Bottom eight’s biggest off-season issue, Tigers halfbacks, Knights halfback, Titans fullbacks, off-season signings, contracts, news

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It didn’t go to plan for the eight NRL clubs that finished outside the top eight this season.

The Broncos are still scratching their head as to how they didn’t play finals football, while the Knights’ season started off to a flyer, but faded in sensational fashion.

The Dragons have a big off-season battle to retain the club’s future stars and the Sea Eagles need stability.

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Read on for the biggest off-season issue from the NRL’s bottom eight teams.


Biggest issue: Consistency and to settle on Reynolds’ partner.

Analysis: The Broncos became the first team ever to sit in the top four in Round 19 before being bundled out of the finals race. Coach Kevin Walters said his players and staff “need to have a good look at ourselves” after their fate was confirmed. Surrounding Adam Reynolds, who the Broncos brought to Red Hill on a $2.4m deal, and Kurt Capewell is a young core of players including Payne Haas, Patrick Carrigan, Kotoni Staggs, Selwyn Cobbo and Tom Flegler. That group started the season off to a flyer before the figours of a 25 round season got the better of them, and Cobbo even sat out due to fatigue late in the year. The Broncos desperately need to sustain their intensity across the whole season and slotting into ninth place will only make the whole squad hungrier to fit into the eight next season. Meanwhile, Walters needs to lock down Reynolds’ halves partner. Albert Kelly and Tyson Gamble have left the club, while Ezra Mam is the obvious option after an impressive season. Tigers recruit Jock Madden is also an option, although Red Hill fans will be hoping Walters gives Mam the time to settle into first grade after dropping him in Round 25.

Brisbane Broncos head coach Kevin Walters. Picture: Jerad WilliamsSource: News Corp Australia


Biggest issue: Keeping their future stars.

Analysis: Both Tyrell Sloan and Jayden Sullivan reportedly have one foot out the door. Sloan was sensationally dropped after only three rounds this season and is unhappy with Griffin’s coaching, while Sullivan is desperate to play regular first grade and is currently stuck behind Ben Hunt. Hunt recommitted to the Red V on Wednesday which left Sullivan looking for an exit. The 21-year-old is reportedly eyeing a move to the Bulldogs, while Sloan reportedly wants to join Bennett’s Dolphins. The Dragons have an ageing squad and both Sloan and Sullivan are considered players for the future. However, the duo want to play now and are happy to depart the club to get more minutes. Veteran prop Aaron Woods urged the Dragons to do everything they can to retain the pair. “I think the club really needs to keep those young blokes, you have Junior Amone who is a really good prospect, Sloan and Sullivan,” Woods said on Triple M. “They have all played with each other and we really need to keep them.”

Tyrell Sloan of the Dragons. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


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Biggest issue: Getting the dressing room back.

Analysis: Following Manly’s pride jersey sage, coach Des Hasler was always facing an uphill battle. The Sea Eagles went down to the Roosters without seven regular first grades in Round 20 and their finals hopes slipped out of their grasp. Hasler’s job is reportedly under fire, while reports of infighting and instability between the playing group have surfaced. Meanwhile, Manly‘s duelling power factions are doing nothing to help what happens on the field. If the Sea Eagles want to get back to their best and compete for the premiership — they must settle all the off-field issues. The playing group also have to buy in to turn around the club’s fortunes going into the 2023 season.

Sea Eagles coach, Des Hasler. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


Biggest issue: Who partners Matt Burton?

Analysis: Matt Burton is clearly the club’s marquee player and to unlock his potent attacking ability — Bulldogs powerbrokers need to find him the perfect partner. Kyle Flanagan was tasked with the halfback role at Belmore this season, playing 20 games. However, supremo Phil Gould is reportedly eyeing Dragons young gun Jayden Sullivan to be Burton’s long-term halves partner. Incoming coach Cameron Ciraldo is also reportedly keen on Sullivan as the club’s playmaker going forward according to The Daily Telegraph. Flanagan has a year left on his current contract, while Dragons powerbrokers are confident of retaining their 21-year-old halfback. In 2022, Burton recorded 16 try assists, six tries and sat 12th for total points.

Matt Burton of the Bulldogs. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


Biggest issue: Who plays fullback?

Analysis: The Titans have plugged two huge holes in the halves and at hooker by signing Sea Eagles veteran Kieran Foran and Roosters gun Sam Verrills. However, their inclusion creates a big headache in the fullback position. Does Justin Holbrook decide to go with AJ Brimson or Jayden Campbell in the No.1 jersey. Brimson finished the year at five-eighth, however Tanah Boyd had an impressive back-end of the season which could see him remain at halfback. Foran is known as a five-eighth but can play halfback shifting Boyd out to pair Brimson in the halves. If Holbrook decides to keep Boyd or reintroduce Toby Sexton one of Campbell or Brimson will be the utility. Brimson is arguably the Titans’ best player, while Campbell is a rising star at only 22-years-of-age. While it seems likely Brimson will remain in the halves, Holbrook has a headache on his hands to keep his squad happy.

Jayden Campbell of the Titans. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

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Biggest issue: They need a halfback.

Analysis: The Knights failed to replace their most important player in Mitchell Pearce when they let him leave to join the Super League with a year remaining on his contract. The club failed to entice Luke Brooks to the club last off-season and despite renewed interest to sign him ahead of 2023, the Tigers are in talks to offer him an extension. Adam Clune and Jake Clifford failed to cement the halves positions and Anthony Milford has come and gone and all three looked out of sorts as the club looked rudderless in attack last season. Kalyn Ponga can’t be asked to do everything in attack and the Knights desperately need a general to guide the team around and allow their highest paid player to stick to his strengths. The Knights also need to address their woeful defence, but signing a halfback must be their No.1 priority because what is currently on their books won’t get them back in the finals.

Jake CliffordSource: Getty Images


Biggest issue: Settling on a spine to build the team around.

Analysis: It is hard to know where to start with the warriors because they face so much uncertainty with their team heading into 2023. Reece Walsh is gone and the club have signed two potential fullback replacements in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Te Maire Martin. Martin looms as a possible solution to the halves crisis and could return to the No.6 jersey alongside Shaun Johnson at halfback. Johnson needs to rediscover his mojo because on the form he produced in 2022 he is no guarantee to start next season. Wayde Egan looks set to be the starting hooker, but Dylan Walker could offer some much needed spark out of dummyhalf off the bench. The Warriors need to address their flaky defence, but they can’t have the revolving door in the halves that they had last season if they want to create a solid spine and return to finals contention.

Te Maire Martin will join the Warriors in 2023.Source: Supplied


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Biggest issue: Their halves combination.

Analysis: The Wests Tigers have solved one major problem from the 2022 campaign and will welcome Panthers hooker Apisai Koroisau with open arms next season. However, Tim Sheens has a huge decision to make surrounding his halves pairing. The Tigers finished the season with Adam Doueihi and Jock Madden in the halves with both Luke Brooks and Jackson Hastings injured. Madden has signed with the Broncos for next year and Brett Kimmorley experimented with Hastings at lock in various games. The biggest headache the merger club face is Luke Brooks contract situation. The 27-year-old is reportedly set to earn $1.1 million in 2023 and the club have kicked off extension talks due to his willingness to stay and work with Sheens alongside assistants Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah. Doueihi has made no secret of his desire to play in the halves, while Hastings played his best football in 2022 at halfback. One of those three players will need to make way if they all remain at Leichhardt Oval. Joe Ofahengaue was one of the Tigers’ best in 2022 which makes it difficult to switch Hastings to lock permanently. Tigers powerbrokers face a true headache came Round 1 next season — and their decision could see one of the trio depart the club.

Luke Brooks. Picture: NRL PhotosSource: Supplied


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