Worst decisions by each club in the NRL era

Last week I wrote about each club best signing since 1998. Today is a reflection on poor decisions – not just player signings.

Broncos: Everything the board has done post 2015 grand final

Where do you start? Strange things are happening at Brisbane and there are serious mixed messages where everyone is to blame. In December Paul White and “Karl from marketing” said the Broncos would compete for the 2020 premiership, then last week changed their mind to say it would take a few years to fix Wayne’s roster. No doubt Bennett knows when to jump off sinking ships, but the Broncos still have 12 representative players in their roster! The problem is they are all playing well below their peak. Poor decision giving a rookie coach Seibold the reins with a 5-year deal – he had the best side in the competition at Souths, they finished 3rd before straight sets exit. Unlike Trent Robinson and Michael McGuire who had been head coaches in English Super League, Anthony Seibold has no prior experience as a week in, week out head coach. There are articles dedicated to the Broncos right now – board, coach, players…it’s a mess!

Bulldogs: Off field controversies ruin their 'family club image'

There was the salary cap cheating in the early 2000s along with a pre-season trip that didn't go so well. Then recently a wild mad Monday in public view while having school girls back to the team hotel does not sit well with anyone. Big blank space on their jerseys right now without a sponsor. Every time the club seems to turn it around, something goes wrong.

Who doesn't love a bit of nudity on Mad Monday? Answer: The general public when you are exposing yourself as people go to work. Source: Sky News Australia

Cowboys: Recent fullback problems

Kalyn Ponga was at the Cowboys but got the big money and left for Newcastle – should they have tried harder to stop him moving? For 2019 they signed Ben Barba and sacked him before he even played a game. Now Valentine Holmes is going to take time to adjust and has recently been sidelined by injuries. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh with that one. The club is still struggling after the 2017 grand final, okay, yes, they did lose one of the greats in JT, but they have a roster that should be top 4.

Dragons: Paying Ben Hunt seven figures

It is not Ben Hunt’s fault that the Dragons pay him more than he’s worth, but the weight of expectation is weighing him down and hurts the Dragons with other recruitment options. As Hunt has shown for QLD and in the past 2 weeks for Dragons, his best position is probably at hooker.

Eels: Talent drain over the years

There are so many Parramatta juniors who have excelled at other clubs, I have lost count. Instead the club seems to sign other players who underperform when had they developed what they already had they’d be a gun side for 20 years.

Knights: Giving Nathan Tinkler the keys

Tinkler came and signed Wayne Bennett and at the announcement famously said 4 premierships in 4 years. Uncle Wayne recruited a dad’s army team of talent who he thought could win and in their 2nd year they failed to reach a prelim final. The next year they bombed and facilities promised by Tinkler never eventuated. Bennett left a year early and the club collected wooden spoon after wooden spoon.

Knights had so much potential before it all came crashing down.

Panthers: A 5-year plan that never seems to deliver

I’m confused by the Panthers recruiting and retention. They have great young talent, develop them, let them go then will sign other players (e.g. Trent Merrin), only to watch them decline and let them go. It seems a vicious cycle. Just when the Panthers are building to success they seem to then be rebuilding again the next year.

Rabbitohs: Being so bad on and off that field that they got axed from the competition

A proud foundation club that was minor premiers in 1989, then wooden spooners in 1990. Lost a stack of young talent who went on to play for NSW and Australia while poor finances meant the club couldn’t compete. Evicted from the competition for 2000 and 2001 before returning in 2002. The club has gone from strength to strength with Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes à Court (2006-2014) as club owners and some astute signings on and off the field has meant the club has a strong brand and loyal supporter base. A far cry from the mismanagement of the 1990's.

Raiders: Bad boy lifestyle

Dugan, Carney and Ferguson were all young talented players on the field but obviously running amok off it. Was there not a welfare officer, strong coach or experienced player to pull them in?

Raiders have had talented bad boys leave the club.

Roosters: Buying players post Freddy Fittler

East Sydney rebranded post Super League to be the Sydney City Roosters and became a competitive side with the recruitment of Brad Fittler in 1996. Four grand finals in five years (they won in 2002) and the retirement of Freddy meant they had the expectations of success but lacked a leader. In their defence, they have a very small junior base and therefore have to recruit players. Unlike their current policy of identify young talent and bring them through the Roosters went on a buying frenzy with players and no one seemed to play for the jersey with any passion. It meant a period lacking success before the recruitment of Trent Robinson, the forward pack leadership of JWH, combined with the one-club warrior, Anthony Minichiello, delivering a 2013 premiership.

Sea Eagles: Northern Eagles 2000-2002

Combining perennial underachievers, the North Sydney Bears with one of the most successful clubs since the 1970s, Manly Warringah ended in disaster for both teams. Financial ruin and three seasons of missing finals in which they never won more than two games in a row. The Bears never returned as an NRL side and Manly had a few dark years before a successful decade followed.

Sharks: Peptides scandal

Will be forever labelled drug cheats. In some ways it maybe worked to their advantage as it was only a few years later than they won their maiden premiership. Effect of the peptides or the resilience to prove a point?

Storm: Cheating the Cap

2007 and 2009 Premierships are void and there will forever be a stain on this great club as a result of systematic salary cap breaches. The disappointing thing is it has nothing to do with the coach or players and rather than say Cameron Smith is a four-time premiership winner he is a four-time grand final winner with two premierships.

Storm were systematic cheats under Brian Waldron's leadership.

Tigers: Big money deals under Cleary

Russell Packer, Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds were all signed to marquee sized contracts by previous coach Ivan Cleary, but didn't deliver value for money. Michael McGuire also makes a valid point that there are long term cultural issues at the club based on how regularly it just misses finals. “Soft” was the term he used while “lacking killer instinct” is how I’d summarise them.

Titans: Almost every marquee signing

Not many players have taken their career forward once signing with the Titans. Boyd, Peachy, Cartwright, Peats, Proctor and Taylor would all likely be on big money currently at the Titans and played better football at their previous clubs. Then there was of course the drama around the signing of Daley Cherry-Evans which never quite came to fruition, or did it?

Warriors: Sacking Stephen Kearney

With COVID-19 causing chaos, everyone is just happy the Warriors are sacrificing so much to keep a 16-team competition going. I honestly don’t think anyone expected the Warriors to play finals and even winning 5/20 would have been a pass mark. Still contracted until the end of 2022 but sacked prematurely…craz