The men under pressure before the NRL season has even started

It’s always fun to travel back in time.

This time last year, we looked at who we thought was under the most pressure in the NRL in 2019, and it makes fascinating reading a year on.

Top of the list then was Knights coach Nathan Brown. He didn’t make it.

All eyes will be on Eels half Mitchell Moses.Credit:AAP

Mitchell Moses

It is wrong that the Eels have not won a title since 1986 and this season they have a roster that could get it done. And if it is to happen, halfback Moses must deliver on years of promise. Last year he showed us he was very, very close to being that player. Parramatta is a massive club and simply have to do something at the business end.

Kalyn Ponga needs to do his talking on the field.Credit:AAP

Kalyn Ponga

Last year he was going to be the game’s superstar. In the end, he wasn’t. The Knights fell to pieces and coach Brown’s position became untenable. Ponga started the year poorly at five-eighth and recovered somewhat when he went to fullback. In 2020, he has no choice but to be the star he was destined to be when he exploded onto the scene in 2018. He also has to get it right off the field. His press conference after Brown quit early and his All Blacks comments went down like lead balloons.

New Rabbitoh Latrell Mitchell.Credit:Getty

Latrell Mitchell

He wanted to be fullback, and he’s got the job at Souths. He wants to be an Indigenous leader. Souths will let him do that, too. In return, the club needs a totally focussed Mitchell to tear defences apart. Nothing would be better than if Mitchell turned it on and forced his way back into Freddy Fittler’s NSW Origin side. The game would be better for it. A bona fide superstar.

Paul McGregor and the Dragons need a fast start in 2020.Credit:Getty

Paul McGregor

The Dragons coach is on his last legs. The team was a basketcase last season and, yes, there were many, many excuses. But the time for excuses is now well and truly over. Season 2020 will make or break many people at the club and McGregor is at the very top of the list.

Last season was a disaster for Ben Hunt and the Dragons.Credit:Getty

Ben Hunt

He’s on "danger money" at more than a million dollars a season. It leaves fans baying for his blood every time he has an average match. McGregor’s fortunes rest on his shoulders, which often look weary in an arduous season.

Anthony Seibold made the finals in his first season at Red Hill. Just.Credit:AAP

Anthony Seibold

The Broncos were poor last season and Seibold looked like he struggled at times. Now it’s his second season in charge of the once-mighty club and results will be expected. More like demanded. He’ll have nowhere to hide if they dish up more of the same inconsistency this year.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley will have more rules to keep an eye on in 2020.Credit:AAP

Graham Annesley

The football operations boss at the NRL had a so-so year on his return to HQ last season. It all culminated on grand final night with the "six again" fiasco and the Roosters trainer getting hit with the ball. Annesley will live on the Gold Coast and commute to do the job this year. He’s brought in the captain’s challenge and many changes to the judiciary. The jury is out on everything.

Has Rabbitohs mentor Wayne Bennett got another title in him?Credit:Getty

Wayne Bennett

Is he yesterday’s man or does he have one more title in him? In 2010 when he took the Dragons to the premiership, his seventh as coach, many believed Bennett surpassed the great Jack Gibson as the greatest of all time. The past decade has not been so great, even though the Broncos were home and hosed in the 2015 decider, only for Johnathan Thurston to take it all from them and achieve his destiny. If Bennett and Souths win, the supercoach will undeniably be the greatest of all time.

Nathan Cleary needs to take control at Penrith this year.Credit:AAP

Nathan Cleary

Like the rest of the Panthers, he struggled to recover from the pre-season sex video scandal that rocked the club. It brought them all down, even though Cleary was not involved. This season, there are no excuses. Cleary has the NRL and Origin experience behind him now and has no excuse but to take his place as one of the game's current greats. That is, if he truly is one. Make-or-break time.

Titans head of culture Mal Meninga.Credit:AAP

Mal Meninga

Wow, 2019 was a train wreck for the Titans. As head of football, Meninga has installed rookie Justin Holbrook as coach. In his first season as an NRL head coach, Holbrook will be afforded some time to grow into the job. But if the Titans languish uncompetitively at the bottom again, there’ll be a search for a scapegoat and big Mal will be in the spotlight.

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