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Soward: The missing ingredient for all 16 clubs in 2020

Pre-season training is just a week or two away for NRL clubs, while the pre-season player transfer scramble could kick off at any moment.

All 16 clubs need something extra to go the distance in 2020. Even the Roosters took an entirely different tact to claim back-to-back premierships this year, simply because no two titles are won the same way.

Here's where your club needs to focus, or go to market, over the hot summer months ahead of next season.


They need energy. Simple to preach, much harder to practice, even with the immeasurable boost of already repeating one premiership win with another.

Trent Robinson's challenge is re-establishing their desire and drive for a third straight year.

Patience too with their playmakers, especially as Kyle Flanagan comes to the club and tries to fit with the Roosters' attacking style.

2019 End of Season Review


Canberra have a halfback, two in fact. Ricky Stuart needs to establish who it is that guides his team around the paddock, and ideally as early as possible to build the combinations that are your bread and butter come finals time.

Aidan Sezer did a superb job as their controlling playmaker to get them to the grand final. But now he is competing with George Williams for the No.7 jumper – more an off-the-cuff-style half that is more likely to crack the game's best defences.

Sticky needs to work out which way he goes. It's a decent headache to have.

Green Machine leader gutted after heartbreaking loss


Souths need more depth across their squad, as the Origin period and injuries could well take their toll again in 2020.

They also need a top-notch fullback. Adam Doueihi is capable but better off in other positions.

Alex Johnston sits in the same boat, his best position is as a winger and South Sydney's centres now need early, consistent ball.

A true ball-playing fullback is what they need to make that happen.


Craig Bellamy shocked plenty by changing up his No.7 on the eve of the finals, and I don't see it happening again.

Ryan Papenhuyzen is just too good to keep out of the No.1 jumper, so with him locked in at the back Melbourne need to pick and stick with their halfback throughout the season.

Again, those combinations that are honed over a six-month regular season can make or break you in the finals.

Sea Eagles

Manly need depth across their roster, even with their excellent efforts to manage a crippling injury toll in 2019.

Des Hasler will also be hellbent on managing, and then exceeding, expectations around his side.

From outside the Beaches bubble, no-one expected the Sea Eagles to do anything this year. Next season it will be a different story.

Road to Finals: Sea Eagles


Parramatta need to play at Bankwest Stadium every week. In other words, they have to sort out their away form.

Their 9-3 home record is enough to make the finals most years. But the 5-7 on the road?

That will ensure you never win a competition, because at some point you will face your biggest test in enemy territory. And Melbourne smoked them 32-0 when that examination rolled around.


Cronulla need to pick and stick in their backline.

They need Shaun Johnson fit and firing at five-eighth alongside Chad Townsend, but outside them their back five needs more consistency and time to gel.

The chopping and changing of Josh Morris throughout the year looked to affect their attacking combinations and ball movement when it mattered most.

Gallen thanks fans and club post match


Brisbane need an experienced halfback like nothing else to help steer the game's best young forward pack, and someone who fights for the ball with the game in the balance.

They need 17 players fighting for that ball when it matters. The Broncos have always been famed for their competitiveness, but last year their young side drifted in and out of that mindset far too often.

More of the same will see them miss the top eight.

Wests Tigers

As always seems the case, the Tigers need to find a way to win the tough, tight games that the best sides just do.

Beyond that, they need a No.9. Replacing Robbie Farah is a tough enough job, and Jacob Liddle's ACL rupture is expected to rule him out for a large part of 2020.

Guys like Cameron King and Billy Britain are still on the market; it may be a case of needing two players to fill the role Farah has played for so long.


Penrith need a complete attacking overhaul. I expect Nathan Cleary to be front and centre of their offence next year, and to go to another level accordingly.

Bringing back Api Koroisau should help straighten them up. But even still, the game plan must be more than simply relying on the talent of guys like Viliame Kikau, getting them the ball and hoping for something to happen.


Newcastle need an identity. They have the big names – Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and David Klemmer are all in the top five of their positions and are players most clubs would kill to have.

But the Knights need a playing style they can rely on when things don't go to plan. Because when it doesn't as we saw in 2019, it can all go very badly, very quickly.

Knights' top five tries of 2019


Canterbury need to play well when it matters. It's all well and good to finish a season strongly, and five wins from their last six games is great.

But for the second straight year it simply hasn't mattered, because their season was already over.

I think the Bulldogs also need another big front-rower to help create a formidable rotation with Dylan Napa and Aiden Tolman.


No publicity around their off-season. If they start the year with a few wins, no buying into the hype that this could finally be the turnaround.

The Warriors are also the complete opposite to Parramatta, with a home record (5-7 with some big losses in there) that should be much better than it was in 2019.

Losing badly in front of your own, long-suffering fans, speaks to the above – complacency.

Warriors' top five tries of 2019


Another team in need of a complete attacking overhaul.

They have simply relied too long on predictable set pieces and when they don't work, passing to Michael Morgan or Jason Taumalolo and hoping for the best.

A fresh voice at hooker in Reece Robson should offer a bit of a shake-up, but I think they need the same at fullback as well.

If Val Holmes returns from the NFL to the Cowboys No.1 jumper he can't be expected to do that immediately though.

I think it will take longer than most expect for him to make the transition back to league – just look at how Jarryd Hayne had to re-adapt.


They need to play for their coach and their own futures, because throughout 2019 the Dragons looked tired and very little got them excited.

Paul McGregor will be under pressure from round one, while their attack needs reshaping as well.

A forward pack full of internationals simply can't amount to an attack that is so unthreatening.

A big call may need to come on Ben Hunt too. 

If McGregor genuinely sees him as a better hooker than halfback, he needs to play him there – never mind the big money was spent to bring him in as a No.7 – and reshape his team accordingly.


Gold Coast need a bit of everything. But glass half-full, if you're going to rebuild, it might as well be from the ground up.

AJ Brimson should be going to fullback and I hope Ash Taylor can get himself back into form and enjoying his footy.

Whoever the Titans land on at halfback, they need a style of play that suits their No.7, because there is enough young talent elsewhere in that team for a playmaker to create with.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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