Every NRL club’s biggest issue for 2020
The 2020 NRL season is fast approaching - take a look at the big issue hanging over each NRL side heading into the new campaign.
Teething problems or a real issue?
The Broncos limped to the finals and were then embarrassed when they crashed out in Anthony Seibold's first season as coach. There has been ongoing uncertainty about the halves and the future of some of Brisbane's most senior players. More losses and there will be severe doubts over Seibold and whether the Broncos were right to pull the trigger early on Wayne Bennett.
Is George Williams the man to take the Raiders that extra step?
You'd be a fool to question the Raiders' recruitment of the English halfback considering their track record with bringing Super League players to the NRL. But there is obviously some trepidation surrounding the No.7 and if he can steer the side to go one better than their grand final appearance.
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Can the Bulldogs snare a marquee man?
The new season hasn't even kicked off and we're already looking to 2021. But that's the way it's been for Canterbury fans in recent years. They will finally have their salary cap in order for next year, but what they need to do is land a big signing. They have already had a crack at a few and missed out, but they've slowly added some key players in recent seasons.
Will being homeless work?
Cronulla are taking the unusual step of playing their home matches at Kogarah Oval - the spiritual home of arch rivals St George Illawarra. Sure, their stadium is out of play for the next two years, but is it the right call? Cronulla fans aren't generally good travellers and even though Kogarah isn't that far from Woolooware, it could have a dramatic impact on crowd numbers and their bottom line. And this isn't a club who can take a hit financially.
GOLD COAST TITANS
Can Justin Holbrook spark the million-dollar man?
Ash Taylor had a horrid 2019 on and off the field and needed to step away from the game to deal with the personal struggles in a season where he played just 10 matches. If the Titans are any hope of doing something next year, they need Taylor playing up to his high price tag.
MANLY SEA EAGLES
What will happen with Manase Fainu?
Much of Manly's hopes rest on the young hooker. Fainu was the latest player stood down by the NRL's no-fault policy after being charged in relation to the alleged stabbing of a man at a church dance. He is also battling a serious shoulder injury which will sideline him long-term. Unwanted Newcastle rake Danny Levi has been touted as a replacement after the Sea Eagles let classy hooker Api Koroisau go after deciding Fainu would be their 80-minute man.
Is this the year the Storm slide?
This question has been asked for almost a decade. There will be a season when it eventually happens, but it might not be 2020. With Cameron Smith as influential as ever, the emergence of Ryan Papenhuyzen and the evolution of Cameron Munster, the Storm are still a top-eight side. Their depth will be tested again, though, with a couple of high-profile departures from their backline in Curtis Scott and Will Chambers.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Is it a copy and paste of every season preview since 1995?
The Warriors were up to their bad old ways last season after a strong 2018. There was much hope for them and they could not blame regular scapegoat Shaun Johnson for their failing. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is still one of the game's best, but he needs a lot more help around him.
Can Adam O'Brien bring that hard edge?
He is a rookie coach in title only. Because make no mistake, O'Brien is far from a novice despite taking charge of his first NRL side. O'Brien has a real tough edge about him and wants a football team that will compete on every play. It's something the Knights were criticised for in 2019. If players don't respond this time around, they won't be playing first grade.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Is Val Holmes the new JT?
The Cowboys have had two disastrous seasons - they had plenty of excuses in 2019 but they won't be able to use any of them next year. They have taken a punt on Holmes - the club's highest-profile signing in its history - who will wear the No.1 jersey. He left the game for his NFL gap year as one of the competition's elite players. But he is still a relative novice at fullback and there may be an adjustment period for his body to get back into NRL shape.
Can the Eels produce back-to-back good seasons?
The Eels backed up their last good finish to a season with a wooden spoon. They had everything to play for last year: a new stadium and erasing the nightmare of 2018. That motivation won't be there again so they need to find a way to keep themselves within reach of the top four. They should be able to do so after adding some handy players to their impressive roster.
Can Ivan Cleary sprinkle his magic?
The Panthers were one of the great underachievers last year. There were plenty of reasons for that despite much fanfare surrounding Cleary's return. He has cleared out a stack of players and rejuvenated the roster, but this isn't a rebuild season in 2020. With the players at his disposal, the Panthers need to be entrenched in the top eight, otherwise serious questions will be asked.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRS DRAGONS
Will Paul McGregor stick around?
There is no coach under more pressure than McGregor heading into 2020. While he has two years left on his deal, he knows if there is a repeat of the Dragons' 2019 performance, he won't see out the season let alone his contract. There has been a huge turnover of off-field staff to assist McGregor but there are certainly question marks on his credentials as an NRL coach.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Who fills the leadership void?
There has been a ridiculous amount of experience exit Redfern in recent months. First it was skipper Greg Inglis, then the club's most-capped player in John Sutton and finally captain Sam Burgess. The trio leave a gaping hole in the leadership stakes. South Sydney will have a new captain but it can't be just one person who fills the void. Latrell Mitchell's arrival will help on the field but even he is just 22.
What will life be like after Cooper Cronk?
He may have only been there for two seasons but it brought instant success at the Roosters. There is no doubt that this side is now Luke Keary's team. We saw in the 2018 grand final what he can do when he has total control, but now the onus will be on Keary running the team for the whole season. Kyle Flanagan is a good organiser but comes to the club with little first-grade experience. Lachlan Lam is the other option to partner Keary while Mitchell's exit will also hurt.
Who replaces club great Robbie Farah?
The Tigers have tried this once before and had no success, but this time it's for real. Jacob Liddle has been earmarked as a long-time Farah replacement at hooker but he will spend the bulk of the season on the sideline after another serious leg injury. Former Blues five-eighth Josh Reynolds is expected to make the transition to hooker but if that doesn't work out, they are in big trouble. They've added Billy Walters from the Storm while young gun Jake Simpkin is at least another season away from playing first grade.