So here we are, the Grand Final, and what a season it’s been. It seemed almost inevitable that the Panthers would be here on the final Sunday of the 2022 NRL season. And to be honest, at the start of the season a lot of experts had this year being the year of the Eel. Both teams came from behind in their respective prelim finals, with the Eels coming back from being down by 8 with 22 minutes left, to score two unanswered tries to win 24-20 in Townsville. The Panthers were down 12-0 early after a sluggish start, before scoring 32 unanswered points to win 32-12 over the Rabbitohs.

Draftstars has a massive $60,000 contest with $5,910 to first place for the decider. There are also several other contests including the Mini, Micro, and the High Roller. Last chance this year to win some money on the NRL, let’s dive in.


Team News

The Panthers have made zero changes to their 17 after their win over the Rabbitohs. Winger Taylan May was ruled out early, giving Charlies Staines the start once again. Don’t be surprised to see Mitch Kenny again start at hooker, despite the Panthers struggling early last week whilst Api Koroisau was benched.

The Eels have made one change, with Bryce Cartwright dropping off the bench, replaced by Nathan Brown. Centre Tom Opacic, like May, was ruled out early in the week, confirming Bailey Simonsson would again start at centre. Like the Panthers, don’t be surprised to see Marata Niukore start at lock, with Ryan Matterson once again reverting to the bench.

Betting Odds

Panthers $1.37 vs Eels $3.10 - Bet now at Ladbrokes!


I would predict points to be at a premium in the Grand Final, with a similar score line to last year’s decider (14-12) not out of the realms of possibility. Despite this, there’s still some fantastic scores to be had from players on both teams. Both fullbacks have been in tremendous form, and with ceilings like Gutherson (83) and Edwards (75), either could be worth a look. Outside backs like Brian To’o and Will Penisini are both capable of high scores, as are several forwards from each team. Then we have the halfbacks, where Nathan Cleary (71.4) and Mitch Moses (60.0) both average well above halfback averages.

It's been a tremendous season of football, and this is about as good a matchup as you could hope for the Grand Final. Despite the fairy-tale of the Eels finally getting that monkey off the back, the Panthers should have too much class across the park to be denied. Their defence is in the pantheon of the very best of the modern era, and if they can score 3 tries, I believe that’ll be too much for the Eels.


Love It – Clint Gutherson - $11,260

King Gutho has gone to another level in the final’s series, looking like a man possessed at the back for the Eels. Whilst he doesn’t have the consistency of a Dylan Edwards, or even a Brian To’o, he does have the high ceiling, having scored the 3rd highest score this season amongst this slate of OBs. In a game where I don’t expect many tries to be scored, I’m relying on Gutherson being the catalyst for all things good for the Eels in attack.


Love It – Nathan Cleary - $24,420

A season long average of 71, which if we take his send off against the Eels out increases to 75, is as good as anyone. Has tremendous consistency on the back of his strong run totals, tackles, general play kicking and goal kicking. Add all this to the fact that he destroyed the Eels 3 weeks ago (103.2), and you’d struggle to not have the Prince of Penrith in your squad. If you’re bullish on the Eels, Moses is a great secondary option that will save you over $5,000, but I’m relying on Cleary having at the very least a solid enough game to outpoint Moses by 10+.


Love It – Ryan Matterson - $17,600

Matterson has been very strong off the bench for the Eels for the majority of this season, and I don’t see that changing this week. He has great base statistics, but is also one of the best offloaders in the NRL, can break tackles, and is always sniffing around for attacking stats. Three games against the Panthers this season have seen scores of 59, 59 and 61, lock him into your squad and enjoy the safest 60 on ground in this one. I also really like Papali’i in this price range, however he is slightly more expensive for less consistency, but a higher ceiling.


Hate It – Jahrome Luai - $11,260

Don’t cheap out here at HH. There are some tremendous, if not slightly expensive options, that you need to be looking at. All the starting HH options are more expensive than Luai, but it’s for a reason. I mention above Cleary is as good as it gets for this game, however Moses, Brown, Mahoney and even Api Koroisau are far better options with much higher upside than Luai. Don’t be cheap, go heavy on a quality HH. A stat that may assist you, Luai’s highest score of the year was 65 against the Roosters. He needed 2 tries to get to this score. I don’t like his chances of two tries in the Grand Final, so a sub 50 score is close to a certainty.


Hate It – Shaun Lane - $17,190

This is a tough one, because Lane has been in TREMENDOUS form over the past couple of months. However, his one mediocre performance in that time was 3 weeks ago against this very team. The Panthers completely nullified the big edge back rower, limiting him to only 85 running metres, 27 tackles and crucially 0 offloads, his first such game in two months. Now Lane could easily do what he did last week and create a game winning play, however I’m sure Ivan Cleary and the Panthers will aim to do what they did a few weeks ago and shut Lane down early.


Who Knows – Viliame Kikau - $14,250

It’s a bittersweet occasion for Panther fans, with two of their best players in Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau playing their final games for the club. Both have had tremendous seasons, as proven by them both making the Dally M Team of the Year, with Kikau showing that he isn’t just a powerful runner of the ball anymore. The improvement in his defence has been remarkable, and he is close to the complete back rower these days. Despite the up and down nature of his play, he has been pretty consistent this season fantasy wise. However, in big games he has the tendency to be rocks and diamonds, and his big plays are often negated by his poor plays. Either way, every time he touches it, it's edge of your seat stuff.


Thanks to everyone who has read our Draftstars preview for NRL season 2022, we look forward to bringing you all great content again in season 2023.

Draftstars Suggested Team

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