Your Edge: NRL Round 21 Preview

Your Edge: NRL Round 21 Preview

Round 21 of the 2022 NRL season is here and so is Your Edge. This week we’re looking into the rise of the Rabbitohs, how the Panthers and Eels might cope without their halfback, and checking in with the race for 8th spot.

Rabbitohs Rising

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are on the up.

Following a poor start to the 2022 NRL season, they slowly crept up the ladder until Latrell Mitchell returned in Round 16 to inspire four wins on the bounce. Interestingly, the Rabbitohs are still where they were when Mitchell returned – 7th. However, they’re now only two competition points out of 4th and flying into premiership contention.

The signs were always there. Plenty have been waiting for this period of the season, for Mitchell to return and for it all to click. When you’re completing at an NRL-worst 72% across the first 15 rounds of the season, piling up points and playing consistent football is always going to be difficult. You could see the shifts in action and players in position, but the ball went to ground too often for the Rabbitohs early on. Since Mitchell returned, though, they’ve taken better care of the ball and the results speak for themselves.

Completion Rates since Round 16

Completion rates don’t always tell us much about a football side. The Tigers being at the top of this list and Knight sitting sixth show that high completion rates don’t necessarily translate into winning games. However, with the Rabbitohs performing so poorly with the ball earlier in the year, the pre and post-Latrell numbers give us some indication of why he’s been able to have such a big influence.

Holding the ball has improved the Rabbitohs and their yardage game, too.

Souths play direct when working up the field. In yardage, they will send three up the guts, maybe look for an offload on 3rd or 4th tackle if the opportunity is there but, for the most part, it’s straight up the middle. They’re now one of the best yardage teams in the NRL to be third in net yardage since Round 16.


Net Yardage since Round 16

As we know, net yardage typically provides us with a decent indication of the good and bad teams. While they’re heading into Round 21 following a golden point loss to the Sharks, the Rabbitohs are one of the form teams of the competition and shouldn’t be ignored when discussing premiership smokies.

Panthers & Eels

Every other contender is a smokey with how well the Penrith Panthers have played this season. They’re in a world of their own at their best, but it’s going to be five rounds before they’re at their best again. Jarome Luai is already on the sidelines nursing an injury. Now, Nathan Cleary is being forced to watch five games while sitting in the naughty chair following his horrible tackle on Dylan Brown last week. Cleary’s suspension has opened up the race for the minor premiership, and given the rest of the finals-bound teams a reason to believe. There is a chance the Panthers now come into the finals slightly underdone.

Meanwhile, the Parramatta Eels are dealing with an absence of their own. Mitchell Moses fractured his finger while beating the Panthers in Round 20 and will miss the next month. For an inconsistent side that has just won their biggest game of the season, and coming up against a desperate Sea Eagles side in Round 21, the timing of Moses’ injury couldn’t be worse. The Eels need to develop some consistency if they’re to advance beyond Week 2 of the NRL Finals and they’re unlikely to develop it without their halfback.

The Panthers have the benefit of calling on Sean O’Sullivan over the next five weeks. The 23-year-old is familiar with slotting into temporary situations and playing out a game plan having played 27 games for four different clubs across the last five seasons. With six try assists and a try to his name throughout the six matches he has played for the Panthers in 2022, we know what we’re going to get. O’Sullivan will direct the team around the field, kick well and put the dominant attacking players in positions to work their magic.

The Eels, on the other hand, don’t have the same luxury.

Attacking Involvements – Halves, 2022

Already under huge pressure because of his last name, Jakob Arthur is now being tasked with leading the Eels through the back end of the NRL season and into September. He’s only young and the world can’t be expected of him. However, he hasn’t managed to register a try assist across the two games he has started in the halves this season. He ran for a total of 57 metres across two 80-minute performances.

Arthur has found success in reserve grade. He has a decent step and can expose a lazy defender on the inside. Those opportunities don’t come up often in first grade, though. When they do, it doesn’t take long for the gap to close.

The Panthers are six points clear at the top of the NRL ladder. That should be enough to retain the minor premiership through to the end of Round 25. Meanwhile, the Eels face a bit of a fight to stay in the Top 8. Only four points clear of the Raiders in 9th – who have the benefit of playing the depleted Panthers – and with their up and down form, the Eels can’t afford to drop too many games while Moses sits on the sideline.

Eels Remaining Draw: @ Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, @ Broncos, Storm

Race for the Top 8

The Eels should be able to keep their spot in the Top 8. Still, there is a mighty fight to play out across the next five rounds to determine 8th on the NRL ladder.

The Sydney Roosters (8th – 22 points), Canberra Raiders (9th – 20 points) and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (10th- 20 points) will battle it out for the last place in September football.

All three teams are performing well through the middle and all three sit inside the top half of the competition in defence. Trent Robinson, Ricky Stuart and Des Hasler are three of the best coaches in rugby league. While there is a lot to consider, the difference is likely to come in the spine.

Joseph Manu has been in superb form this season. Whether it be centre, fullback or five-eighth, he has dominated the game and found ways to make positive contributions to the Roosters. He is named back in the centres and will stay there for the rest of the season if the Roosters remain healthy. Still, with his propensity and licence to roam, we’re considering him part of the spine alongside James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Sam Walker and Sam Verrils. It’s a spine stacked with potential led by Tedesco. While he doesn’t stand out below as a dominant creator, his strong carries, scheming runs and quick play-the-balls are often the catalysts to a teammate generating the try or line break assist on the following tackle.


Proportion of Attacking Involvments v Average Attacking Involvements

The Raiders don’t offer quite the same strike. Jamal Fogarty hasn’t looked entirely comfortable since his shift to the capital. His up and down form has washed onto Jack Wighton who can look brilliant one week and absent the next. At the back, Xavier Savage is lightning fast and keeps the defence on their toes, but is raw, prone to an error and struggles with individual and team defence. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles have exceeded expectations since Tom Trbojevic was ruled out for the season, and their spine is a large reason why. Daly Cherry-Evans has developed a lethal partnership with Haumole Olakau’atu on the right while Kieran Foran controls a dangerous left edge attack. Unlike seasons past where the Sea Eagles have struggled to fill the void left by Trbojevic, Reuben Garrick has excelled and put himself in the shop window for any teams searching for a fullback in the future.

The remaining draw is a big consideration. While the Roosters are currently 8th on the ladder and will play out the rest of the season with the best spine of the three teams in contention, they face a horror run home. In contrast, the Raiders have been blessed with five very winnable games. They will need to win through from here, but the Sea Eagles will have an opportunity to leap the Raiders when the two meet in Round 24.

Roosters Remaining Draw: Broncos, Cowboys, Tigers, @ Storm, Rabbitohs

Raiders Remaining Draw: Panthers, Dragons, @ Knights, Sea Eagles, Tigers

Sea Eagles Remaining Draw: Eels, @ Titans, Sharks, @ Raiders, @ Bulldogs

We may only have five rounds to play and some are already prepared to hand the Panthers the Provan-Summons Trophy. However, there is plenty to play for through to the end of Round 25, and from there, anything is possible.

NRL Value Plays

The Punters Preview and NRL Draftstars Stats Bible is in for Round 21.

The Punter’s Preview looks at try scorer & player performance markets as well as NRL Draftstars stats and advice. If you’re enjoying our free content & data tools, follow us on social media & join our Discord channel where we discuss all things NRL, NBA & Cricket.



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