Footy legend Mal Meninga has signalled his intention to make an NRL coaching comeback and Penrith have earmarked Manly’s premiership-winning coach and former club junior Des Hasler for a shock return to the Panthers next season.
Meninga’s possible return and the revelation Hasler could soon be a free agent have thrown more coaching jobs into doubt. At least seven clubs are still uncertain who will be in charge next year.
The Panthers have been made aware Hasler could be available in June because the Sea Eagles are baulking at extending his contract for another two years.
Hasler’s performance in winning the 2008 grand final 40-0 against a Melbourne Storm team spending $1 million more than his own side is considered one of the greatest coaching performances of the modern era.
He has an option in his contract that can be activated in June this year. It allows him to go elsewhere if the Sea Eagles board doesn’t offer him an extension.
The Penrith board met again on Wednesday to discuss Matt Elliott’s future and while no names were discussed as possible replacements, at least two board members are strongly in favour of chasing Hasler.The former Test and Origin halfback had two seasons at Penrith before switching to Manly in 1984 and going on to win two premierships. He has been head coach at Manly since he took over from Peter Sharp in 2004. Apart from his first season, has made the finals six years running.
The NRL has never had a situation when so much pressure has been on so many coaches to get results – or get out.
Seven clubs are still uncertain who will be in charge next year – the Knights, the Sea Eagles, the Tigers, the Cowboys, the Panthers, the Warriors and the Rabbitohs.
Meninga, who has won the past five Origins at the helm of Queensland, last night told The Daily Telegraph: “I am seriously considering all options at the moment because I’ve still got a passion for the game. I’d consider a shift to Sydney to remain in the game at the highest level.”
Wests Tigers boss Stephen Humphreys is still hoping to lock down Test coach Tim Sheens in the near future, or run the risk of losing him to a premiership rival.
Souths were originally favourites to get Wayne Bennett’s signature but are looking at other alternatives now that the Broncos deal is all but done.
Chief executive Shane Richardson said: “I’ve got no comment to make other than to say it’s a priority for us and we’d like it done sooner rather than later.”
Wigan coach Michael McGuire, who used to work under Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm, is probably the favourite for the Rabbitohs job. But Ricky Stuart’s name has also been mentioned at board level in recent discussions.
Former Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson, who has taken the year off after being dumped by the Eels, refuses to apply for any job because of his respect for the men currently in charge.
“Daniel is keen to get straight back into it,” his manager Jim Banaghan said. “But in this type of business, you don’t go sending your CV around to every club. That’s not his style.
“He won’t be applying for anything but he’s available if anyone’s interested.
“He’s only coached two NRL clubs – the Warriors and Parramatta – and he’s led them both to grand finals.”