The NRL season is just a month away, and while plenty of focus tends to be on the teams at the top of the ladder, with success and glory awaiting, there is also the question of which teams will end up fighting for the wooden spoon.
It’s a “prize” no team wants to be receiving at the end of the year, but one a team will ultimately end up with.
It’s also a spot on the ladder which is going to see different teams in the battle as the 2022 season comes to life.
The Canterbury Bulldogs were the team at the bottom of the ladder when it was all said and done at the end of 2021, but their mass recruitment drive will leave heads rolling if they end up in the same spot at the same time this year.
The Brisbane Broncos were last before that, but improved in 2021 and welcome grand final duo Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell for the 2022 season which has pundits wondering whether they will fight for the top eight, not whether they could finish at the bottom once again.
2019 saw the Gold Coast Titans pick up the spoon, and after making the finals in 2021, they won’t be anywhere near it this time around.
Here are the five stragglers who are a chance of finishing at the bottom of the 2022 NRL table, and who would need something of a miracle to make the finals.
1. North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys come into the new season with all sorts of problems and no real way of addressing them.
They have signed Chad Townsend on a reported figure of around $800,000 per year, which makes very little sense given they have already signed Thomas Dearden to play exactly that role as a star of the future.
Then there is the misuse of Jason Taumalolo, who should be the competition's number one wrecking ball, but spent 2021 being reduced to a bit-part player by Payten who wanted to keep him healthy for years to come in one of the weirder statements a coach has ever made.
Valentine Holmes is another without a secure role, the Cowboys attempting to turn him into a centre after his failings at fullback despite the fact he is one of the best wingers his generation has seen, once scoring six tries for Australia in a Test.
Their young second-row brings with it promise, but it's also incredibly raw and needs time to develop, while Jordan McLean continues to soak up salary cap without performing.
It's tough to be anything but overwhelmingly negative on the Cowboys for the season ahead.