2021 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Rabbitohs
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: The Panthers celebrate with the NRL Premiership Trophy after victory in the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Heading into Week 20 of the 2022 NRL season, Penrith Panthers can clinch the minor premiers title with victory away at Parramatta Eels, underlining just how dominant their form has been throughout the campaign. They are also clear favourites to win a second consecutive grand final, having taken the NRL premiers crown last season.

Already 6 points ahead of nearest rivals North Queensland Cowboys in second, an additional 2 points on the league ladder would essentially finish the job for the Panthers, having scored 520 points for and conceded just 202 points against. This makes for a massive 318 points difference, which nobody can come anywhere close to matching.

According to the latest outright odds, the leading bookmakers are convinced the current Panthers team will reach and win another grand final, firm in the belief that little will stand in their way to continued success for the team coached by Ivan Cleary. Nevertheless, there’s one thing history tells us and that’s to take absolutely nothing for granted, certainly when it comes to the Finals portion of the season, when literally anything can and often does happen.

During the 2020 NRL season, the Panthers were the dominant side throughout the regular season, finishing top of the ladder above Melbourne Storm by 5 points. However, the tables were turned when both teams met again in the Grand Final that year, as the Storm secured a memorable 26-20 victory in Sydney.

Last year following a thrilling two-way contest, Melbourne Storm edged the minor premiers title, equal on points with Penrith Panthers, albeit winners of the regular season campaign by virtue of their +109 points difference advantage. Still, when the two sides met in the Preliminary finals, Storm were beaten 10-6 in a tense encounter at the Suncorp Stadium, while Penrith also went on to win the Grand Final 14-12 against South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Given the unpredictability of the Finals series, this will make it more than worthwhile to keep abreast of NRL odds and offers amongst the top betting sites which houses the latest SBO guide to online bookmakers. Their primary objective is to compare all the options available, based upon thorough and unbiased reviews, enabling users to find the right options to suit their own betting preferences. Ideal for NRL fans looking to benefit from new and alternative choices.

Interestingly, this time around Melbourne Storm have largely struggled by their habitual standards over the last few years, winning 11 and losing 7 after 18 games of the regular season. Given there is only 4 points between themselves in fifth, down to St. George Illawara Dragons in eleventh, the ladder standings would suggest there is plenty to play for in these final five games of the regular season campaign.

That being said, the bookies continue to believe that the Storm remains genuine candidates for the grand final, despite an awful run of recent form. Injuries to key players hasn’t helped their cause, and neither has losing their last four games in a row, while there are also fears of a psychological Storm problem. Indeed, some pundits believe the title could be out of reach this season, should the frustrating performances continue.

Alternative contenders are available in the betting stakes, given the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks have enjoyed largely positive campaigns, riding high in second and third position in the ladder ahead of the last five games. Both teams have made significant strides compared to last season, turning themselves into genuine contenders ahead of the Finals series.

The Cowboys have enjoyed a particularly remarkable turnaround, given they finished the 2021 regular season as the penultimate team in the ladder, now looking highly impressive in second place with 13 wins and 5 defeats. Meanwhile, after narrowly missing out on reaching the Finals series last season, the Sharks are now realising their full potential, reaching far beyond their habitual mid-table status of previous regular season campaigns.

Right now, it might seem like a long-shot for any of those three contenders to topple the Panthers, although we must never dismiss the possibility. This will ensure plenty of eager anticipation, albeit once the final regular season standings of the 2022 NRL campaign are known. Then it could all come down to which teams display the most courage on the day, in each of the encounters we’ll get to enjoy during the Finals series.