In a week where Shaun Johnson spectacularly announced his departure from the New Zealand Warriors, the coaching fiasco involving Wayne Bennett and Anthony Siebold was definitively resolved.
Arguably the most striking player movement announced this week was the Cronulla Sharks’ signing of five eighth Shaun Johnson. Despite having been an integral part of the New Zealand Warriors for the past eight seasons, the Kiwi international insists that the allure of premiership glory was the overarching factor behind his move across the ditch. Although the 28-year-old’s fleet-footed runs, electric nature and match winning ability will be sorely missed by the Warriors, it is anticipated that Johnson will be a great addition to the Sharks’ line up and further complement their star-studded pack. Whilst the loss of superstar Valentine Holmes to the NFL was not an ideal situation for the Sharks, the injection of Johnson will likely fill the void left by the former fullback. Johnson’s tremendous ability to muster off-the-cuff football whilst simultaneously remaining structured will both lend itself well to, and enhance, the Sharks’ premiership chances in 2019.
Coaching Futures Certain
After the incongruous coaching saga that has been transpiring for months, the Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs have finally been provided with the certainty that they have been longing. Earlier this week, it was formally announced that Wayne Bennett and Anthony Siebold were partaking in an immediate coaching swap ahead of the commencement of the 2019 season. Although the media circus regarding this situation has not ceased, the level of uncertainty and angst amongst players, from both the Broncos and Rabbitohs, has diminished. Now able to fully immerse themselves in their respective pre-seasons, it appears that both clubs have accepted and are embracing the changing environment. From the perspective of the NRL, players and supporters, this finalisation of coaching staff has brought to a close a situation that can only be described as a debacle.
Cronk to ‘Crow’ On
In his recent discussions with media representatives, Sydney Roosters’ halfback Cooper Cronk quashed any speculation of retirement following the serious shoulder injury he suffered in the preliminary final (2018). Despite recently having multiple metal plates inserted into his fractured shoulder-blade, Cronk has vowed to honour his current contract with the Roosters for 2019. Whilst he is not currently contracted beyond the end of next year, the three-time premiership winning superstar hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing on into the 2020 NRL season. Although this notion is merely speculation at this stage, when considering the influence that Cronk has had on reinvigorating the Roosters’ attacking and defensive play, the likelihood of the halfback extending his tenure is certainly an exciting prospect for the NRL and Roosters’ fans alike. Provided that his broken scapula has healed accordingly, it is expected that Cronk will be back to his brilliant best in 2019 – serving as the master behind the Roosters’ success.
Time is Ticking for Five Unsigned Stars
Although the majority of NRL clubs have finalised their rosters for 2019, there are still five players whose futures are seemingly uncertain. Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm), James Segeyaro (Cronulla Sharks), Robert Jennings (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Cameron King (Parramatta Eels) and Sosaia Vave (Parramatta Eels) comprise the list of players who remain without a contract. From arguably the game’s greatest player to one of the NRL’s leading try scorers in 2018, the calibre of this quintet is quite remarkable. Whilst the Melbourne Storm is expected to announce an extension to Smith’s contract in the coming weeks, the futures of Segeyaro, Jennings, King and Vave remain in limbo. Despite Segeyaro having a tremendous season for the Cronulla Sharks in 2018 and consistently troubling opposing teams with his middle field running game, no certainty regarding a contract has been provided as yet – primarily due to a lack of room in the Sharks’ salary cap. Whilst it has been reported that the South Sydney Rabbitohs intend to retain Jennings, the recent coaching situation has resulted in this issue becoming second-tier. By failing to renew both King and Vave’s contracts for 2019, the Parramatta Eels have effectively left the duo to their own devices. When considering the unearthed potential of these two players, it would be a shame to see them demoted to reserve grade in 2019.