rabbitohs (three), Bulldogs (three) or Titans (two) have come last.

My tip to claim the spoon in 2022 is the New Zealand Warriors. This site has sacrificed so much to keep the competition going and will probably be asked to do the same again. We really owe them a season where they get to play all of their games at home in New Zealand.

This season I question whether they will be able to keep the show effectively on the road and it may all fall apart horribly.

Making the top eight
The stats are clear that you can expect with near certainty that at least five of last season’s finalists will repeat that effort in 2022.

The chances that either the Roosters or Storm will miss the 2022 finals is statistically microscopic, with at least one of those sides having contested 17 of the 24 NRL deciders to date, with the Roosters making the finals 75 per cent of the time, and the Storm 87.5 per cent.

Jahrome Hughes runs.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

As well, barring major disaster it is very hard to see any of the Panthers, Rabbitohs or Sea Eagles missing out on the finals.

With their roster turmoil, the Eels and Knights seem most prone to a drop in results, with the Titans the other likely candidate to miss out.

The sides most likely to challenge for a top-eight spot are led by the Broncos with their inclusion of the brilliant Adam Reynolds as halfback and captain. The Sharks have bought very well in the off-season and must surely be a chance to make the finals. If the Raiders can stay fit they will be a real chance of September football too.

The Bulldogs are a dark horse too. Expect them to improve greatly.

The top eight will look very close to this: Panthers, Roosters, Storm, Sea Eagles, Eels, Rabbitohs, Broncos, Raiders.

The 2022 NRL premieres
In reality, just making the finals is likely to be the best result most teams will get.

When it comes to who will the premiership there are some pretty clear indicators:

• 37.5 per cent of the time the premier was a runner up in the previous five seasons.
• 46 per cent of the time the premier was a preliminary finalist in the past five seasons.
• 54 per cent of the time the premier had won the competition within the previous five seasons.
• 87.5 per cent of premiers took part in the previous season’s finals series.

These statistics point very heavily to one of the Panthers, Storm, Rabbitohs or Roosters winning the 2022 NRL premiership, with the Sea Eagles and Eels a decent hope. The Raiders are statistically the only side outside the 2021 top eight with any real chance.

With COVID-19 continuing to wreak havoc with all aspects of our lives, including our beloved rugby league, predicting who will win in 2022 is particularly tough. This season will come down to leadership, squad depth and lots of luck.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I again really like the chances of Uncle Nick’s Roosters.

Coaches under the pump
An unfortunate reality of only one side winning each year and eight teams making the finals is that eight sides will have unsuccessful seasons.

If that unsuccessful season comes on the back of others – and / or the season is really diabolical – coaches will be sacked.

In the 24 years of the National rugby league, on 57 occasions coaches have had their tenures terminated.

That averages out to 2.3 per season (14.4 per cent) who get their marching orders or who are told they are no longer required going forward.

There has yet to be an NRL season where at least one coach was not punted. Some seasons have been particularly brutal too:

• five in 2002 and 2020
• four in 2006, 2012 and 2014
• three in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2015
• two in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2019
• one in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2016, 2018 and 2021.

For the superstitious among us, 36 of the 57 sackings (63 per cent) have happened in the even years, so 2022 could well be tumultuous. However, the average amount of coaches sacked after a season when only one was removed – such as 2021 – is only two.

So, who is in danger?

Well definitely not Ivan Cleary, Des Hasler, Craig Bellamy or Trent Robinson. Only a remarkable scandal could see any of them punted in 2022.

I just can not see Craig Fitzgibbon getting the boot from the Sharks in 2022 unless things completely unravel, and only a huge drop in results will see Jason Demetriou or Brad Arthur let go. The Broncos will not pull out their support of Kevin Walters without simply awful results.

Kevin Walters

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

Things will have to go quite pear-shaped at the Knights, Titans and Raiders before Adam O’Brien, Justin Holbrook or Ricky Stuart respectively would get the ax.

On shakier ground are second year coaches who did not have the best 2021, although I see it as unlikely the Cowboys will punt Todd Payten without major disaster. However, major disaster is possible.

The coaches who are in real danger in 2022 are Wests Tigers ‘Michael Maguire, the Dragons’ Anthony Griffin, the Bulldogs ‘Trent Barrett and the Warriors’ Nathan Brown.

Nine coaches have had the misfortune of being dumped more than once. Tim Sheens, Matthew Elliott, Daniel Anderson, Brian Smith, Nathan Brown, Anthony Griffin, Stephen Kearney and Jason Taylor have all been despatched twice, with Chris Anderson getting the flick three times.

This equates to one third of the time that a sacked coach will have been given the boot before. So, that should make Maguire, Brown, Griffin and Barrett more than a little nervous.

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett looks on

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images)

At the Dragons, Anthony Griffin’s roster changes will need to pay some dividends and at least not see too bad a drop in results or the former Broncos and Panthers coach may join Chris Anderson as a three-time punte. I think he will likely survive though.

If the Bulldogs’ spending spree does not start seeing some pretty big improvement in their competitiveness and results then fully expect Trent Barrett to be under major pressure to keep his gig. If he does not get the Dogs out of the bottom four this season he can pack his bags for sure. Barrett’s ongoing tenure will be touch and go, but I suspect the Dogs will improve considerably in 2022.

I like Madge Maguire a lot but if the Wests Tigers do not start looking regularly competitive it is inevitable he will not return in 2023 and may not see out this year. I have great fear for Maguire.

I have never rated Nathan Brown as a coach. The genesis of that is likely all those years ago when he slapped Trent Barrett on the sideline. Which probably isn’t fair. Brown is right up against it. His side will most likely once more be on the road permanently and they’ve lost the great Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

The Warriors have sacked more coaches than any other club in the NRL era, with seven sacked in total. I can see Brown becoming number eight in 2022.

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