NRL hot seat: 3 coaches already under pressure

We’re one month into the 2019 NRL season and already the pressure is on for coaches.

James Baxter
Wed, 10 Apr, 12:00 AM

Some coaches have responded well to pressure – others, well the hot seat is getting toastier by the week. Let’s have a look at three coaches who are particularly on hot seats and how four rounds of the season are impacting their coaching futures – including a Premiership winner.

 

BRAD ARTHUR – PARRAMATTA

 

Why the spotlight?

Arthur is in the final year of his current deal at NRL’s biggest sleeping giant. The Eels mentor has taken the Eels to the highs of the top four and the lows of wooden spoons, all the while doing an admirable job in staying the course amidst the NRL’s most dysfunctional boardroom.

 

What’s gone right in 2019?

Plenty. The Eels are rejuvenated, their 3-1 season start already matches their wins after 18 rounds of their horror 2018 season. Arthur’s recruitment of Blake Ferguson has been a masterstroke. The Dally M Winger of the Year is the flanker beast the Eels have longed for since Semi Radradra’s departure. Ferguson has brought a winning mindset to a side whose confidence was at a low.

Mitchell Moses has responded well to Arthur’s coaching – the halfback had the worst year of his career in 2018 but his performance in the 24-12 win over Cronulla was much more like the player who one time was spoken of as a future NSW player. Arthur has also introduced exciting young talent into the 2019 Eels – Dylan Brown, Jaemen Salmon and Reed Mahoney have all added plenty to Parramatta and are showing the future is bright out west.

 

What’s gone wrong in 2019?

Arthur still is without a contract extension – the media reporting an Eels board decision for Arthur to show by mid-season to show he’s worthy of an extension doesn’t scream stability in a volatile contract marker. And Arthur’s not alone in an uncertain future. Captain Clint Gutherson’s manager has put a deadline on the club to make a better offer for his client after knocking back an offer they felt wasn’t up to par.

Mitchell Moses is another off-contract whose value is on the rise with his 2019 performances more up to his capabilities. Other key Eels like Daniel Alvaro, Brad Takarangai, Tepai Moeroa and Marata Nikuore and also free agents post-2019 as it stands and the longer Arthur’s contact standoff goes.

 

How hot is his seat?

Warm. Arthur could hardly have hoped for a more impressive opening month – only the Premier Roosters have defeated them, and the Eels pushed them all the way. The sheer number of Eels coming off contract – 19 in total – may mean the board’s original desire to wait until June before making a call on Arthur’s future could be pushed forward, especially if Arthur’s side continues their hot start. Of course, should the hot start grow cold with losses, Arthur’s bargaining power will rapidly dwindle. Until he gets his new deal, Arthur’s seat remains warm.

 

PAUL GREEN – NORTH QUEENSLAND

 

Why the spotlight?

It may seem strange for a Premiership-winning coach with a recent long-term extension to be under pressure, but the Cowboys haven’t hit their stride since their unforgettable 2017 charge to the Grand Final under Green, languishing near the bottom.

 

What’s gone right in 2019?

Josh McGuire’s recruitment has so far lived up to the hype. Green moved swiftly to accommodate the test start when Brisbane decided to make him open for offers, and McGuire’s addition to a star-studded forward pack has been money well spent. Jason Taumalolo’s rampaging start in round one will go down as one of NRL’s most impressive individual performances this season, the superstar running for 299m and bringing the Dragons to their knees.

 

What’s gone wrong in 2019?
The Cowboys have looked lost in attack. It’s been ugly watching at times. Ben Barba was seen as the spark to help North Queensland recover from Johnathan Thurston’s retirement – instead Barba didn’t last the off-season before being rubbed out of NRL for life. Jordan Kahu was a belated replacement but after two games the ex-Bronco was shifted into the centres as part of Green’s attempt to reignite the failing attack.

This included bringing back Jake Clifford into the halves and moving Te Maire Martin to fullback, but so far it hasn’t worked. Michael Morgan has shown glimpses of his immense ability yet it hasn’t been enough to prevent the Cowboys’ 1-3 start. Their 46-12 capitulation at home to Cronulla may have been their rock bottom, but their limp response in their 30-12 defeat to Canberra the following week shows the Cowboys are a long way off from their top eight goal.

 

How warm is his seat?

Getting warmer by the week. Green is a folk hero in Townsville – and rightly so. The only man to coach the Cowboys to a Premiership, Green received a contract extension last year until the end of 2021. There’s no buzz about Green facing immediate jeopardy over his job, however with a new stadium on the horizon and the Cowboys seeking government funding for new facilities, North Queensland’s board cannot be impressed that the last time they were in the top eight for consecutive weeks was in the final rounds of 2017.

Green was heavily hunted for the Broncos job in recent times, hence the Cowboys board offering him the richest coaching deal in their club’s history. But a 9-19 record since their 2017 Grand Final loss isn’t the return on the dividend they would have sought.

 

GARTH BRENNAN – GOLD COAST

 

Why the spotlight?

A big-money recruitment campaign raised hopes of the Titans looking for a return to the top eight. Instead, a 0-4 record has left the Titans in the doldrums and coach Garth Brennan under attack.

 

What’s gone right in 2019?

The best thing to happen for Brennan actually happened in November 2018, when the Titans decided to take up an option in their coach’s contract to extend it a further year. The move raised eyebrows outside the club. Brennan had a storied lower grade coaching record but his first year as an NRL head coach saw only eight wins for the Titans as they finished 14th. The Titans though saw enough to give Brennan breathing space over his future at the time. Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace have impressed in the forwards, two rays of light in an otherwise miserable season start.

 

What’s gone wrong in 2019?

Oh boy. When announcing the twelve-month option being exercised, Titans owner Darryl Kelly challenged Brennan to show he’s the man to take Gold Coast back to the finals. An 0-4 start isn’t exactly reassuring. Brennan will claim the loss of his first choice halves Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor was a blow. This is true of course, but in Alex Brimson and Ryley Jacks he had depth to cover this in the interim.

Brimson has inadvertently summed up Brennan’s coaching performance in 2019. The youngster burst onto the scene in 2018 with a series of game-breaking performances. Capable of playing fullback and in the halves, instead Brimson has languished as a utility hope off the bench. Michael Gordon – 35 years old – has been the undisputed choice at fullback and while Gordon offers experience, it’s hard to see why Brennan is maintaining this selection at a time where his side’s attack has been the worst in the NRL so far this season.

Shannon Boyd was a huge signing – both in size and salary – from Canberra but already has found himself relegated to the bench, admitting he’s a long way off the standards he needs to be at. Tyrone Peachey is another expensive signing who so far has been quiet – playing in the centres, limiting the creative opportunities the NSW representative receives, again unideal for a side with problems in attack.

Against a Warriors side coming off consecutive hidings conceding 80 points in that run, the Titans took an hour to score. It wasn’t pretty and leaves the Titans with their worst start in franchise history and stretches their run to 8 losses in their last 9 matches.

 

How warm is his seat?

Scorching. Brennan doesn’t have a head coaching track record finishing a Premiership like Green, nor the tenure of Arthur. Brennan claimed after the Warriors loss his side was lacking mental toughness – essentially calling his players out. It’s a bold move to make and if it serves to awaken the Titans into a win against the Panthers then credit to Brennan. But if the Titans go down again, the club will have an 0-5 record to show and a potentially big call to make.

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