The NRL has had one of its biggest coaching circulations before the 2019 season, with five coaches at different clubs ready to provide much sought after success.
Now with many of off-season trades and movements over, it’s time to look at each club’s chance of a premiership in their first season with a new coach.
In one of the strangest stand-offs in contract negotiations, the Wests Tigers allowed Ivan Cleary to leave the club to seek out another while appointing former South Sydney premiership coach and current New Zealand coach Michael Maguire to take over the reins. Wests have come out and said that Maguire is to take the current side to the top eight; this season could be very telling if the Tigers are still heading into a positive direction after Cleary. The big factor going into 2019 is whether the attack and the defence of this passionate side can gel together to create a complete game plan, as much of the previous season was too much of one and too little of another, with combinations of the spine still taking time. If the Tigers get through unscathed with limited injuries, they could well push into the top eight, but the likely scenario is another year under a new head coach to recognise the strengths and weaknesses while being close to finals but far from a title.
The coaching days of Broncos legend Wayne Bennett are over, after a swap with the Rabbitohs to have Anthony Seibold take over. Brisbane has a huge amount of the NRL’s hottest young talent, and now in Seibold’s second year as a head coach at a new club, a change in style will no doubt be seen. Seibold (coach of the year in 2018) will be sure to un-tap an exciting gameplan which will have the Broncos’ young superstars running riot. Another focus will be establishing a complete squad that will not change too often as it had been done in the few previous years, where Brisbane’s campaigns fell short in the finals. There will be a big emphasis on building a new core group of youngsters to grow into and become elite players, to bring home a long-awaited title. It will be another finals campaign in 2019, however, if the halves don’t have a standout year a title will not be seen.
Manly Sea Eagles
Des Hasler returns to the Sea Eagles after seven years, but with all the tumultuous doing he had previously will it be enough to bring Manly back to its strong ways? Much of the faults in the past seasons has been their defensive capabilities; with the hard edge Des is known for, this could be quite the turning point for such a youthful and flamboyant team that likes attacking rugby league. Conceding the second-most points in 2018, Hasler will need to tighten up their defence if Manly are any chance of climbing from their previous years. If the returning coach can turn this outfit into a hardened defensive unit, their attacking prowess will flourish with a side filled with some of the best players going around. There will be an improvement but not enough to win a title in 2019, however, finals could well be on the cards if they stay consistent.
Former Penrith coach Cleary returns with a side that is looking on the edge of something special. The Panthers were in first place for much of the middle season but tilted after Origin, just making the finals. Cleary coaching his son, and many other familiar players who were there in his last tenure, will be a boost for a quick familiarity but also getting the players to buy into his plan (which he developed in coaching the Tigers last season) of defensive structures. This young Penrith side needs to push into the top four to become a title threat, having their spine stick and play for the entire season, with the already strong forward pack, they can push for a premiership in 2019 if they all stay fit.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Bennett starts his Rabbitohs coaching career, and with Souths already close to a title this year it could be the start of a glorious time. Wayne is taking over a club which has rebuilt somewhat after their last premiership in 2014, they have now got a side which dominated offensively this season but can go to the next level. Key factors for the super coach to have this Bunnies side going forward from an already successful year under Seibold will be making tough decisions on certain backline players as well as plugging some holes left in their forwards. The Rabbitohs are a real threat if they stick to what worked well in 2018 but also adapt to the gritty professional style their new coach likes to see. If the complete package that nearly saw South Sydney get to the grand final is slightly improved and replicated, they are a great chance of picking up their second title in half a decade.