It has been almost 24 hours since we’ve had any coaching dramas.
I don’t think I’m the only fan who was glad to see the ridiculous will he/won’t he saga with Ivan Cleary end when he was announced officially as the Panthers coach for 2019 and beyond.
We’ve still got the even more ridiculous drama going on between Souths and the Broncos. We may not know where Bennett and Seibold will be coaching next year until after Christmas. Yes, the Broncos and Bennett have announced that he will at Red Hill in 2019, but I have a feeling there’s another twist to come.
Throw in the Benny Hill-eqsue comedy at Manly where they are currently paying two coaches despite being in financial ruin, and you have yourself one whacky coaching adventure.
So of course the one man who looked set to spend the rest of his career with his current club is reportedly on the outer and may not even survive the current off-season. OF COURSE!
Shane Flanagan, yes the same Shane Flanagan that did what legendary coaches before him could not by delivering a maiden Premiership trophy to the Shire, is under the pump.
The very same Shane Flanagan who stood on the podium with his arms raised as Up! Up! Cronulla belted out over the ANZ loud speakers while Paul Gallen lifted the trophy just over two years ago.
I’m not really in a position to go into the reasons why Flanagan is linked with an exit from the club he has been at the helm of since 2010, but it’s fair to say the reasons are not results based.
I’ll leave that speculation for those with more time to continue to look for a story that probably isn’t there, instead speculation on who might replace the title-winning coach.
Looking at the coaching stocks on the open market, which include the likes of Neil Henry, Trent Barrett, John Cartwright and Anthony Griffin, I think it’s fair to say that the Sharks are best suited to look to a younger alternative with fresher ideas.
No disrespect to the others listed above, but I can’t see the Sharks taking on Barrett after his fall out with the Manly club and players while to say Griffin is an unlikely starter is a huge understatement.
Cartwright and Henry both have relative success to their names but are hardly bashing down the door to be appointed head coach anywhere right now.
Geoff Toovey shapes as an interesting option. I’m a fan of Tooves both as a player and a coach. Fair to say I was shocked when Manly moved him on to appoint rookie coach Trent Barrett.
Toovey handled the Manly back room politics very well and managed to get more out of minimal facilities than the man who eventually replaced him.
Brad Fittler is a name who will be linked with every vacant NRL head coaching job following his success at Origin level. Fittler is a brilliant motivator and has some interesting ideas but again didn’t light the world on fire in his previous rolls.
There has been talk of Flanagan’s current assist Jim Dymock being a real shout for the role. He’s a clever coach and has been working as an assistant for many years now. He has a five from eight win record as a head coach during his caretaker role at the Dogs and coached Tonga prior to their international rise.
The other name being thrown around from within the club is member of the coaching staff and former NYC coach John Morris.
Morris remains in supreme shape and looks in better nick than half of the NRL competition. Having played over 300 games in the top division it’s fair to say that there isn’t a lot he hasn’t seen or encountered.
He took the NYC Sharks to a Minor Premiership and delivered the most expansive, attacking game plan you could imagine. He had the players to do so. His halfback at the time was Kyle Flanagan, a likely halves starter for the Shire club for many years to come.
Reports say that Morris may be given 2019 in a caretaker role as a live audition of sorts should the club move on from Flanagan earlier than expected.
My first instinct is to rubbish such reports and insist on Flanagan being there come round one, but in this off-season, literally nothing would surprise me.
For mine, Morris is a good shout and probably even the favourite at this stage. Sure, it’s a big punt banking on a rookie coach, but this is John Morris we’re talking about here, not some kid who has won a few games on rugby league manager.
The third option from within the club is a left field one, but one I like the look of; Dave Howlett.
Howlett would not be known to too many but he is the coach of the current Jersey Flegg team in the Shire who just happen to be current Flegg Champions. He managed to overcome a first round (in the finals) loss to lead his side to premiership glory on the final day of the season.
He has a Harold Matts premiership to his name also.
Although first grade is a very, VERY different animal to the junior grades, I’d expect to see Howlett brought up into the first grade set up if John Morris, as expected, is handed the gig.
With over three months left in this, the most ridiculous NRL off-season ever, who knows what will happen, but for mine, if Flanno is moved on, it will be to make way for John Morris.