Every NRL club should have a five-year plan, but the details are best kept secret

The idea of ​​a five-year plan in the NRL is a source of great amusement when summarizing the efforts of some underperforming clubs, but every team should have one.

Whether your club is one of the few true title contenders, stuck in the middle of the table or bottom of the rankings, it needs a long-term roadmap to navigate the bumps and twists of the NRL journey.

Phil Gould is drawing much scorn from critics in the media – both social and mainstream – for such a five-year plan in force at Canterbury, after being criticized at Penrith for not sticking to it by he kept pressing the reset button.

He claimed it was pure “media ramblings” that the Panthers ever had one and when he took control of the beleaguered club in 2012 he actually said it would be five years before they returned to Premiership competition would get in.

They actually surpassed those expectations when Ivan Cleary led a young side to the semi-finals in 2014, but was dismissed a year later because Gould said he looked tired after falling to 11th place the following season.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Returning to the present, Gould’s Bulldogs would be just waiting under Cameron Ciraldo to take part in the finals after falling far short of expectations by finishing 15th.

They’re relatively lucky to be that high in the first place, having been the worst team in the competition for much of the season, which is reflected in the fact they have the biggest minus point difference with by far the most leaky defense and just one bit in attack better than the Wooden Spooners-Elect Wests Tigers.

Parramatta was brave/foolish enough to unveil his bold plan in 2015 that They called their “Vision 2020”. puntastic.

It was intended to be “Australia’s finest sports organization, with the very best people striving to deliver excellence, unity and success”.

The first two objectives on their checklist, which also included financial and membership targets, were “to compete in the NRL Finals series every year and bring home the club’s fifth and sixth Premierships by 2020”.

For a club that hasn’t won a trophy since Kylie Minogue’s ‘Locomotion’ and has been the laughing stock of back-to-back wooden spoons, their plan was ambitious to say the least.

Pointing this out eight years later doesn’t mean rubbing their noses, just showing that big plans take more than PowerPoint presentations and lots of rhetoric to put into action.

Since bringing their vision to life, the Eels have done a fine job, appearing in four of the seven playoff series. If they don’t get lucky in the final games of the season, that record will drop to a 50% win rate very soon.

They were close last year in the pursuit of fifth and sixth Premierships but the next couple of seasons will be tough.

They reacted reluctantly when there was talk of closing their Premiership window after losing to Penrith in the Grand Final because they lost Isaiah Papali’i, Reed Mahoney, Marata Niukore, Oregon Kaufusi and Ray Stone.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 18: Eels look on after the loss during the NRL Round 25 game between Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters at CommBank Stadium on August 18, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, those damn haters were right. They have a solid squad with very good players, but not a single Origin auto pick among their ranks.

The hardest thing about making a long-term plan for a club is that fortunes can change quicker than expected, for better or for worse.

This year, the Warriors are living the dream of a team that has far exceeded their expectations. The Cowboys felt the same way last season.

But it’s not linear progress — just because new coach Andrew Webster has turned the Warriors from hitters into third-place surprise teams doesn’t mean they remain title contenders, as the Cowboys have proven this season.


(Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

The NRL contract system adds complexity to trying to plan for years.

With players still becoming free agents on November 1 before the final season of their contract, clubs need to hedge their bets by either making a deal expecting the player to be worth the investment or placing them in free agency let them go and possibly drive up their asking price.

The difference between the well run clubs and those who keep making the same mistakes is huge in a competition where there should be relative equality as each team has the same salary cap.

How the Wests Tigers managed to miss the finals for 12 straight years and are now in the process of clinching their second wooden spoon highlights serious flaws from the front office down that have never been rectified.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: The Tigers wait for a conversion attempt during the NRL Round 18 game between North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers at Qld Country Bank Stadium on July 01, 2023 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“If you’re at a poker game and you don’t see a prat, stand up. You’re the jerk.” It’s a Warren Buffett quote, said to have come from a card shark named Amarillo Slim.

Translated into rugby league parlance, this is how the Tigers bigwigs should feel when they meet up with their peers from other clubs. But apparently they made no such realization.

It’s a tedious proposition for sports columnists to quote Mike Tyson’s claim that everyone has a plan until they get a slap in the face.

For the Tigers, it’s more about the fact that they can’t put a plan into action without missing an uppercut or three.

Their five-year plan is more akin to Adam Sandler’s older nemesis Sid in Big Daddy: “What’s that? Do not die.”

Basically, all clubs should have variations of three long-term plans – Sustain, Consolidate and Rebuild.

Penrith, South Sydney and Melbourne are probably the only three clubs that should currently be in preservation mode after several years in the finals.

Even though the Rabbitohs have come out on top this season, their roster situation is still pretty good, so there’s no need for a rebuild any time soon.

For the rest, they need to consolidate, teams like Brisbane, Cronulla and the Warriors who are close to winning the title but still need to make some tweaks.

Or Reconstruction, with the basement trio of St George Illawarra, Canterbury and the Tigers being the obvious contenders for that category.

For the rest of the teams somewhere in the middle of the leaderboard, figuring out whether to take a step back or two to ultimately move forward or stay the course is a dilemma.

No one wants to rebuild, but it’s a necessary evil for any club to have lasting success.

Most club managers will deny it and say they are on their way to the top, even if their side continue to sink into mediocrity. Because if they say otherwise, their jobs are in question.

And nobody plans that.

https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/08/26/every-nrl-club-should-have-a-five-year-plan-but-its-best-to-keep-quiet-about-the-details-remember-parras-2020-vision/ Every NRL club should have a five-year plan, but the details are best kept secret


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