NRL 2019: Your NRL club's biggest talking points over the pre-season.
NRL 2019: Your NRL club's biggest talking points over the pre-season.

Halves headaches, new faces: Biggest issue facing your club

THE incredible coaching carousel has finally stopped, and a bunch of big names have found new clubs.

These are the biggest talking points at your club over this chaotic NRL pre-season.

BRONCOS - Adapting to Anthony Seibold

Finally, the immediate, common sense coach swap has happened and we can all move on!

The Brisbane playing group must now flick the switch and look to gel with new mentor Anthony Seibold.

With Seibold, comes a bunch of coaching staff that the players will also have to get familiar with like assistant coaches Peter Gentle and Ben Cross, and high performance manager Paul Devlin.

In his first press conference as Broncos coach, Anthony Seibold said he did things "a little bit differently", so the players will need to adapt to those coaching philosophies.

RAIDERS - The halves and wing

Blake Austin is now at Warrington which leaves Aidan Sezer and Sam Williams as the likely first-choice halves pairing next year.

The Raiders were criticised in 2018 for failing to close out games, so the pressure will be on their halves to ensure that trend doesn't continue.

One player who could be a playmaking smoky is Paul Roache who has already started his pre-season on a positive note, finishing right behind Sezer and Williams in the beep test.

Meanwhile, the club must find a temporary replacement for winger Jordan Rapana who will miss a chunk of the season due to a serious shoulder injury. Michael Oldfield appears the most likely to be that man.

BULLDOGS - Dylan Napa

New Canterbury Bulldogs signing Dylan Napa at Belmore Oval. Picture: Tim Hunter.
New Canterbury Bulldogs signing Dylan Napa at Belmore Oval. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Following David Klemmer's departure to Newcastle, Canterbury have done well to find a handy replacement in ex-Roosters premiership winner Dylan Napa.

But regardless of his former achievements, the pressure will be on the Queensland Origin enforcer to deliver the goods.

Klemmer was a consistent workhorse for the Bulldogs and the side will need their new big man to do that.

Napa has shown to have a brain snap in his game, and the Bulldogs can ill-afford him being sidelined.

SHARKS - Shaun Johnson

Cronulla moved quick after Valentine Holmes' shock exit to chase an NFL dream, signing New Zealand international Shaun Johnson.

It should be interesting to see where Johnson plays, given he played at halfback at the Warriors - even during the period when Chad Townsend was at the club.

Many are tipping the Kiwi livewire will slot in at five-eighth, with Matt Moylan shifting to fullback where he's accumulated plenty of experience throughout his NRL career.

For a club that's struggled at times to score points, Johnson could prove to be an astute buy.

TITANS - The spine

Tyrone Peachey at Titans pre-season. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Tyrone Peachey at Titans pre-season. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

Gold Coast's key positions are in line for a shake-up heading into next season.

Tyrone Peachey has arrived at the club and is likely to play five-eighth alongside Ash Taylor.

But Tyrone Roberts is also returning and is another option in the halves which could see Peachey move to the forwards.

Young gun AJ Brimson burst onto the scene this year and looms as a real contender for the fullback spot, a position he played plenty of in the junior grades.

SEA EAGLES - Dessie's return

All eyes will be on returning Manly coach Des Hasler this season as he looks to revive his career as well as the Sea Eagles' hopes.

Hasler's well-publicised sacking from Canterbury after the 2016 season came after he was criticised for his attacking game plan that yielded poor results.

He's going to have to reinvent himself if he's to guide the Sea Eagles back into finals contention after a year to forget.

Helping Hasler's cause will be a host of former Manly star and staffers including Noel Cleal, Don Singe, Brett Stewart, Matt Ballin and Michael Monaghan.

STORM - Spine uncertainty

Cameron Munster is open to filling the fullback position.
Cameron Munster is open to filling the fullback position.

With Billy Slater having retired, it was tipped that Jahrome Hughes would move to fullback in 2019.

But last week after his re-signing, Cameron Munster threw a spanner in the works, saying he'd be open to returning to the No.1 jumper.

If that were to happen, it'd pile a lot of pressure on the club's relatively inexperienced playmakers, one of which is Brodie Croft.

The Storm will be hoping he continues to develop into an elite player next season after a roller coaster season in 2019.

Croft won the race to the No.7 jumper for the opening games of the year before he was dropped after Round 5.

He got a crack later in the year and was halfback in the grand final, but he'll need to step up again.

KNIGHTS - Ponga and the pack

Kalyn Ponga is set for a switch to the halves.
Kalyn Ponga is set for a switch to the halves.

It appears likely that Newcastle will be running out with Kalyn Ponga at five-eighth and Connor Watson at fullback in 2019.

Ponga lit up the competition in his first full NRL season and spent almost all the year in the No.1 jersey apart from one game at five-eighth.

Watson isn't a stranger to fullback either, but it's unlikely he'll need to help steer the team around with Ponga and Mitchell Pearce looking after that.

Meanwhile, coach Nathan Brown will have a welcome headache when it comes to working out his pack.

With the likes of David Klemmer, Tim Glasby and James Gavet joining the squad, it means a couple of the regular faces from last season could miss out.

COWBOYS - What will life be like post-JT?

North Queensland have begun life following Johnathan Thurston's retirement and there will be pressure on team's key players to ensure they can return to the finals.

Michael Morgan will return from a biceps rupture and will assume the dominant playmaking duties, likely alongside rising star Jake Clifford.

At the back, Ben Barba will look to again set the NRL alight following a brief stint in Super League after a drugs ban.

Those players will have no excuses behind a monster forward pack that has now seen Josh McGuire added to it.

Given Taumalolo is unlikely to move from lock, it would appear McGuire will play at prop which could push Matt Scott to the bench, something the veteran has admitted he's happy to do.

EELS - Can Brad Arthur turn the team around?

Brad Arthur has a lot of work to do with the Eels in pre-season.
Brad Arthur has a lot of work to do with the Eels in pre-season.

Parramatta struggled in both attack and defence for much of the 2018, so there's plenty to work on.

The Eels undertook a club review following another wooden spoon, and the hierarchy will be hoping things start to turn around quickly.

The club have brought in handy recruits Junior Paulo and Blake Ferguson, but a good start to 2019 will be crucial for off-contract coach Brad Arthur.

PANTHERS - Can Gus and Ivan's second marriage work?

Can they make it work second time round?
Can they make it work second time round?

This is no doubt one of the fascinating spin-offs, if you will, of the coaching carousel.

Penrith have finally got their man in coach Ivan Cleary, the same man who they sacked at the end of the 2015 season for looking "tired", according to Phil Gould.

Now back he's on a five-year deal and the pressure is on for Cleary to take them all the way after multiple stumbles in the finals.

It'll be interesting to see how things play out, particularly if results don't come.

RABBITOHS - Wayne Bennett's arrival

Superstar forward Sam Burgess admitted he and the rest of the Rabbitohs players were left in the dark as to who their coach was going to be for 2019.

But now it's been confirmed that man is Wayne Bennett, it's time for the playing group to get well acquainted with their new mentor.

Luckily for some of the playing group, particularly the Burgess brothers, they've worked with Bennett in the past at representative level so introductions won't need to be too long.

The Rabbitohs hierarchy will be hoping for a smooth transition after what has been a turbulent couple of months.

DRAGONS - The wing position

St George Illawarra are still on the lookout for an established winger following Nene Macdonald's release to North Queensland and Jason Nightingale's retirement.

The club reportedly has around $500,000 to spend and was interested in Jarryd Hayne, but that's now a no-go after the former Dally M winner was charged with aggravated sexual assault.

The Dragons have signed Jonus Pearson from Brisbane and Mikaele Ravalawa from Canberra, so both are options should they fail to find someone.

Book rookie Zac Lomax could also shift to the wing if coach Paul McGregor plays Tim Lafai and Euan Aitken in the centres.

ROOSTERS - How do they shake the premiership hangover?

This is the big question that every reigning premier faces.

The Roosters have lost a couple of players following their title win, but they've also recruited smartly in bringing in Angus Crichton and Brett Morris.

They've also got experienced senior players like Cooper Cronk to keep them on track, not to mention a smart mentor in Trent Robinson.

WARRIORS - Who replaces Shaun Johnson?

In what was one of the pre-season's biggest shocks, the Warriors parted ways with their star halfback after what ended up being quite a messy divorce.

Strangely enough, they did so without there being an obvious choice to replace him, having also let go his 2018 back-up in Mason Lino.

Warriors CEO Cameron George said his backroom staff in Peter O'Sullivan and Brian Smith have been hitting the phones to find a replacement, so there could be some more player movement to come.

The club were reportedly targeting 18-year-old Parramatta playmaker Dylan Brown, but the Eels have since claimed the rising star isn't going anywhere.

On their books, the Warriors have former Canterbury and Penrith reserve grader Adam Keighran, as well as club junior Chanel Harris-Tavita, but it's unlikely they'll be heaped with the responsibility.

WESTS TIGERS - Josh Reynolds

It'll be interesting to see how new Tigers coach Michael Maguire approaches his halves in 2019.

The newly re-signed Luke Brooks will be the halfback, but will Benji Marshall or Josh Reynolds be alongside him?

It'll likely be Marshall's swansong season, while Reynolds struggled to get on the field in 2018 due to injury.

News Corp Australia

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