Is your club under the pump to perform in 2008? While every NRL club feels the pressure to perform in this current day and age, there is a trio of clubs that finished outside the NRL Top 8 in 2007 that will be under more intensity than most as kick off for 2008 approaches.
The Penrith Panthers, Newcastle Knights and new boys the Gold Coast Titans are the NRL clubs facing the acid test this year as all three clubs back-up from varying reasons of disappointment last year.
For Penrith, the taste of victory they had in 2003 seems light years away. Fast forward to now, the mountain men have a new coach and plenty of new personnel trying to put it all together and have the added baggage of a wooden spoon for their troubles last year. The addition of new coach Matt Elliott promised so much, yet all the Panthers felt all year was internal turmoil. Favourite son Craig Gower leaves the fold in humble circumstances, talented players Joel Clinton and Peter Wallace were let go and the only notable aquisition was former Bronco Petero Civoniceva who will have to carry the hopes and dreams of the West as he tries to lead his troops into battle. Coach Elliott will potentially wear more accountability in 2008 as he made some big changes since his arrival and another year of failure will leave him in a sticky position.
Up at the Gold Coast Titans, with the first season under their belt it now gets serious and the new boys have to perform under much more pressure. The Titans started extremely well and went within a whisker of making the NRL finals in 2007, however poor games towards seasons end saw them finish on less points than strugglers the Sydney Roosters – who in most peoples eyes had a shocker season. The predicted problem with the Titans of poor depth ultimately rang true and unfortunately for the young club, they still haven’t added a lot of starch to their overall squad. They have quality players, but should injury hit again and it usually does – the Gold Coast boys will be hitting the Cavill Avenue strip early and missing the finals yet again. The opening of their new stadium at Robina will be a healthy boost and coach John Cartwright isn’t directly under pressure – however the club as a whole must set the standard for future years and make this one count.
Facing a tougher task than anyone this year is the Newcastle Knights. Belted and dragged through the NRL 2007, they were the whipping boys of the Rugby League. Reports constantly sprung out of Newcastle that Brian Smith while talented, was simply not the personality for the job and many players revolted – leaving morale on the floor and created constant week to week floggings on the football field. With Danny Buderus seeming unhappy, the major cog in the Knights machine is certainly not well oiled and this may put a tonne of pressure on the rest of the crew. Struggling for talent, the Knights and Brian Smith personally face a major test of character. When A.Johns retired, his move to assist in coaching at other NRL clubs and not the Knights was a prime example that Newcastle wasn’t a totally happy or comfortable base.
The blow torch fires up in around a months time; will your club perform?