Cronulla Sharks great Paul Gallen concedes the club “shouldn’t have started the season with John Morris”.
Cronulla Sharks great Paul Gallen concedes the club “shouldn’t have started the season with John Morris” if they knew he wasn’t the man to lead the club into the future.
Morris was left with little option but to walk from the Sharks late last week after they firmed up the signing of Roosters assistant Craig Fitzgibbon who will lead the club into 2022.
In a messy and public saga, the curtains were closed on Morris’ time in Cronulla, the club he once notched over 100 appearances for before being handed the head coach’s role at the eleventh hour ahead of the 2019 season following Shane Flanagan’s suspension.
But what has riled many across the game is the apparent underhanded manner in which Cronulla effectively showed Morris an early exit on the final year of his deal.
Just a day before Fitzgibbon was confirmed as the Sharks’ mentor for 2022, Morris emerged from a meeting with Cronulla powerbrokers in which he was assured he was still in the running.
Alongside that, were the myriad reports circling in the media on a daily basis regarding Morris’ future before he’d had anything confirmed to him by the club.
The entire saga was perhaps most poignantly encapsulated by an impassioned Facebook post from Morris’ mother who went in to bat for her son in the aftermath of his departure. But the damage was done.
Speaking on Nine’s 100% Footy, veteran rugby league reporter Danny Weidler put it to Gallen that the Sharks’ handling of Morris was “disastrous”.
That saw the Sharks great stand behind his club before conceding that there were perhaps better ways they could have handled it, namely, not starting the season with Morris if they knew he wasn’t their man.
GALLEN: “I think that’s a bit unfair, Danny. Is there any good way to sack somebody?
“Maybe in hindsight, they could have done something different, but they didn’t have all the information they wanted. They didn’t have the signature, because they didn’t know who was available.
WEIDLER: “So, tell him. He’s got kids.”
GALLEN: “At the start of the year, they decided as a board, from what I understand, that John Morris wasn’t going to be the person to take the club forward, that’s what they’ve told me.
“Maybe they should have done that. Maybe they should have told him at the start of the year, but they didn’t have other options to go with straight away. Then, they explored their other options, they asked Fitzgibbon’s manager, he said maybe, then it all started in March or April and it all happened very quickly.”
WEIDLER: “I think it happened months ago, Gal.”
GALLEN: “I think to hammer the board is a little bit unfair, considering what they’ve done off the field for that club.
WEIDLER: “I think it’s great what they’ve done off the field but they’ve also got to treat one of their favourite sons, a bloke who did a lot for the club.”
GALLEN: “I want to try and take John Morris out of this because John Morris is a personal friend of mine, so I don’t want to act like I’m with the board or against John Morris. But I think the board have the right to do what they think is best for the club.”
Weidler also suggested that a failed attempt to sign Panthers young gun Matt Burton, who was turned off by the Sharks’ uncertainty over their coach, motivated the club to act swiftly.
WEIDLER: “What about for the fans and telling them the truth?”
GALLEN: “What is the truth? I don’t know the truth? John has his truth.
WEIDLER: The truth is when they miss out on Matt Burton because they couldn’t tell him who was going to be the coach next year, they were very disappointed, they thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got to do something right now’. That’s when they should have said to John, ‘you’re not in our plans, let’s move on, there’s a very good coach in Craig Fitzgibbons, sorry’.”
GALLEN: “Maybe they shouldn’t have started the season with him. Maybe they shouldn’t have, but they did. What’s done is done now. They’ve ripped the band-aid off, they’ve made the decision, they’ve moved forward. It’s been over a week, a week is a long time in rugby league.”
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