Here we go again. Just four short weeks await before the 2022 NRL season kicks off, and just a matter of days before our first taste of rugby league for the year. Questions are starting to be asked, how each team shall fare, it's the time of year for renewed hope.
It wasn't your side's year in 2021? After a long pre-season and a refreshed roster, you're ready to ride the wave again, casting out the doubters who've written them off already. Can Penrith defend their title? Can you protect your players from heading north to Redcliffe for 2023? Are Melbourne finally done? Questions that will float through the air until a ball is kicked, and leave us salivating for more rugby league.
How will the season unfold, you ask? We don't have a crystal ball, but we'll have a stab in the dark. Here's how the 2022 NRL season will play out.
50 - Farewell, Rabs
After a career that's spanned over half a century, Ray Warren will finally hang up the microphone and draw the curtains on his commentating days.
Turning 79 midway through the year, 'Rabs' will walk away after the 2022 NRL Grand Final. In typical Rabs fashion, he'll decline the fanfare, potentially even refusing to make an official announcement as he rides off into the sunset.
49 - Drought days are over
Like every season, we see clubs break records, but it'll be a few individuals who enjoy breaking streaks the most this year. Namely, Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima, whose long exodus from the NRL appears to be coming to the end.
It'll be over 1,000 days between NRL games for Hastings, while Nikorima, who hasn't been sighted since early 2016, has waited more than 2,100 days for another shot.
48 - Young guns fire, Red V flop
They possess some of the brightest young stars in the game, but not even a slue of breakout seasons can halt the Dragons from sliding down the ladder.
Good signs for the long term of the club, but 2022 will be one targeted at development.
47 - Watson singing the Blues in Bondi
Watson has signed with the Roosters to play 14, and could realistically cover every position on the park bar prop and wing, but he'd still have a crack if required. It'll set up a tasty headline with former teammates in Watson and Kalyn Ponga facing off in Origin.
46 - Taumalolo requests release
The rumblings have been around for a while, but Jason Taumalolo will drop a bombshell up north and request a release from his decade-long deal with the Cowboys, and potentially take up residence in Redcliffe as the result.
Taumalolo and head coach Todd Payten have had their differences at times, and will part ways at the end of 2022... If Payten is still in the job.
45 - Indigenous All Stars run riot
February's All-Star clash was an absolute firecracker, with a host of young stars in both outfits leaving their mark on the annual contest.
While both camps were missing some elite talent, the Maori All-Stars came out on top, but it will be the Indigenous outfit that will soon reap the rewards as they continue to cut their teeth in the NRL before finally getting back to winning ways next season.
44 - Sharks get culled
While it's an exciting year ahead for Cronulla, expect a rocky opening six weeks. Rookie coach Craig Fitzgibbon will be forced to chop and change his side continually as he attempts to nail the balance in the halves as well as the forward pack.
He needs to lock down a full-time partner for Nicho Hynes in the halves, and figure out fast whether Cam McInnes will be his first-string lock from here on out.
43 - Parramatta picked apart
42 - Croft a Super League 'steel'
Croft will break the mould and showcase his running game as he carries Salford to the finals.
41 - Brooks finds greener grass
Speaking of Luke Brooks, the pre-season fruition of the Tigers halfback being released to the Knights will finally come true - just before the June 30 deadline. Tim Sheens is a big fan of the local junior, but will reluctantly release Brooks just before June 30.
The club would be crazy to release him while Adam Doueihi remains sidelined, but after a sluggish start to the season, Brooks will again gather the blame for a slow start to the season. The strong form of Jackson Hastings will see Brooks dropped upon Doueihi's mid-season return from an ACL tear, and Newcastle will finally have their man.