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NRL: Five coaches under the microscope this season

Coaching. Who’d want to do it?

Let’s face it, everyone’s under pressure. It can be a brutal business.

Your performances are always under the microscope – especially when the team’s not doing so well.

Before the 2021 season, we saw five clubs change coaches. We’ll see two new rookie NRL coaches this year, albeit with plenty of experience as assistants.

We've taken a look at the five coaches who might be feeling the pinch more than their counterparts this season.

5. BRAD ARTHUR

Yes, Brad Arthur’s off contract in 2024, but with Parramatta holding the longest active premiership drought – now 36 years – there is pressure on the coach to deliver.

The Eels were under scrutiny in the off-season, mainly due to their recruitment and retention after Isaiah Papali’i, Marata Kiukore and Reed Mahoney all did deals with rival clubs from 2023.

They did have a couple of wins, however, with Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo committing long-term giving Arthur a strong leadership group going forward.

Nevertheless, with a number of key players to depart at the end of the season, the club’s premiership window could be about to close.

Arthur’s been at the helm of the team since 2014 and has taken the club to finals in four of the last five seasons, but never going beyond the semi-finals.

The blue and gold faithful will be hoping he’s the man to take them a couple of steps further.

4. TRENT BARRETT

Canterbury have been one of the most active clubs in the player market for 2022 and beyond so the team will look vastly different this season.

Joining the Bulldogs are the likes of Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton, Paul Vaughan, Tevita Pangai Jnr and Matt Dufty, so Trent Barrett finally has the strike power in the forwards and backs the wooden spooners desperately lacked in 2021.

With so many key signings comes great expectation both internally and externally, so the heat will be on Barrett to produce results.

While it may take time for the new squad to gel, there won’t be any excuses by the end of the year.

3. RICKY STUART

In 2019, Canberra were on the verge of premiership glory. Fast-forward a few short years and the club are licking their wounds after finishing 10th and missing the finals.

The Raiders transformed themselves into a competition heavyweight in 2019 and 2020, which made last year’s result even more disappointing for the club and for Ricky Stuart.

The club suffered from internal controversies in recent seasons involving English stars John Bateman, George Williams and Josh Hodgson so Stuart will be hoping 2022 runs more smoothly.

With Williams now back in the Super League, the club have signed former Gold Coast halfback Jamal Fogarty to steer the ship alongside Jack Wighton.

While Fogarty may solve the answer as to how the team will attack this year, Stuart will also be hoping for a defensive turnaround.

In 2021, the Green Machine leaked a total of 578 points – the most since Stuart took over as coach in 2014.

The pressure will be on Stuart to turn things around and get the Raiders back into September footy.

2. MICHAEL MAGUIRE

Michael Maguire seemed like a sitting duck following yet another disappointing season at the Wests Tigers.

A 13th-placed finished and 10 straight seasons without finals had the drums beating for the embattled coach who was spared the axe at the 11th hour.

While Maguire hasn’t been in charge throughout the full decade-long of disappointment, he’s had now had three seasons with the club dropping further down the ladder each time.

There’s no doubt Maguire’s a quality coach – he helped break South Sydney’s 43-year title drought – but if he can’t get his current crop of players to perform, the knives will be out once again.

The Tigers welcome the likes of Tyrone Peachey, Jackson Hastings, Oliver Gildart and Starford To’a, but are they the answer to Maguire’s woes? Only time will tell.

1. KEVIN WALTERS

Just simply being coach of Brisbane carries pressure in itself, but when the side hasn’t played finals footy in two seasons and haven’t won a premiership since 2006, things only intensify.

A favourite son of the Broncos, Kevin Walters finally got the chance last year to coach the club he won five titles with as a player.

But as Kevvy already knew from previous experiences, coaching is a tough gig in a number of ways and finishing 14th on the ladder was not where he would’ve envisaged his first season to go.

He was only signed on a two-year deal, ending at the end of this season, so if he wants to ensure his tenure goes on, he’ll quickly need results.

One man he’ll be putting a lot of faith in is premiership-winning halfback and new signing Adam Reynolds who the Broncos hope can steer the young team around the park.

If Walters can settle on a spine to work with Reynolds, the Broncos could find themselves pushing for a top eight finish.

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