Despite proclaiming to have all the answers, you couldn't pay me enough to be an NRL coach.

The stress, the scrutiny, the know it all writers such as one Dan Nichols always "knowing better". Safe to say that it's a difficult role.

Every decision made at the top level has consequences, positive or negative.

2024 shapes as a season full of potential difficult decisions for five NRL head coaches. Their future may depend on outcomes of said decisions.

Here are five difficult decisions that NRL coaches may be forced into in 2024:

Dragons - Moving on from Ben Hunt

I am fully aware of Ben Hunt's supposed "re-commitment" to the club but the fact he had to re-commit says it all.

Dragons fans had to endure the sight of their captain, and million dollar halfback, publicly state he's looking elsewhere multiple times throughout 2023.

That is hardly the commitment you want from your best player and leader of the squad.

At some point, especially if the Dragons start slow, the tough decision may need to be made. Moving Ben Hunt on.

In theory the idea is unthinkable. Why would they allow their superstar halfback and leader to leave the club whilst under contract?

I can't help think that his million dollar contract can be better spent elsewhere.

That is no shot at Hunt's abilities. That said, he is 33 year's of age and clearly unsettled. Despite what he'll say moving forward.

If a younger halfback comes on the market, Shane Flanagan my be tempted to move on and focus instead on a rebuild consisting of players who would die for that Red V.

I have no doubt Ben Hunt will put in 100% each and every time he takes the field. He's way too proud to produce anything less.

I am saying though that he cannot take back what has already been said. Nor can he invent a time machine and set his age back to his mid-twenties.

It would be a huge risk and would upset some of the Dragons fanbase. I think Flanagan intends to build around Hunt, at least until a player of similar stature becomes available.

Sharks - Looking toward 2025

As a Sharks fan I am very confident that we have the squad to comfortably clinch yet another finals appearance.

Unfortunately I am not confident that much more can be achieved from there. With no additions of note to this year's squad, why should be expect anything but a repeat?

That all changes in 2025 though with the arrival of Addin Fonua-Blake, one of the game's elite middle forwards.

The Sharks possess a quality, yet raw, group of young talent who look capable of taking the club to the next level. If given the opportunity.

Kade Dykes, Kayal Iro, Sam Stonestreet and Jesse Colquhoun all have talent in spades but will need time to find their feet in first grade. Colquhoun is the only player with more than two games to his name.

If the Sharks start poorly or are out of the Final's race, Craig Fitzgibbon may be tempted to look toward 2025, perhaps at the detriment of results now.

There's no doubt that all four are very talented, but throwing three rookies and a relative novice in will have teething problems.

Will Sharks fans be able to take the potential pain for the long-term gain?

I'd be much happier finishing eighth and seeing 10-or-so games under two or three of the aforementioned players belts than finishing sixth and not seeing any development.

Then again, I don't have 12,000 members and board members breathing down my neck after every decision I make.

Newcastle - Five into three

Adam O'Brien has an enviable conundrum, yet a conundrum all the same.

He has five, very capable players vying for three starting spots. Easing his decision is that one of the other two will nab the utility spot on the bench. This also means just one misses out.

Jack Cogger's arrival, on the back of literal Grand Final winning form, means there is big pressure on both Tyson Gamble and Jackson Hastings to retain their roles in the halves.

Meanwhile Phoenix Crossland's brilliant 2024 efforts should surely see him heap his own pressure on Jayden Brailey for the number nine role.

Brailey, who hasn't played in many months, looks the odd man out right now but was, at one point, seen as the undisputed number one number nine in the Hunter.

This may mean Cogger is the one who misses out. Given he moved from the Panthers in search of first team footy, I can't imagine that would land well.

All three of Hastings, Gamble and Crossland more than deserve a chance to hold onto the spots they made their own last year.

This is one to watch.

Rabbitohs - Lachlan Ilias' future

Lachlan Ilias started last season on fire. He was best on ground in the Bunnies win over the Sharks and looked set to reach new heights.

With the greatest of respects, and despite some brilliant games, it never really eventuated.

A lack of a readymade replacement probably eased pressure on the talented youngster.

For 2024 though, the club has added former Dally M medalist Jack Wighton to their roster. Fair to say he's played well in the halves previously.

For what it's worth I don't love the Walker/Wighton partnership due to them being too similar. That said, if Ilias has a below par start to the season, the calls will come.

Wighton has made it very clear that he has been signed to play in the centres and is very happy to do just that.

That doesn't mean he wouldn't move into the six or seven if called upon.

Ilias has all the talent in the world. One below par season won't define him and I'm happy to admit I'm a fan and believe he'll find his form before too long.

If he doesn't though, Jason Demetriou can't hesitate in doing what is required as a second straight season missing Finals would surely see his time in red and green come to an end.

Cowboys - Moving on from Chad Townsend

Todd Payten faces one of the more difficult decisions for 2024 and beyond in that he must decide whether or not Chad is the future of the number seven.

Townsend is a super likeable halfback who is a million to one to ever have issues off field. He's also 33 and paid like an elite playmaker.

A monster 2024 would surely ensure Townsend is the main man in Townsville moving forward but anything else could see his time come to an end.

Last season was poor for the North Queenslanders but it's worth remembering that they were literal minutes from a Grand Final the year prior.

Townsend has a big hand in that.

Moving on from the veteran means they have to re-build their system and Peyton may deem he doesn't have time to try and attempt that.

Re-signing Chad, who is on a hefty chunk of change, may mean cuts need to be made elsewhere.

Either way, this decision is going to have wide ranging effects and shapes as a difficult one.