The Cronulla Sharks brought the axe down on John Morris early in their 2021 season, and now it's Morris' turn to swing the axe, this time on his former club's 2022 campaign.

Despite guiding the club to a top eight finish in both of his first two seasons at the helm, Cronulla gave their former player the flick early last season due to a lack of ability to beat the top sides.

The Sharks didn't beat a single side that finished in the top eight that season, or in Morris' last 20 months as head coach. Their last 'big scalp' under the veteran player was a 39-24 victory in August 2019 - ironically coming against South Sydney, the same club that beat Morris 18-0 in his 300th and final NRL game.

Of the 17 players named to line-up for the Sharks in Saturday night's sudden-death match, Morris has signed or coached 11 of them, and has his fingerprints all over this side.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Connor Tracey of the Sharks celebrates scoring a try with team mates during the round four NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, on April 03, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

While Craig Fitzgibbon reaps the rewards of the seeds Morris planted, the former head coach joined South Sydney as Jason Demetriou's right hand man, helping the Rabbitohs with the defensive side of their game.

Now facing the Sharks in an elimination match, a host of Rabbitohs players realise the effect Morris has had on a playing group, and how advantageous he is leading into the game.

“Coming from the Cronulla Sharks, he knows their systems, it’s a little advantage there,” prop Junior Tatola The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Bomber has been good for us, he takes our defence. He’s been massive, he’s helping everyone out, we’re all doing video with him.”

Fellow front-rower Mark Nicholls echoed Tatola's statements ahead of what could be his final game as a Rabbitoh before joining the Dolphins in 2023.

“Johnny has been really good for us. We’ve improved that part of our game in the back end of the year.

“As a team we know how many points are in us and if we lose it’s off the back of our defence. He’s been really good for us and like anyone, I’m sure he wants to win against his old club.”

Cameron McInnes of the Rabbitohs offloads the ball in a tackle during the round 14 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on June 12, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.

There is a strong scent of South Sydney etched through the Cronulla squad, with Siosifa Talakai, Cameron McInnes and Connor Tracey all making their NRL debut at the Rabbitohs, while cult-hero Toby Rudolf played his Holden Cup career at the club as well as a season in NSW Cup before a Queensland Cup stint Redcliffe that preceded his arrival in Cronulla.


  1. John Morris has every right to be bitter.

    In 2019 and 2020 Cronulla was operating under a reduced salary cap (down by $353,500 each season.)
    In 2020 it was also carrying the salary of suspended Bronson Xerri.

    It had six players (Fifita, Dugan, Johnson, Moyland, Woods) recruited when Shane Flanagan was in charge, taking up $3.9 million of the cap and all either chronically injured, or playing well below their salary level, or both.

    Making it into the eight during the two years he was in charge was a major achievement. He has every right to wish he was still in charge with a full cap; with Xerri, Dugan, Johnson and Woods all gone; with Moyland on half his old pay (and playing better than ever before); and with Fifita in the last year of his ruinously expensive deal.

    The two players he signed – McInnes and Tolman – have been solid all this season.

    Would he have been able to attract Hynes and Finucane, as Fitzgibbon has? Hard to say. However, he had Trindall and Metcalf available for the Hynes spot, and a bunch of good forwards in the reserves, so without spending an extra dollar he could have put out a squad that was top-eight material (even if not top-four).

    I think he has been shabbily treated, and “looking for revenge” may not be too strong a term..

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