Of the bottom six teams in the competition, four will start season 2021 with a new coach.
The could be a fifth with the pressure mounting on Anthony Seibold each and every week. In a results-driven business, it seems right.
All those four sides are now seemingly out of finals contention, maybe not mathematically but it would be a remarkable result if any of them did make it. Of those sides turning a new leaf next year, which are poised to succeed?
Outgoing coach – Dean Pay
Incoming coach – Trent Barrett
Dean Pay was given less than three years to get the Bulldogs going, but it has to be said that it has taken nearly that long to get them competitive in the player market again. Pay was given an absolute hospital pass of a roster with players signed on fat, long-term deals in key positions.
Their highest paid player in Keiran Foran has spent most of his time at the club injured, and while that may not be his fault, it certainly takes a toll.
While they may be running last this year, you always get the sense that the Bulldogs are putting in and trying their guts out. It is more the case of just not enough quality personnel rather than an attitude or culture problem. The mandate for Trent Barrett will be recruiting smartly, and getting some experience and x-factor into the side.
A point I will make early on, is how odd it is that more often than not a club has a coach in mind and goes after them with seemingly little to no thought on their options. There are some coaches out there with some very healthy resumes who should be getting some consideration but are overlooked.
It seems to be a rushed process in a very key appointment that should demand some due diligence and deliberation. Trent Barrett has received a lot of credit for the Panthers’ attack this year, but that is just one role, when compared to head coaching.
His stint at Manly wasn’t much to write home about, with a 40 per cent win record and an acrimonious split at the end of it all
Trent Barrett has been given a team that is running last. You would think that what this club needs is maybe someone more experienced to handle the pressure that will immediately be on them next year. They need some results, it has been a tough five years for the Bulldogs and without some improvement right away the pressure will mount early for Barrett.
He was unable to build consistency at the Sea-Eagles, and many of the challenges he faced there will again be tossed up at the Bulldogs. I expect to see some improvement early with some rejuvenation and some new faces in the squad, but I don’t know that Barrett can build this club back into a finals force.
Outgoing coach – Paul Green
Incoming coach – TBD
Paul Green will perhaps go down as the most famous coach of the Cowboys for leading them to their first ever premiership. He oversaw a real period of dominance for the Cowboys, a regular in finals series for a time, and two grand finals in three years.
The challenge for Green was always going to be ushering in a new era without the champion halfback, Johnathan Thurston, and reinventing the side to remain competitive.
After two years out of the finals, and a third looming this year it seemed like a mutual decision for the club and coach to part ways. Green looked frustrated and tired at the helm, and not much has gone their way in recent times.
He had already built this side up into a premiership force, and it looked as though he just didn’t have the mettle to do it again.
The Cowboys have a lot going for them. They have a shiny new stadium that they haven’t been able to take real advantage of, some superstars in Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo and Valentine Holmes, and a crop of promising youngsters coming through headlined by Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
They will improve next year because what they need is really just some fresh eyes on the job and some rejuvenation. They don’t need to re-invent the wheel with the team they have got, they just need some changes of structure and a style of play that utilities their strength.
The Cowboys unlike other rivals haven’t rushed to appoint a replacement for Green. Names tossed out there include the likes of John Cartwright, Kevin Walters and Anthony Griffin. They all have claims to a head coaching position but Walters or Griffin seem like a good fit.
Anthony Griffin had immediate success with the Panthers and kept them competitive in his tenure, he may not have got them an elusive premiership but he breathed new life into them after they nearly finished last under Ivan Cleary in 2015.
Walters seems perfect. A loyal Queenslander, he has handled the pressure of coaching the Maroons, they may have been unsuccessful in the last two series but they have remained competitive as a number of superstars have hung up the boots.
The Cowboys will be pushing for the top eight in 2021 regardless of who they go with.
Outgoing coach – Stephen Kearney
Incoming coach – Nathan Brown
It was said to be the most brutal sacking of all time when the Warriors parted ways with Stephen Kearney in one of the most difficult seasons in any club’s history. The Covid situation has placed more pressure on the Warriors than any other side this year, with their players making a mammoth sacrifice in staying in Australia for the duration of the year.
To expect the side to make the finals and perform week in week out seems a pretty tough ask but it didn’t stop the Warriors making a big decision for their future.
In an ordinary season, you could call his sacking pretty fair. His appointment in the first place was questionable, a couple of sad years at Parramatta his only other experience as a NRL head coach. What is even more perplexing though might just be the appointment of Nathan Brown.
His most recent gig at the Knights yielded a 24 per cent win percentage and no finals appearances in nearly four years. It can be argued that he inherited a pretty poor roster, and that was certainly the case. But by the time 2019 rolled around he had the side he wanted, and couldn’t steer the ship to a finals series after being top of the table mid-season.
The Warriors are the toughest job in the NRL. They are the most inconsistent and frustrating unit, and although this year comes with some very valid excuses, it has been symptomatic of the New Zealand side for far too long.
Nathan Brown was able to build a roster at the Knights, and Adam O’Brien is enjoying some of the fruits of his labours now. But this side needs results, it needs success and Brown couldn’t do that at the Knights.
They don’t need a four-year rebuild, they need some pretty harsh standards and a culture. The key signing for the Warriors is Phil Gould
They need him to have the same influence for them as he did at the Panthers, and they need to push him as such. Nathan Brown can be successful but it will be off the back of Gould getting some systems and structures in place that allow him to do so.
That comes in the form of recruitment, retention and development. New Zealand has produced some fine talents in our game, and those talents needs to want to play for the Warriors, be proud to play for them and feel privileged to play for them.
2021 will be an interesting year for the Warriors, for plenty of reasons, it could be the start of a new era, or they could already be looking to move a coach on. What can be said though is that Phil Gould can make some tough decision and a big impact, if he is allowed to do so.
Outgoing coach – Paul McGregor
Incoming coach – TBD
Watching the Dragons this season has been like groundhog day. Looking over a team list of players who you would think put a side into finals contention, but watching them fall inexplicably short more often than not.
The constant change in personnel, and the speculation around the coach have all been far too familiar for the Dragons in 2020, and in the end McGregor has left after what might feel like seven long years for the club’s fans.
Don’t get me wrong, in his time at the club McGregor had the Dragons humming along nicely, but it never seemed to be in September, and never long enough to silence the critics of his coaching.
The process of selecting players each week came to light this season and demonstrated how little faith the club had in McGregor making the big decisions as head coach.
While it seemed obvious externally where certain players should be, the likes of Ben Hunt, Corey Norman, Cameron McInnes and Matt Dufty where shuffled around the team, and at times out of it all together
That process aside, to have those big name players, not up to par was reflective of McGregor’s coaching and some tactics were bizarre in the extreme. The planned move to have a Tristan Sailor come off the bench and play in the halves this year speaks volumes.
First grade teams don’t plan to have their halves, and especially experienced ones, replaced nor do they put pressure on a young half to come on and change the game in a key position.
It was time for McGregor to go, and in a similar way to the Cowboys, a fresh set of eyes could do the world of good for this team. They have a hard nosed forwards, and plenty of talent in their side. How they finish the season will be a good indication.
Free from some of the scrutiny, they may be allowed to play with a bit more consistency in their line-up and freedom in attack. Dean Young is the coach for the time being, and may yet stay the long haul.
With it being the newest vacancy in the League, we may have to wait a while to see. What the new coach needs to do is to instil some confidence and clear direction in this group of players who for a while seem to have been struggling without either. They could well be a force in 2021.
With the coaching market as active as ever, is this the last we will see of coaches being axed in 2020? Can Anthony Seibold get to 2021 or will the Broncos too be hiring for next year? Which club do you see turning the corner in 2021 with a new coach at the helm?