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.

Jackson Hastings

Following the departure of Nicho Hynes and the Round 1 suspensions for Cam Munster, Harry Grant and Brandon Smith, the wait could nearly be over for Nikorima.

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.

The likes of Tyrell Sloan, Jayden Sullivan, Junior Amone and the Feagai twins will be the shining lights in an otherwise bleak season that'll see Anthony Griffin escape by the skin of his teeth.

Good signs for the long term of the club, but 2022 will be one targeted at development.

47 - Watson singing the Blues in Bondi

Despite starting the season in good nick, Jack Wighton will miss Blues selection after the form of Connor Watson bumps the Canberra five-eighth from the side.

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.

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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.

NRL Players Return to Clubs Ahead of Resumption of Training
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 04: Roosters assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon arrives at Sydney Roosters headquarters on May 04, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. NRL Players are gathering for team meeting ahead of a return to training in the lead up to the NRL's return to play date of May 28th. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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

Having already lost Reed Mahoney, Marata Niukore and Isaiah Papali'i for 2023, the Eels will continue to bleed players as 2022 quickly fades into a 'rebuilding season'.

Maika Sivo will receive serious offers from international rugby union sides, while fellow stars will be shopped to rival clubs as Brad Arthur aims to make a premiership rush with a fresh roster.

42 - Croft a Super League 'steel'

He had his fair share of critics here in Australia, but Brodie Croft will put the slander behind him with a stellar season at Salford, finishing the season on the Man of Steel shortlist.

He's been compared to Cooper Cronk since his debut, the same problem that Luke Brooks has faced for the majority of his career. Expectations are too high at an early age to match.

Croft will break the mould and showcase his running game as he carries Salford to the finals.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Brodie Croft of the Storm looks dejected after defeat a she is comforted by Cooper Cronk of the Roosters during the 2018 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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.


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