SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Cameron Smith of the Storm celebrates and holds aloft the NRL Premiership trophy after winning the 2017 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

What defines success in the NRL?

It's the question being bandied around rugby league this weekend as experts and fans alike run the magnifying glass over a host of sides either still in or recently eliminated from the finals, and deem whether their 2022 season was a success or not.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are a prime example.

The club will compete in their fifth consecutive preliminary final on Saturday night when they meet Penrith in a mouth-watering Grand Final rematch at Accor Stadium, the longest active prelim streak in the game at the moment.

However, despite making five in a row, the Rabbitohs haven't won a single premiership in that time period, playing in just a singular Grand Final.

It all comes down to perspective.

Not once in that period did South Sydney finish the regular season in the top-two, in fact they finished outside the four in both 2020 and 2022, so is this successful or not?

Penrith, on the flip side, have enjoyed one of the most dominant three-year spans in rugby league history, claiming a premiership and two minor premierships, yet anything less than a consecutive Grand Final victory this season would be deemed a 'choke' by the general public.

The Panthers were installed as $1.80 favourites by bookmakers following their Qualifying Final win over arch rivals Parramatta, a figure indicating that the club is more likely to win the premiership than not win it, despite eight teams still remaining at the time.

NRL Qualifying Final - Panthers v Eels
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Brian To'o of the Panthers celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the NRL Qualifying Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at BlueBet Stadium on September 09, 2022 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

So how can a team that lost just three regular season games finish the year and deem their season a failure?

Perspective, perspective, perspective.

An 8th-placed finish in 2023 would be labelled a successful year for the Wests Tigers.

An 8th-placed finish in 2023 would be borderline disastrous for the Sydney Roosters.

Any club playing five straight Grand Final qualifiers is built on success, as is a club looking to play a third consecutive decider.

Parramatta are playing their first preliminary final since 2009 while the North Queensland Cowboys haven't even played a finals game since 2017.

Whichever side comes crashing out in Townsville on Friday night, can they really walk away and call 2022 a failure?

Rome wasn't built in a day and NRL premierships weren't won overnight. They're a grind, brick by brick these title-winning sides are built over years.

Melbourne Storm finished 5th and came crashing out in the opening week of the finals for the first time since 2014.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 03: Cameron Munster of the Storm looks dejected after a Sharks try during the round eight NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at Shark Park on May 03, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

They've made a preliminary final at least in every season between now and then, seven straight, despite being forced to Queensland for nearly two whole seasons, and losing the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Reimis Smith and Christian Welch to season-ending injuries early in the piece.

Was 2022 a success or a failure?

It all comes back to personal standards, South Sydney would've loved to qualify for five consecutive Grand Finals while Penrith would no doubt prefer to be on the cusp of a third straight premiership, but that's rugby league.

Cronulla will be hurting after a straight-sets exit, however finishing 2nd a year after missing the finals has to be a success, doesn't it? Or is it a choke job?

It depends where you're standing, but undoubtedly there's a dozen sides wishing they had what Cronulla did this season.

It's all on the line this weekend as perspective takes a back seat to who dominates, and who will be remembered as an 'almost was'. A preliminary final loss is as much success as it is failure.

So is the cup half-empty, or is it half-full?