Every coach in the NRL is under pressure to get their teams performing, but there are a few who might be feeling the heat a little more than their counterparts heading into the 2020 season.
From premiership-winning mentors to rookie NRL coaches, these are the men who need their clubs to fire in 2020.
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ANTHONY SEIBOLD (Broncos)
Brisbane might’ve scraped into the finals with a losing record this year, but it was the way they were immediately eliminated in a thumping loss to Parramatta that sounded alarm bells at Red Hill.
This will be Seibold’s second pre-season at the club and while it’s well known his approach and preparation to games is vastly different to his predecessor Wayne Bennett, the players will now have had ample time to adjust.
Seibold switched up his spine countless times in 2019, but now that he’s been able to lure Brodie Croft to the club to play halfback, he’ll be looking for a more settled line-up next year — and one that fires.
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DEAN PAY (Bulldogs)
Given the state of Canterbury’s roster when he took over, you could forgive Pay if the club had a couple of lean years.
The Bulldogs have now missed the finals for three straight seasons, the latest two coming under Pay, so the pressure will well and truly be on.
After a sluggish start to 2019, the Bulldogs became the competition’s giant killers in the back end of the season, launching an unlikely run to the finals to ultimately fall short.
The biggest challenge for Pay is getting them to emulate that across the whole season.
JUSTIN HOLBROOK (Titans)
It’s never an easy task taking over a side that’s just run dead last, but when you’re a first-time NRL coach, the job could seem even more daunting.
That’s the situation Holbrook finds himself in at Gold Coast, a club that has played finals footy just three times since 2007, the last time coming in 2016.
While there will be a grace period as he looks to turn things around, the pressure will still be there.
ADAM O’BRIEN (Knights)
Like Holbrook, there will be a grace period as O’Brien makes his mark on Newcastle.
The added pressure for the former Sydney Roosters assistant as opposed to Holbrook is unlocking a Knights roster that underperformed in 2019.
Key positions were tinkered with by Nathan Brown this year, so O’Brien will be hoping to lock players in and stick with them to ensure the strongest combinations are made.
PAUL GREEN (Cowboys)
After their memorable 2015 title win and grand final appearance in 2017, North Queensland have fallen off a cliff in recent seasons.
The club has now missed the finals in two consecutive seasons, finishing 13th and 14th, with Green criticised for failing to revamp his side’s structures.
While a number of the club’s greats have now hung up the boots, a new era awaits with a bunch of talent arriving in the off-season, headed by Valentine Holmes.
Green will be desperate for his side to gel early in the season, otherwise the pressure will quickly start to mount.
IVAN CLEARY (Panthers)
After three consecutive finals appearances, Penrith went backwards last season to finish 10th.
Aside from the sex tape scandal that rocked the club early on, it was a horror start to 2019 for the Panthers with just two wins from their opening 10 games.
Cleary’s Panthers head into 2020 as one of the youngest teams in the competition and the coach will be hoping the transition into life after James Maloney is a smooth one.
PAUL McGREGOR (Dragons)
Next season will likely be make or break for McGregor at the Red V.
St George Illawarra are coming off their worst ever finish as a joint venture (15th), and as a result, a host of coaching changes have been made to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The club leaked the second most points in 2019, while continual changes to the spine and outside backs due to injury and form never allowed the side to flourish.
McGregor is back from a leadership camp in the United States and knows the knives will be out for him if his side gets off to a slow start in 2020.
STEPHEN KEARNEY (Warriors)
Despite being under contract until 2022, the knives were already out for Kearney after the Warriors finished 13th this season.
It was the second time in three years the club failed to make the finals, with the coach conceding his team simply “weren’t good enough”.
The Warriors have had minimal player turnover this off-season which helps squad stability, but Kearney must settle on his playmakers with Blake Green, Kodi Nikorima and Chanel Harris-Tavita all vying for spots in the halves.
MICHAEL MAGUIRE (Wests Tigers)
After two consecutive seasons finishing ninth, Maguire must take the Tigers to another level in 2019.
The former South Sydney title-winning coach has now been at the club for 12 months so he’s had time to make his mark on the playing group.
It’s been eight long years without finals for the Tigers, but he looms as the man to help them break their drought.