NRL team lists, finals system, Panthers, minor premiers, Grand Final, rivalry

The NRL finals have arrived – and the coaching conjecture is put to one side – as the top eight teams begin their quest for premiership glory. Complete preview, road to Grand Final and how to watch live on Kayo.

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A Western Sydney blockbuster opens the 2022 NRL Finals and more rivalry culminates week one of the next four weeks leading to Accor Stadium on October 2.

Watch live here on Kayo and scroll down for all the news you need to know. Latest odds with CODE Bet.

Who has made it this far?

In ladder position order:

  1. Penrith Panthers – 20 wins, four losses (636 points for, 330 against)
  2. Cronulla Sharks – 18 wins, six losses (573 points for, 364 against)
  3. North Queensland Cowboys – 17 wins, seven losses (633 points for, 361 against)
  4. Parramatta Eels – 16 wins, eight losses (608 points for, 489 against)
  5. Melbourne Storm – 15 wins, nine losses (657 points for, 410 against)
  6. Sydney Roosters – 15 wins, nine losses (635 points for, 434 against)
  7. South Sydney Rabbitohs – 14 wins, 10 losses (604 points for, 474 against)
  8. Canberra Raiders – 14 wins, 10 losses (524 points for, 461 against)

Who meets who, where and when?

Friday 9 September

Penrith Panthers (1st) host Parramatta Eels (4th) at BlueBet Stadium starting at 7.50pm (AEST).

Winner progresses to week three of the finals and is one step from the Grand Final.

For league fans in Adelaide and Darwin 7.20pm (ACST) and in Western Australia at 5.50pm (AWST).

Saturday 10 September

Melbourne Storm (5th) host Canberra Raiders (8th) at AAMI Park starting at 5.40pm (AEST).

Loser is eliminated.

For league fans in Adelaide and Darwin 5.10pm (ACST) and in Western Australia at 3.40pm (AWST).

Cronulla Sharks (2nd) host North Queensland Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium starting at 7.50pm (AEST).

Winner progresses to week three of the finals and is one step from the Grand Final.

For league fans in Adelaide and Darwin 7.20pm (ACST) and in Western Australia at 5.50pm (AWST).

Sunday 11 September

Sydney Roosters host South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium starting at 4.05pm (AEST).

Loser is eliminated.

For league fans in Adelaide and Darwin 3.35pm (ACST) and in Western Australia at 2.05pm (AWST).

Ticket information

For more information, visit NRL tickets.

Latest odds with CODE Bet

Get the expert insight and analysis you need to determine who is the best bet for each of the two finals this weekend.

Last time they met

*first team in order of score denotes home team

Parramatta 34 | Penrith 10

Nathan Cleary was sent off in the 18th minute for a spear tackle. This win at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium continued an undefeated record for the Eels against Penrith in 2022 having won all three encounters including a trial at BlueBet Stadium.

Ironically, Cleary returns from suspension against the same opponent he last started a match.

Melbourne 16 | Canberra 20

Melbourne lost first choice fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen at AAMI Park this day in late July breaking his knee cap in a collision with Jack Wighton. Canberra again travel to Melbourne on Saturday having not lost in their past four visits.

North Queensland 12 | Cronulla 26

Cronulla has remarkably won their last eight straight against the Cowboys including this encounter at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium. North Queensland’s last win came in March 2018 with Johnathan Thurston at halfback.

Sydney Roosters 26 | South Sydney 16

It wasn’t that long ago. Just last Friday in fact. The grand opening of the new and improved Allianz Stadium, in front of 41,906, the Roosters scored four tries to three. But they lost gun centre Joey Manu to a calf strain ruling him out for up two to three weeks.

How each team fares?

Panthers

Penrith sealed the minor premiership with one game remaining and rested up to 12 of their regular starting line-up for the trip to Townsville – not including the suspended Nathan Cleary – the North Queensland Cowboys, losing just their fourth game all season, 38-8.

Adopting an approach currently mandatory in the AFL, Penrith knew who its opponents would be before the Cowboys after Parramatta held on to beat Melbourne Storm.

The defending premier could not have put up a better defence of the title winning 17 of their first 18 matches, and three of their four losses have come in the final six matches of the regular season.

It is their second minor premiership in three seasons and fourth overall (1991, 2003, 2020 and 2022). In only one of those years have the Panthers failed to win the premiership.

The understated star of Penrith’s season has been Dylan Edwards second in the competition for run metres (4,800) behind James Tedesco and leading the competition in kick return metres (1,968).

In some unwanted news for the premiership favourites with winger Taylan May found guilty of assault during the week, but is free to play, with a two-game NRL suspension starting next season.

Panthers team to play Eels:

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Taylan May 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo

Interchange: 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Apisai Koroisau (ankle), Spencer Leniu (shoulder) and Liam Martin (rested) all named to return this Friday.

Sharks

In his rookie season as head coach Craig Fitzgibbon has guided Cronulla to its highest finish since the 1999 minor premiership. Nicho Hynes has been a revelation in the Sharks’ rise from ninth to top two since arriving at the club as a utility from Melbourne Storm.

He finished the season with 17 try assists and 24 line break assists, combining perfectly with five-eighth Matt Moylan, as was the case in the 38-16 win over the Knights in Newcastle to clinch second spot from the North Queensland Cowboys and a home final.

Hynes was one of two recruits headhunted from the Storm with lock Dale Finucane whose season has been interrupted by suspension and injury.

It was their sixth straight win and 11th in their last 12 fixtures heading into finals; a better record than Penrith with eight in the same period.

An awkward tackle in the dying stages of Cronulla’s win on Sunday against the Newcastle Knights looked immediately to place centre Siosifa Talakai in doubt for Saturday, but the Sharks are hopeful the Origin debutant’s ankle will come good and he has been named.

Sharks team to play Cowboys:

1. Will Kennedy 2. Connor Tracey 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Royce Hunt 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Dale Finucane

Interchange: 14. Teig Wilton 15. Cameron McInnes 16. Braden Hamlin-Uele 17. Andrew Fifita

Reserves: 18. Lachlan Miller 19. Aiden Tolman 20. Matt Ikuvalu 21. Jesse Colquhoun 22. Luke Metcalf

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Dale Finucane (rib), William Kennedy (ankle) and Toby Rudolf (knee) are all hopeful of returning on Saturday night.

Cowboys

Like Fitzgibbon, Todd Payten has turned around the Cowboys this season in his second year at the helm, but more so.

From 15th in his first campaign in charge, with a few adjustments in the off-season, to second until the final day of the regular season when Cronulla ruined the party.

Part of those adjustments were the recruitment of Chad Townsend at halfback and the revelation of numerous young stars including Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and the once-maligned Bronco Tom Dearden, who all made Origin debuts for Queensland this year.

Second rower Nanai, at just 19, has scored 17 tries on the edge, 15 offloads and eight line breaks in his second NRL season after just four matches in his first. Dearden, 21, has overcome a ruptured testicle to be part of the Cowboys’ finals campaign.

Another to have a breakout season was fullback Scott Drinkwater with a simple question from Payten over coffee changing the course of his career.

On Saturday, former Sharks Townsend and Valentine Holmes return to the place where they shared the 2016 drought-breaking success for their first final as Cowboys. After 10 of 11 wins between round six and 16, the Cowboys have dropped three games in their next eight matches against Cronulla, the Roosters and Rabbitohs.

Cowboys team to play Sharks:

1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo

Interchange: 14. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 15. Tom Gilbert 16. Coen Hess 17. Griffin Neame

Reserves: 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 19. Tomas Chester 20. Jake Granville 21. Brendan Elliot 22. Ben Hampton

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Mitchell Dunn (ACL – season) and Heilum Luki (knee – season)

Eels

This may be Parramatta’s best opportunity to break their 36-year premiership drought since 2009. That was the year Jarryd Hayne’s move to fullback produced string of performances that would carry Parramatta to 10 wins from 11 matches and into a grand final won by the Storm, and later taken away due to salary cap breaches.

Like recent seasons, Brad Arthur’s men have been inconsistent beating the teams the contenders but failing to beat the pretenders. Parramatta is undefeated against Melbourne and Penrith this season, but lost to Canterbury and wooden spoon Wests Tigers along the journey as well.

But following a 26-nil shutout against South Sydney in round 22, Parramatta have hit top gear with three crushing wins over Canterbury (42-6), Brisbane (53-6) finished with 22-14 over the Melbourne Storm when they had led by as 20-nil with less than 15 minutes remaining.

Pivotal to that success has been Mitchell Moses. Set to miss the better part of the Eels’ run home with a broken finger, the 27-year-old returned two weeks early against the Bulldogs combining with halves partner Dylan Brown to run the Dogs ragged.

Moses finished the season with 26 try assists, but hasn’t recorded one in the last two weeks, while Brown has more try assists this season than he has had in his previous three seasons with the Eels to complement his 100 plus tackle breaks and 11 tries.

The question remains whether these two can continue such attacking flair at the business end to remove the ‘monkey’ that has been hanging on ever since Ray Price and Mick Cronin last held the premiership trophy aloft for the Eels after the 1986 win.

Eels team to play Penrith:

1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’I 13. Ryan Matterson

Interchange: 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore

Reserves: 18. Nathan Brown 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Bryce Cartwright 21. Ofahiki Ogden 22. Ky Rodwell

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Haze Dunster (knee – season), Ray Stone (ACL – season)

Storm

The ever-consistent Melbourne Storm missed the top four for the first time since 2014. Not that it is worrying Craig Bellamy who has rejected the notion his side cannot win the premiership from outside the top four.

Melbourne look to have rescued their top four ambitions in August, after four-straight losses to Manly, Cronulla, Canberra and South Sydney, when holding out the Penrith Panthers 16-nil to win their third in a row, soon to become four when they unleashed against the Brisbane Broncos 60-12.

All done without Ryan Papenhuyzen who went against the Raiders. Melbourne lost two hard fought matches to finish the regular season against Parramatta last week and what many considered the match of the season against Sydney Roosters (18-14) in the penultimate round.

Cameron Munster has floated between his trademark five-eighth position and where he started his career at fullback during the back end of the season, hinting that may be a long term option for him, but first he will need to decide his future past his current contract at 2023 which has been ongoing headline throughout this year with new franchise The Dolphins looming.

In a huge boost for the Storm ahead of Saturday against Canberra, halfback Jahrome Hughes has been confirmed to return from a calf complaint. The Storm halfback was rested last week against Parramatta, where they definitely missed his influence, with 12 tries and 11 try assists in his 20 matches this season.

In comparison, Munster has 11 tries and 15 try assists.

Storm team to play Raiders:

1. Nick Meaney 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Harry Grant 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Josh King

Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Trent Loiero 17. Chris Lewis

Reserves: 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Jordan Grant 20. Tepai Moeroa 21. Cooper Johns 22. Grant Anderson

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Jahrome Hughes (calf) and Kenny Bromwich (head knock) each return on Saturday. Tom Eisenhuth (ankle), Dean Ieremia (hamstring), George Jennings (ACL), Ryan Papenhuyzen (knee), Reimis Smith (pectoral) and Christian Welch (Achilles).

Roosters

Like several of many of the bottom four teams in the top eight, by mid-season it looked as though the Roosters would miss the finals for the first time since 2016 when they ran second last.

A rebuild year like it was in 2016 when coach Trent Robinson then led his side to a preliminary final and back-to-back premierships in the next two seasons.

By July, the Roosters were outside the eight and had registered its fourth straight loss which came at Penrith 26-18, but the tide was about to turn.

They have been undefeated since and won eight straight. That has just so happened to coincide with the recruitment of Matt Lodge upfront.

Since arriving from the Warriors he has provided the extra punch the Roosters have needed in the forwards, upwards of 50 post contact metres in his past six matches.

But in a huge blow for the Roosters ahead of their rematch against South Sydney they will be without centre Joey Manu due to a calf injury and the team was preparing for a three to six week stint on the sidelines but are hopeful he will see some finals action, if the Roosters get that far.

Manu’s numbers alone illustrate how much they miss the 26-year-old New Zealander; 11 tries, 12 try assists, 145 tackle breaks and 13 line breaks.

Roosters team to play Rabbitohs:

1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Drew Hutchison 5. Joseph Suaalii 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Angus Crichton 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley

Interchange: 14. Connor Watson 15. Egan Butcher 16. Adam Keighran 17. Matthew Lodge

Reserves: 18. Kevin Naiqama 19. Terrell May 20. Oliver Gildart 21. Fletcher Baker 22. Siua Wong

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Victor Radley has been named to play despite concussion concerns as is the case with Daniel Tupou (groin), Joseph Suaalii (shoulder) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (hamstring). Joey Manu has been ruled out.

Rabbitohs

South Sydney’s inconsistent season saw them finish seventh with the return of Latrell Mitchell from hamstring rehabilitation in the United States giving him a new lease on life launching Souths back into top eight contention with four straight wins during July.

Since his return the try assists and tackle breaks have come thick and fast contributing to seven wins from 10 matches in the run home. Mitchell’s requests for crowd behaviour have also caused some disagreement with Souths’ bitter rivals ahead of Sunday.

The huge question mark leading into the season was whether the Rabbitohs could do it without heart and soul halfback Adam Reynolds, bound for Brisbane this season.

And when his 22-year-old replacement Lachlan Ilias was benched midway through the first half of a heavy 32-12 round 15 loss to St George Illawarra back in June, the wheels looked to be coming off Jason Demetriou’s first season in charge following Wayne Bennett’s departure.

But the Rabbitohs rallied with the help of Mitchell and the try-scoring of Alex Johnston out wide to make finals and put their name forward as a premiership contender, especially after their 26-nil shut-out of Parramatta and win over Melbourne at home.

For the record, Johnston has 28 tries in 24 matches this season – eight clear of the next best Brisbane’s Corey Oates, taking the South Sydney flyer to equal sixth on the all-time list with Terry Lamb on 164 tries.

Cameron Murray has been named for Sunday’s elimination semi final despite concussion concerns. Hooker Damien Cook also returns from Covid protocols.

Rabbitohs team to play Roosters:

1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray

Interchange: 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Hame Sele 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Siliva Havili

Reserves: 18. Blake Taaffe 19. Jaxson Paulo 20. Davvy Moale 21. Michael Chee Kam 22. Josh Mansour

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Cameron Murray (concussion) and Siliva Havili (head knock) have both named in the 17. Jacob Host (shoulder) and Liam Knight (knee) are out for the season.

Raiders

Canberra had just two wins from their first eight matches this season and were without a number of key stars.

English hooker Josh Hodgson (knee) went down in round one against Cronulla, captain Jarrod Croker succumbed to a devastating shoulder injury on return from career-saving knee surgery and new recruit, halfback Jamal Fogarty also missing the first half of the season with a knee injury.

Then reminiscent of their 2016 charge to second place on the ladder, and a preliminary final under Ricky Stuart, the Raiders have strung seven wins from their last eight matches to snatch eighth spot, largely thanks to the Broncos’ capitulation, conceding 135 points in their final three straight defeats.

Joe Tapine has been a huge reason for the resurgence. The front rower leads the competition for post-contact metres with nearly 1,600 to his name throughout the regular season and over 40 offloads causing defences all sorts of headaches in what his coach has called “career best form.”

He captained Canberra for the first time in the final round at Leichhardt Oval against Wests Tigers.

The one concerns about their current six-game winning streak, harking back to memories of Parramatta’s 2009 charge, is the softness of the past two wins against Manly (48-6) and Wests Tigers (56-10) heading into one of the hardest matches physically for any team in the NRL against Melbourne in the southern capital

Raiders team to play Storm:

1. Xavier Savage 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papalii’i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Adam Elliott

Interchange: 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Corey Harawira-Naera

Reserves: 18. Albert Hopoate 19. Ata Mariota 20. Matt Frawley 21. Peter Hola 22. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Latest team news here.

Injuries: Captain Elliott Whitehead and Jack Wighton return on Saturday after being rested against the Tigers. Jarrod Croker (shoulder), Josh Hodgson (knee), Harley Smith-Shields (ACL) and Ryan Sutton (hand) all suffered season ending injuries.

Where can I watch the NRL finals?

Watch all finals leading up to the NRL Grand Final live on Kayo.

Latest NRL news I need to know

For the latest AFL news and analysis, visit CODE Sports here.

PAMELA WHALEY details the finals redemption for Parramatta’s hard-luck stars of 2021.

BRENDAN BRADFORD speaks to Chad Townsend on his mixed feelings playing at ‘home’.

LACHLAN MCKIRDY talks to Xavier Coates on what he has learnt outside the NRL bubble.

PLUS the statistical trends that could that could determine the premiers come October 2.

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Nate Jones

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