Payne Haas was one of the shining lights of the Broncos’ improved season.
It was an entertaining and full-on year in rugby league, with plenty of highlights and lowlights to occupy the headlines.
NRL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Dylan Edwards – led the league in run meters and kick return meters but more than that, saved tries with his last-ditch defense and got the premiers on the front foot.
His grand final performance was superb. Ran further with the ball in 2022 than any player in seven years.
NRLW PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Sydney Roosters playmaker Raecene McGregor, who came up with 10 try assists during the 2022 season. In a stellar year, McGregor also won the women’s Dally M Medal and Golden Boot.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Plenty of so-called experts – including myself – tipped the Cowboys to run last in 2022. Remarkably, Todd Payten took a team that finished well down the ladder in 2021 to within a game of the grand final, unearthing some exciting talent along the way .
DUMBEST QUESTION OF THE YEAR
The Dragons asking fans last week if they should drop the word “Illawarra” from their title – a move that saw supporters in Wollongong up in arms. Club officials quickly distanced themselves from the question.
WORST ATTACK OF THE YEAR
Wests Tigers managed just 63 tries in 2022, the fewest of any NRL team. The good news for long suffering Tigers fans is that supremo Tim Sheens has decided enough is enough and performed major surgery on his team, bringing in a host of big names.
UPSET OF THE YEAR
Last-placed Canterbury started as rank $8 outsiders against the Eels in round 14 but came up with a stunning 34-4 win at Accor Stadium. Parra shot out to long odds with the bookies to make the grand final from there – but somehow turned it all around.
NRL Highlights: Bulldogs v Eels – Round 14
TEAM PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
The Jillaroos beat their nemesis – a strong Kiwi side – to win the World Cup final 54-4 at Manchester’s famous Old Trafford ground. Simply stunning.
TRY OF THE YEAR
Josh Addo-Carr’s incredible kick-and-chase four-pointer for Australia after Matt Burton’s between the legs pass over the sideline at the World Cup. One in a million.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Few people figured Jeremiah Nanai would play much top grade football in 2022 after a handful of games in his debut season in 2021. But the 19-year-old proved a revelation, starring not only for the Cowboys but also for Queensland and Australia. Set a record for most tries by a Cowboys forward for good measure.
MOST DRAMATIC DAY OF THE YEAR
In a rugby league first, two coaches were sent packing on the same day in early June. In Sydney, the Tigers dumped Michael Maguire after a dreadful start to the season while across the Tasman, Nathan Brown parted ways with the Warriors. Both teams continued to struggle despite the changes and had underwhelming seasons.
MOST CONFUSED PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Payne Haas asked for an immediate release from the Broncos mid-season – and was promptly booed by the Brisbane faithful at Suncorp that weekend. Then in September he decided to honor his rich contract, which runs until the end of 2024.
MYSTERY OF THE YEAR
Prop Matt Lodge’s $700,000 “termination payout” after he left the Warriors mid-season following a row with owner Mark Robinson. There were many theories, but no explanation was ever given for the massive payout, with Lodge then signing with the Roosters.
CARETAKER COACH OF THE YEAR
In a season where coaches came and went, Mick Potter excelled when thrown into the hot seat at the Bulldogs after Trent Barrett was sent packing. Club legend Potter immediately got the Dogs playing bright attacking football and he did such a good job there were calls for him to retain the post full-time next season.
SLEDGE OF THE YEAR
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart labeled Panthers utility Jaeman Salmon a “weak-gutted dog” after an on-field act between the Panthers and Raiders. The pair have history and Stuart didn’t hold back. Neither did the NRL, suspending Stuart for a week and finishing him $25,000 for his outburst.
MOST BRUTAL THREE MINUTES OF THE YEAR
The opening stages of the Origin decider at Suncorp, where players ripped in like there was no tomorrow. Three players were forced off with concussion – Maroons Selwyn Cobbo and Lindsay Collins, and Blue Cameron Murray.
2022 State of Origin Highlights: NSW v QLD – Game III
MOST LUDICROUS DECISION OF THE YEAR
The NRL suspended Panthers winger Taylan May for two matches after he was found guilty of assault — but delayed the ban until next season. The move outraged many fans, while other players also tried having their bans postponed.
COVER-UP OF THE YEAR
A suspicious video emerged late in the season of Knights stars Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann, who were both in injury rehab, leaving a toilet cubicle together after a day on the drink. Ponga’s father declared his boy wasn’t feeling well and Mann was checking on his well-being – and that was the end of the matter.
DUDDING OF THE YEAR
The luckless Tigers were denied a deserved victory over the Cowboys in what would have been a massive upset in a bizarre finish to a round 19 clash in Townsville. Referee Ashley Klein awarded the home side a dubious penalty after the siren, which proved the difference. Klein was sacked – for a week – but returned in time to be handed the grand final.
Tigers error hands Cowboys try
MOST SPITEFUL GAME OF THE YEAR
It was on for young and old when traditional rivals the Roosters and Rabbitohs locked horns in the elimination final at the new Allianz Stadium. A record seven players were sent to the sin bin, including Victor Radley and Taane Milne twice each!
BEST FINISHER OF THE YEAR
Josh Addo-Carr is unchallenged as the best winger in the game – but special mention has to be made of Rabbitohs flyer Alex Johnston, who became the first man to score 30-plus tries in consecutive seasons in a mighty performance over the past two years .
SUPER LEAGUE FINISHER OF THE YEAR
While we are on tryscorers, former Eel Bevan French deserves a rap for setting a new Super League record for most tries in game with seven for Wigan against Hull. Bring him back to the NRL!
VOICE OF THE YEAR
The legendary Ray Warren officially retired from commentary after 45 years of calling the shots as the voice of rugby league. Rabs remains a beloved figure in the game.
BIGGEST OOPS OF THE YEAR
Dragons center Zac Lomax is a class act – but he committed 44 errors during the season – the most in the NRL. He’ll cut that number radically in 2023 – just needs some good direction.
MESSIEST SAGA OF THE YEAR
Manly’s season imploded when seven players boycotted a clash with the Roosters as a protest against wearing pride jerseys, claiming it went against their religion. The Roosters won 20-10 and Manly lost every game for the remainder of the season.
SADDEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
The suicide of former Cronulla star and Cowboys premiership-winning coach Paul Green at 49 years of age. Former Dally M Medallist Rocky Laurie also passed away after a long struggle with his mental health. Johnny Raper, Barry Muir, Tony Townsend, Bill Ashurst, Olsen Filipaina and Paul Broughton were others to pass on in a sad year for the game.
FEEL-GOOD STORY OF THE YEAR
Samoa reaching the final of the World Cup – signaling a changing of the guard in the rugby league world. They were never going to beat the Aussies – but just getting there was a mighty feat.
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