With Santa loading up his sleigh for another night of global gift delivery, all the NRL clubs are waiting anxiously for the first light of Christmas morning. Exactly what are they hoping to find under the tree? We take a look at some of the things each club desperately needs heading into the 2022 season.
Coach Kevin Walters enters his second year at the helm of the Broncos, after improving towards the end of the 2021 season. Fans of the proud club will be hoping that Santa delivers a dose of steely determination and pride in the jersey across the entire squad. Walters has been moving his pieces around trying to find the best combination, he needs everyone to back his approach and give it their all, every week.
Ricky Stuart's Raiders will be hoping for a giant mirror from Santa, one that they can put last year's dramas in. They somehow need to leave 2021 well behind them as they look to regain some of that 2020 magic that saw them come desperately close to winning the premiership.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
All the Bulldogs want for Christmas is a giant bucket of gel, and not the kind you use on your hair. They have started to assemble one of the League's most promising rosters - on paper. What they really need is for these star players to come together rather quickly as a competitive team. Of course, it is coach Trent Barrett's job to make this happen, but he could do with all the help possible.
It is very simple Santa, the Sharks already have a new coach, some big name recruits and a return to their home ground lined up for 2022. All they want now is the club's second ever premiership. Surely Santa can deliver another one of those for the Shire? They've been off the naughty list for a couple of years now.
Gold Coast Titans
Santa came early to the Gold Coast with the resigning of star forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. The Titans will be hoping to spread the inspiration around the rest of the players, as they look to continue their rise up the ladder to be genuine finals threats. Maybe Santa could also give them a tip on how to best fit the talents of Jayden Campbell and AJ Brimson into the same side
Manly Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles are hoping Santa delivers a set of unbreakable hamstrings for fullback Tom Trbojevic. About the only thing on a rugby league field that is capable of stopping him seems to be his own dodgy hammies and the occasional bung shoulder. New South Wales would be happy with this gift arriving in December, giving Tommy Turbo plenty of time to wear them in before State of Origin.
The Storm would really like Santa to deliver one last hurrah from utility forward Brandon Smith. The outspoken Smith upset club officials recently when announcing his 2023 move to the Roosters. His experience and ability to move the ball forward around the ruck will be vital to the Storm as they try to maintain their lofty premiership standards in 2022. They can't afford for him to be a year-long distraction.
Knights fans will be hoping that Santa leaves a No.7 jersey under someone's tree, that they grab it with both hands, and under the tutelage of Andrew Johns, lead the club back up the premiership ladder. Mitchell Pearce has ended his reign at halfback, Kalyn Ponga remains at fullback, and the Knights need someone to do the job for them at playmaker.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors have surely spent the last two seasons on Santa's nice list, after giving up home comforts in order to ensure the survival of the NRL. Would it be too much for them to ask for an end to the COVID pandemic? Sure, they won't be the only ones asking for it, but they certainly deserve the chance to return to New Zealand and play some home games in Auckland.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys may not know it, but what they really need from Santa is a better working relationship between coach Todd Payten and star lock Jason Taumalolo. Payten's use of Taumalolo in 2021 left many people scratching their heads. Starting him off the bench and limiting his playing time, seemed a strange way to best utilise the club's $10 million man. It is a good starting point on a number of issues Payten needs to sort out in Townsville.
The Eels will be hoping Santa brings them something to prop open their rapidly closing premiership window. With a raft of players departing at the end of 2022, the club really needs to make the most of the talent they currently have assembled. After spending a large part of 2021 in the Top 4, they sadly faded towards the end. If they can't go all the way in 2022, their premiership drought could continue indefinitely.
Ivan Cleary will be hoping Santa brings him a player ready to step into the surprisingly large empty boots left behind by Matt Burton. The Panthers won the premiership last year with Burton going from a fringe player at the start of the season to one of their most potent attacking weapons. With several big names set to depart at the end of 2022, the Panthers will be hoping they can go back-to-back before starting something of a rebuild.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
After losing last season's Grand Final, all the Bunnies want for Christmas is a smooth transition from coach Wayne Bennett and inspirational halfback Adam Reynolds. It won't be easy, as they leave two enormous holes in the very fabric of the club. If they don't get it together rather quickly, they could easily slip from runners-up into a battle to make the finals.
St George Illawarra Dragons
I'd suggest they ask Santa for a new display case to house the 2022 wooden spoon, which surely must be theirs for the taking, but that's clearly not something they actually want. Perhaps they could ask Santa to deliver on the huge box of potential Moses Mbye has been carrying around his entire career.
I'm not sure whether Santa deals in curses, but the Roosters would be begging him to lift the ugly one that plagued anyone pulling on their No.9 jersey in recent times. Continuity out of the dummy-half position is key to any team's success and the Roosters couldn't string together more than a handful of games without a major injury taking out their hooker. Maybe throw in an injury free season for everyone?
It seems Santa may have visited Concord a little early with the arrival of Tim Sheens heralding in some impressive signings for 2023. What they still really need to see under the tree on December 25 is a functioning set of halves and a serviceable hooker for 2022. With five-eighth Adam Doueihi out for at least 6 months and Api Koroisau arriving in 2023, the Tigers need solutions in these key areas to prevent 2022 ending in another coach-killing bottom eight finish.