The 2018-19 NRL off-season has been a soap opera.
The 2018-19 NRL off-season has been a soap opera.

A stain on the game: Craziest NRL off-season on record

THEY say money never sleeps, well it appears rugby league doesn't either.

This off-season is one of the craziest on record and we've not even reached Christmas.

The 2018 Grand Final was meant to put an exclamation point on a bumper year of rugby league, but more has happened since the final whistle sounded on last season.

Most of it has not painted the game in a flattering light.

We take a look back on everything that has happened in the most tumultuous rugby league off-season to date.



The movement in the coaching ranks was so farcical that the NRL were forced to consider the introduction of transfer windows for coaches.

Five clubs in the Panthers, Tigers, Rabbitohs, Broncos and Sea Eagles have seen a change of coach since the end of the 2018 season.

Ivan Cleary agreed to join Penrith in 2021, which placed pressure on the Tigers to let him go early because he would not be the club's long-term coach.

Cleary's defection to the Panthers was eventually fast-tracked and the Tigers signed former Rabbitohs' premiership winning mentor Michael Maguire.

Des Hasler was announced as the new Manly coach, beginning his second stint at the club with a three-year-deal.

The return of HasLer pushed Trent Barrett to the sidelines after he handed in his resignation in July, but the club initially refused to pay out his contract.

Anthony Seibold finally swapped places with Wayne Bennett a year early.
Anthony Seibold finally swapped places with Wayne Bennett a year early.

Wayne Bennett signed with the Rabbitohs on a two-year-deal from 2020, after the Broncos refused to extend his deal beyond 2019.

Anthony Seibold was announced as the new Broncos' coach from 2020 on a four-year-deal, with the Rabbitohs and Brisbane put under pressure to swap coaches immediately.

In a farcical situation Bennett broke his contract by speaking to Rabbitohs' players and was eventually sacked by text message after he refused to step down.

Bennett's sacking allowed him to take up a three-year-deal at Redfern from 2019 and Seibold a five-year-deal at Red Hill effective immediately.

The NRL has moved fast to make sure that the coaching merry-go-round of 2018 will never be repeated again.

Coaches cannot not be allowed to sign with rivals years in advance and the NRL are considering new changes to stamp out the practice for good.


Valentine Holmes quit the Sharks to chase his NFL dream.
Valentine Holmes quit the Sharks to chase his NFL dream.

Player transfer windows are now firmly back on the NRL's agenda, after an unprecedented off-season of player movement.

A contract doesn't seem to mean too much in rugby league these days with a number of players severing ties with clubs, and clubs shopping around their players.

Valentine Holmes shocked the Sharks by seeking a release from the final year of his contract to chase his dream of playing in the NFL.

Holmes was eventually released, with Sharks' captain Paul Gallen and coach Shane Flanagan accusing him of leaving the club in the lurch.

Meanwhile, the Warriors accepted a request for a release from Shaun Johnson, after they refused to guarantee his future with the club beyond 2019.

Johnson then signed a three-year-deal with the Sharks, with the money freed up by the departure of Holmes.

David Klemmer was released by the Bulldogs to join the Knights.
David Klemmer was released by the Bulldogs to join the Knights.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were prepared to let wantaway star David Klemmer leave the club, if they could find a suitable replacement.

Eventually the Bulldogs signed premiership winner Dylan Napa from the Roosters on a three-year-deal, allowing Klemmer to join the Knights on a monster five-year-deal.

The Knights then boosted their roster further by signing utility Kurt Mann to play hooker, after he was released by the Dragons.

The Dragons also released Nene Macdonald to the Cowboys.

The Broncos shocked the rugby league world when they released club stalwart Josh McGuire from the final two years of his contract to join the Cowboys on a four-year-deal.

Even Storm skipper Cameron Smith, an icon of the game, can't seem to ink a new deal without any fuss.

The introduction of a transfer window appears to be the only way forward, to put an end to the prevenance of players and clubs breaking contracts to suit their own needs.

The fans are the biggest stakeholders in the game and they are the ones that suffer.


Jarryd Hayne is facing sexual assault charges.
Jarryd Hayne is facing sexual assault charges.

While the vast majority of rugby league players are doing the right thing, their names continue to be dragged through the mud by a select few bad eggs.

Worryingly for the NRL, the number of off-field indiscretions this off-season seems to be on the incline.

Hours after being named Australia's new captain, Greg Inglis was arrested and charged with mid-range drink driving and speeding.

Inglis was eventually suspended from both the Kangaroos' two Test matches in October and cost himself the chance to skipper his country.

The fallout from the Bulldogs' Mad Monday antics in the Rocks saw the club issued with a $250,000 fine and two players faced court on charges of wilful and obscene exposure.

Raiders' star Jack Wighton was issued a suspended sentence for assault charges from a drunken night out in Canberra.

Dylan Walker was charged for allegedly assaulting his fiance.
Dylan Walker was charged for allegedly assaulting his fiance.

Jarryd Hayne was arrested and charged with sexual assault offences over an alleged incident with a woman on the night of the grand final.

Hayne pleaded not guilty to the charges on December 10, but it appears likely he will have to fight the charges in court.

Sea Eagles' centre Dylan Walker was charged by police for allegedly assaulting his fiancee, who is expected to withdraw her statement.

Tigers' signing Zane Musgrove and Panthers' Liam Coleman were charged with indecent assault following an alleged incident on a night out in Sydney's east.

With the seemingly endless list of misdemeanours, it is little wonder clubs are struggling to attract sponsors.

The pressure is firmly on the NRL to stamp out misbehaviour in the game, to clean up the image of rugby league and its players, but equally the onus is on the players to clean up their acts.