Explained: The five coaching moves that could rock the NRL
THE coaching merry-go-round is just starting to swing and up to five changes are expected within the coming weeks.
It's not an ideal situation given most clubs are set to return to pre-season training in little more than a fortnight, leaving uncertainty and confusion until the ride comes to a halt.
Like a twisted game of dominoes, it will only take one club to make a significant move to set the wheels in motion.
Confused? Here's a look at the possible scenarios and the coaches in the firing line.
After a very public stoush with club bosses over his coaching future midway through the season, Bennett's position at Brisbane has been on rocky ground.
Although he has signed with the Broncos for 2019 and has repeatedly said he intends to honour his deal, the 68-year-old also wants to keep coaching beyond next season.
To do so, he will need to leave Brisbane.
Bennett has been linked with Wests Tigers as a replacement for Ivan Cleary, and South Sydney if the Broncos can lure Anthony Seibold north.
Throwing another spanner in the works, in August Bennett was also linked with a return to the Dragons, where he won the 2010 premiership.
It's unlikely Bennett would leave the Broncos, who have a young and healthy squad full of premiership potential, for club that would take a few years to rebuild.
It's being reported that Anthony Seibold, Michael Maguire, Kevin Walters and Jason Demetriou have all been interviewed to replace Bennett in 2019, but if Bennett jumps ship early, all but Seibold are free to take hold.
Demetriou is already assistant at Brisbane and has the backing of star forward Josh McGuire, who describes him as an 'exceptional coach'.
After just one season as head coach of South Sydney, Seibold's strength and intelligence have made him one of the hottest prospects in rugby league.
In one season, the 44-year-old took South Sydney from a 12th-place finish to the preliminary finals and completely revolutionised the club's attack without overhauling the playing roster.
He also unleashed Damien Cook's talent, helping him to be picked for New South Wales and Australia for the first time.
But with all of the success comes attention from rival clubs who are looking for the same kind of change.
It's widely believed Seibold is Brisbane's main target and although he has previously insisted he would see out his deal with South Sydney, the might and power of the Broncos could be too impressive to resist.
What a situation for the New Zealand coach.
As a free agent in this drama, Maguire has the ability to pick and choose his next gig with the Kiwis job to keep him busy.
A first-up victory over Australia didn't hurt his prospects either.
The premiership-winning former Rabbitohs coach has already turned down the chance to take on Manly, believed to be due to an alarming lack of resources, indicating his sights will be set on a club with solid financial backing.
It's understood he has been interviewed for the Broncos job for 2020, but he has also been linked to the Wests Tigers as a replacement for Ivan Cleary if he breaks his contract with two years left to run.
However, of the two interested clubs, the Broncos have far better resources and a squad ready to contend for a premiership, which makes Brisbane the more attractive destination.
Since admitting he would love to coach his son Nathan, rumours of Cleary's departure from the Wests Tigers have been rampant. It has not been helped by his refusal to squash the speculation, repeating that he has a contract with the club until 2020 but stopping short of promising to see it out.
Although it has not been confirmed, it is generally believed that Cleary has signed a deal to return to the Panthers and link up with his son in 2021 and it's a matter of when, not if, he will head west.
With two years left on his contract, the Wests Tigers can rightfully decline a release if Cleary tenders one, but whether it would make his time at Wests Tigers untenable is a source of debate - and confusion.
Club legend Benji Marshall has said there will be no hard feelings if Cleary did decide to leave early, but the only way it would happen is if the Wests Tigers could pull off a big name signing to replace him.
The blow of losing Cleary to the Panthers would be softened if the club could sign Maguire or Bennett as a replacement - both would be an easy sell to long-suffering fans.
As for the Panthers, interim coach Cameron Ciraldo would likely drop back to an assistant role.
Hasler's return to Manly appears a done deal and is expected to be finalised before the pre-season starts. Of all the potential moves that could be made over the coming weeks, the 57-year-old returning to his former club is the most likely.
Since being sacked from the Bulldogs and replaced by Dean Pay at the end of the 2017 season, Hasler's name has stayed out of the headlines until now.
Trent Barrett has handed in his resignation, and although assistant John Cartwright was believed to be the leading candidate, Hasler's experience and previous success with Manly make him a logical replacement.