The past few weeks have seen plenty of movement and signings from NRL clubs as they look to cement their futures and promote confidence prior to kick-off in 2008. As the Wayne Bennett circus aftermath continues, several NRL clubs have either hit the panic button or tried to wade into the foray in the coaching market.
The Bulldogs have immediately put the pressure on their coach Steve Folkes, by virtually saying if they don’t see positive results inside the first 7 weeks – his head is on the chopping block in terms of a new contract. The Warriors were scared they could lose their promising coach Ivan Cleary to the desperate Broncos, so they immediately stepped in and locked Cleary up for a longer term.
The bookies suggest that Graham Murray could be thrown on the open market soon, as insiders suggest the Cowboys secretly want to get their hands on Wayne Bennett for future years. Then you have Broncos old boys Terry Matterson, Allan Langer and Kevin Walters supposedly throwing their hats in the ring for the vacant job. For such a high pressure job, there is certainly no shortage of candidates willing to step up into the big time.
I’m sure Nathan Brown and Brian Smith are loving all the talk about other coaches at present so they can rest easy for a few weeks at least. Get plenty of rest boys, you’re sure to need it come season kick-off.
The sure up is also happening in the player ranks, the long running negotiations between Benji Marshall and the Tigers are finally settled. Smartly Marshall agreed to terms, for only a single additional season – after originally hinting at throwing himself onto the open Rugby League market.
While he boasts good credentials, of late Benji Marshall has battled injury and has struggled with poor defence at times. The potentially risky decision to make himself a free agent could have cost him his career. This latest deal seems ideal for both Marshall looking for short term security and the Tigers looking for improvement from their star without outlaying too much cash. In another positive sign for the Tigers, they have also been first to get the signature of boom Pommie big man Gareth Ellis – a hard running forward that has been compared to Adrian Morely. A good move by the Tigers, as they have really bulked up their forward stocks for 2008 now – with the Ellis move and also the Corey Payne aquisition.
Over at Penrith, they moved smartly to re-sign their solid backrower Trent Waterhouse. The consistent Waterhouse is central to their future and needed to be snapped up. However, it’s bitter sweet for the Panthers as news broke today that Shane Rodney has been injured and will miss several weeks of the opening rounds of NRL this year.
The coaching merry go round, player signings and the bonding sessions underway just prior to the pre-season are all central to the all importance confidence factor in Rugby League. NRL teams that can get early wins under their belt will have a much greater advantage as the season rolls on; even a scratchy win will do – as the snowball effect so often occurs and suddenly teams with new players, rookies and new combinations go from good to great very quickly.