NRL clubs facing some big changes for the 2019 season

With all clubs having lodged their 2019 rosters with the NRL, the coaching swap finalised between the Rabbitohs and Broncos and Shaun Johnson's future decided, we pause to take an early look at where the biggest changes have occurred.

This is the time of the year when fans are often left with more questions than answers and we pose a few more.


The reigning premiers have lost key players Dylan Napa, Blake Ferguson, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Ryan Matterson but welcome Angus Crichton, Ryan Hall, Brett Morris and Brock Lamb. It could be argued that they will benefit from a slight net gain in talent; they certainly won't be any less competitive.

The most interesting part of this season for the Roosters will be how Cooper Cronk goes in what is likely his final season. His combinations with Luke Keary and James Tedesco were largely responsible for their success last season. Can the Roosters break the back-to-back premiership drought? Will Cronk leave the game on top or be tempted to go around again in 2020?


South Sydney welcome new coach Wayne Bennett with hopes of turning premiership potential into trophies. Bennett would seem to be the man for the job, based on his long run of success, but he'll have to do it on the back of a rather stagnant recruiting run.

The Bunnies are losing star forward Angus Crichton, Jason Clark, Tim Grant, Hymel Hunt and Tyrell Fuimaono. They have signed relative unknowns Kurt Dillon, Bayley Sironen and Corey Allan. Will the current roster be good enough to win a premiership under Bennett or will he need to add some key pieces over the next couple of years? How long before Bennett loses the famously fickle Rabbitohs dressing room?


Brisbane welcome new coach Anthony Seibold after growing tired of long-term coach Wayne Bennett. The Broncos have only ever had three coaches in their history and it will be interesting to see what Seibold can bring to the club.

The Broncos have lost Corey Allan, Sam Thaiday, Thomas Opacic and Korbin Sims and have only really signed Sean O'Sullivan. There has been talk of Mitchell Moses heading north, as the halves seem to be one of their main areas of concern. How long will it take Seibold to bring premiership success back to a club that expects no less? Will Darius Boyd be able to function under a coach whose name is not Wayne Bennett?


Cronulla have lost some big names in Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee, Ricky Leutele, Luke Lewis and James Segeyaro, but none bigger than NFL-bound Valentine Holmes. It was looking like one-way traffic out of the Shire, with Josh Morris being the only player of note to join the Sharks, and then, Shaun Johnson escaped the Warriors and signed on the dotted line.

How much impact will Johnson have at the Sharks? Will Matt Moylan excel at fullback as he did at times for the Panthers? Can veteran Morris cover for the loss of so many key outside backs?


The Bulldogs have lost David Klemmer and the Morris twins, to go with the many stars they shed last season. They had recruited mostly emerging talent in Nick Meaney, Jack Cogger, Christian Crichton, Sauaso Sue, Corey Harawira-Naera and Chris Smith, before welcoming Dylan Napa as a ready-made replacement for Klemmer. This is coach Dean Pay's second year in charge and he is starting to build his own post-Des Hasler team.

Returning from injury, Keiren Foran is one Hasler purchase who will be key to how the Bulldogs go in 2019. Lachlan Lewis was a find last year in the halves, but he needs a partner. Can Foran recapture his old form and become a formidable halve combination with Lewis?


Melbourne haven't made any big recruitment moves, despite losing some key players in retiring duo Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman and Newcastle-bound Tim Glasby.

The big question hanging over the Storm is; who will play fullback and can they maintain their high performance standards without Slater? Cameron Munster has been mentioned as a possible replacement at the back, but the boots he's trying to fill are enormous. Melbourne struggled to find a halves combination after losing Cooper Cronk at the beginning of last year, but they still managed to play in the grand final. Will they be able to do the same without Slater?


Nathan Brown has continued to build a formidable looking team at Newcastle. The signing of David Klemmer may have overshadowed some of their other astute purchases, but there was none bigger than Jesse Remien. Remien will find a place in the Knights backline and have former Shark teammate Edrick Lee there to help him carve up the opposition defence.

Warriors back-up halfback Mason Lino joins the Knights after impressing several times when stepping in for Shaun Johnson. With Mitchell Pearce back to full fitness and with Kaylan Ponga with another year under his belt, can the Knights play finals football in 2019? It's over to Brown to turn potential into reality.


The Cowboys farewelled Johnathan Thurston with a horror season in 2018. They move into 2019 with Lachlan Coote, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett and Shaun Fensom also packing their bags. There were rumours that Valentine Holmes was heading north early, before he decided to take the Jarryd Hayne option and pursue his NFL dream. Now all hopes of a successful season seemingly rest in the lap of Ben Barba who returns from England having conquered the Super League.

The Cowboys also welcome outside backs Nene Macdonald and Tom Opacic, but if Barba doesn't provide an enormous spark, they could be in for some more tough times. How will coach Paul Green lift them off the canvas to be a premiership threat without Johnathan Thurston?


The biggest change at Penrith is of course the arrival of new coach Ivan Cleary. Cleary left the Tigers in controversial circumstances to coach his son at the club that fired him some years earlier.

On the player front they have lost some key players in Corey Harawira-Naera, Christian Crichton, Tyrone Peachey and Peter Wallace. They welcome back Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and Tim Grant as well as Tyrell Fuimaono. The Panthers were well on their way to premiership contention last year before they were derailed by the sacking of coach Anthony Griffin. Can Cleary and son pick them up and get them over the line?


New coach Michael Maguire takes over the Tigers at a very interesting time. Halfback Luke Brooks has just signed a long-term contract renewal, Josh Reynolds is looking for a better year after injury prevented him from making a contribution in 2018 and Mose Mbye will benefit from a full off season at the club.

They lose some talent in Tuimoala Lolohea, Kevin Naiqama, Sauaso Sue, Tim Grant and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, but welcome Paul Momirovski and Ryan Matterson. Will Maguire be the answer to a long-running coaching problem at the club? And how much more can he squeeze out of veterans Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah?