NRL Preliminary Finals 2022: Match Previews, Betting and Predictions

The NRL semi-finals didn’t quite reach the high bar set by the enthralling week prior, with both games virtually over by half-time and ending with severely lopsided score lines at the end of the 80 minutes. The impressive form shown by both winners, however, sets us up nicely for preliminary final week. In this piece, we’ll take a look at the two big wins they enjoyed last week, before previewing both preliminary finals and taking a look at some of the odds for key markets set to be decided over the next couple of weeks. 


NRL Semi-Finals Recap


Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders

Though the Eels have been a top four contender all season and the Raiders have spent most of the year outside the top eight, the team from the nation’s capital entered the game in sparkling form and seemed a legitimate chance of making their way into a preliminary final. It didn’t take long, however, for Parramatta to snuff out that possibility. Within 25 minutes they’d opened up a 22-0 lead, and from there they didn’t look back. The Raiders managed to stem the flow thereafter, but a couple of late tries to Marata Niukore saw them storm to a dominant 40-4 victory, and make the final four for the first time since 2009 in the process. 

The Raiders’ season, meanwhile, ended in ignominious fashion, and though they did well to make it to a semi-final given a finals spot appeared unlikely just a few weeks ago, that they rolled over so meekly will be a source of great disappointment, particularly given the strong form they’d shown over the past few weeks.


Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

The Sharks’ heartbreaking extra time qualifying final defeat at the hands of the Cowboys sent them into a tough matchup against a rampaging Rabbitohs outfit, and from the beginning it was clear the home side had their work cut out avoiding a straight sets exit. The visitors were on the board within two minutes, and though they took nearly half an hour to score again, by half-time they’d opened up an 18-0 lead. The Sharks threatened to work their way back into the game in the second half with a pair of tries in the first 15 minutes, but they never got closer than 12 points and by the end of the game were sent packing from the finals series with a disappointing 38-12 loss. 

The result saw the Rabbitohs march into a preliminary final for the fifth straight year, and though they will now face the most difficult test in the league – coming up against the Panthers – they do so in the best form they have displayed all season. 


NRL Preliminary Final 2022 Previews


North Queensland Cowboys ($1.70) vs Parramatta Eels ($2.18)

September 23, 7.50pm @ Queensland Country Bank Stadium

After three consecutive bottom three finishes, few could have foreseen the level of improvement the Cowboys displayed this year. And yet, come the second last week of the season, here they are, hosting a preliminary final and favoured to make their way into the biggest game of them all. They got there courtesy of a thrilling win against the Sharks in the qualifying final, a game in which they trailed by seven points with ten minutes to go and by six points with just a couple of minutes left, before forcing extra time and ultimately winning in the 92nd minute. That win will give them a huge amount of belief, and means they are just a home win away from a Grand Final appearance.

Standing in their way, however, is an Eels’ side coming off a hugely impressive victory against the Raiders, and who at their best this season, have played as well as almost anyone in the league. Indicative of that is their form over the last five weeks, a period during which they have won four games; one of those wins was an eight-pointer against the Storm, while the other three have been by 36, 47 and 36 points. The latest of those was just last week against an in-form Raiders team in one of their best performances of the season. 

But while at their best they have been close to unstoppable, Parramatta have also demonstrated a habit this year of throwing in the occasional stinker. One such example came when these two last met back in April, a game which the Cowboys won 35-4 in Parramatta. This time around, the game will be played on North Queensland’s home turf, at a venue at which they’ve lost just three games this season and just once since the beginning of April. If Parramatta is a step or two off, as they’ve demonstrated a tendency to be at times this season, the Cowboys will take full advantage. If we get the best version of the Eels, however, they are every chance of making their way into the Grand Final.

 Notable Stats and Trends

  • The Eels have been the best team in the league in terms of post contact metres this season, with their 16,288 nearly 1,000 more than any other side.
  • The Cowboys have won their last two games at Queensland Country Bank Stadium by an aggregate total of 86-12.


Penrith Panthers ($1.36) vs South Sydney Rabbitohs ($3.20)

September 24, 7.50pm @ Accor Stadium

All season long, a Grand Final appearance has appeared an inevitability for the Panthers. They locked in top spot on the ladder a long way out from the end of the regular season, meaning a home qualifying final was guaranteed and, if they won that, a home prelim too. And as expected, here they are, but while they’ll be fully expecting to get the chocolates and give themselves a shot at a second consecutive Premiership, they’ll have to beat a rampaging Rabbitohs team to do it. 

 The Bunnies have been getting better and better as the season has gone on, and in their last ten games of the home and away season their only losses came to the top two sides (by a combined total of just five points) and a rampaging Roosters team. In the finals that form has improved even further; they demolished that Roosters team which had won eight consecutive games in an elimination final, before beating a Sharks team which finished second on the ladder by 26 points. 

Of course, it was the Rabbitohs who the Panthers beat in last year’s Grand Final by just two points, and the last time they met the result was similarly close; Penrith winning that one 26-22 just a few weeks ago on South Sydney’s home turf. 

This time around, the Panthers will be the nominal home side, but they won’t get the advantage of playing at BlueBet Stadium, where they’ve lost just two games all year. Instead, the game will be played at Accor Stadium, a venue at which they’ve won less than half of their 38 games. History, however, likely won’t mean much to this team. Penrith have been the most clinical team in the league all year, and though they will have to perform at their best against this Rabbitohs side, that best is better than anyone else in the league.

Notable Stats and Trends

  • Alex Johnston leads the league in linebreaks in 2022 with 41; no one else has more than 30, while that number is double third place.
  • Penrith have been elite on both sides of the ball this year, scoring the second most points in the league in the home and away season and conceding the least.


NRL Futures

Take a look at the odds for the 2022 NRL Premiership below.


NRL Premiership Winner Odds

Penrith Panthers – $1.77

South Sydney Rabbitohs – $5.00

North Queensland Cowboys – $5.50

Parramatta Eels – $6.00


NRL Preliminary Finals Tips and Predictions


Parramatta Eels to win @ $2.18

This game could easily go either way, and the Eels appear to present some decent value at the odds available. They’re certainly capable of putting in a nightmare performance and going down to a very good Cowboys outfit relatively comfortably, but most weeks of the year, and particularly of late, they have played some very, very good football. They were ineffable last week, and though the Raiders just scraped into the finals, they were playing like a far better team than their ladder position suggested for two months, and Parramatta made them look like a club side. At their best they are a lethal outfit, and if they can find that form they could very well be too good for the Cowboys.


South Sydney Rabbitohs +8.5 @ $1.85

It feels unusual to predict anything other than the Panthers to continue on their merry way and make their way into another Grand Final with relative ease, but while they may very well still get the result they’re after, it’s hard to imagine the Rabbitohs going down without a fight. They’ve been simply fantastic for months, and though they finished down in seventh they entered the finals with their proverbial tail well and truly wagging. And, since the postseason has begun, they’ve got even better. Whether they can reverse the result of last year’s Grand Final is another question entirely, but with an 8.5-point head start they appear to be good value at the line.


**Odds quoted are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change.