Lang on League: Four fearless Panthers predictions for 2022

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Well it’s time for the real games to begin. Forget the trials, forget the pre-season interviews, commercials and hype, the NRL season 2022 is about to get underway.

For the Panthers, well they’re the Premiers, so they’ve now gone from the hunters to the hunted. This means each game they play they’ll have a target on their back and teams will go in harder against them in an effort to topple the champions.

OK, no more stuffing around, here are my four fearless predictions for Penrith in 2022.

Where will they finish after 25 rounds?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, studied the form guides, looked at the draw and believe after 25 rounds the Panthers will finish third on the NRL competition ladder.

I think both the Roosters and Storm will finish ahead of them with the Eels coming in a close fourth.

The Panthers’ draw is not too bad at the start of the season but a lot will depend on how soon Nathan Cleary returns from injury. If we lose him for any length of time during the year, I think Penrith will finish outside the Top Four.

Who will be the Player of the Year?

I’ve got a feeling that Isaah Yeo will emerge as the Panthers’ most important player this year. The work he does in the middle of the ruck, how he cleans up missed tackles, inspires the forwards around him and his back up and passing game are second to none. Isaah is a real leader both on and off the field. This is the Year of Yeo, mark my words.

Isaah Yeo celebrating after full-time of the Grand Final. Photo: NRL Photos.

Who will be the Rookie of the Year?

I picked him last year as the next ‘big thing’ and in the one game I saw him play, he didn’t disappoint. Mavrik Geyer showed the league world in the trial against the Sharks why Craig Bellamy wanted him so badly. He’s a big body but he’s extremely mobile and more importantly, he’s a real footballer not just a one-trick pony. When, not if, he gets his chance, you’ll see how special this kid really is.

Who needs to improve?

There’s no doubt Stephen Crichton helped deliver the Panthers their third premiership with that wonderful intercept in the Grand Final. Apart from that though, he had a quiet 2021 and during the trial against the Eels he was a ghost. In 2022 he’ll have his centre spot back so there will be no excuses.

Stephen Crichton. Photo: NRL Photos.

My final eight

1. Sydney Roosters 2. Melbourne Storm 3. Penrith Panthers 4. Parramatta Eels 5. Manly Sea-Eagles 6. South Sydney Rabbitohs 7. Cronulla Sharks 8. New Zealand Warriors.

It’s going to be a big year for the Panthers, they’ve lost a lot of experience from last year’s side but there are some wonderful young players waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.

Let’s go Panthers!

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