It seems as though with every passing day the media speculation surrounding John Morris and his future at the Sharks grows.
Mind you, as a Sharks fan, I can tell you that speculation around his role has been rampant from the day he was appointed head coach of the club.
Media personalities, players and fans are calling for the Sharks to make a decision on the former Sharks man.
I should state right up front that I’m a big fan of Morris, but why in the world would the Sharks be rushed into a decision just four rounds into the 2021 season?
For all the amazing work that Morris has done during his tenure at the club, the simple fact is the Sharks have no need to rush. I can’t see any other club knocking the door down to sign the club’s charismatic 300-gamer.
The general feeling from the club is that they’re unsure whether Morris can attract superstar players to the club, or guide them to a top-four finish.
Morris has done an admirable job in difficult circumstances and has made a good case for a contract extension. He was lifted to head coach on short notice following the removal of premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan.
He had multiple disrupted pre-seasons through no fault of his own. Bronson Xerri and Josh Morris made his job all the more difficult last year, while he’s only been able to make one roster addition due to an inherited horror salary cap situation.
Big money players such as Moylan, Dugan, Fifita and Johnson have all missed significant time. Xerri’s suspension and the ridiculous delay denying him the ability to use the contract money was also a hinderance.
Despite this and the fact that only Jesse Ramien has been added under his watch, Morris has lead the Sharks to a finals finish in every year of his coaching career.
With a ‘war-chest’ finally at his disposal due to a plethora of off-contract players, this could be the year Morris finally gets the team he wants.
The issue is, there’s a strong chance he won’t be around to enjoy it.
With all due respect to Morris, players aren’t lining up to play under him as they would a Bellamy or Bennett. This is in no way his fault, but it’s factual.
Watch ZT’s Dan Nichols discuss the Sharks over at Rugby League Outlaws
The Sharks have made no secret off their efforts to bring Craig Bellamy to the club in a coaching director’s role. This would enable Morris to learn under the best coach of the past decade or so.
With names such as Reynolds, Taupau and Hynes constantly linked to the club, the Sharks will need to answer the question of whether Morris has the stature to attract said players.
Counting against him is the fact the Sharks seem unable to beat a top side. In 2020 they were the definition of average. They lost as many games as they won and they conceded the same amount of points they scored across 20 regular season rounds.
They finished 8th without beating a single side who finished within the top eight. Fast forward to round four of 2021 and they sit 2-2 with two wins against lesser sides yet two losses against the fancied Raiders and Eels.
A win over the Roosters this weekend would go a long way to securing his future. He needs a win over a top-eight side. The Sharks need a win over a top-eight side.
Cronulla, although far better than the likes of the Cowboys, don’t look a top-four side. Yes their roster is ageing, however with players such as Johnson, Graham, Ramien and Woods in their ranks, they should be more than a .500 side.
— ZeroTackle.com (@zerotackle) April 8, 2021
Short-term deals offered to rising stars Toby Rudolf and Siosifa Talakai also raised eyebrows. However the decision that may see Morris and his Sharks tenure live or die is the decision to offer a two-year player option to Chad Townsend.
I’m very vocally not the biggest fan of the premiership winning halfback, but Morris and the Sharks rushed to re-sign a player who is set for life in the Shire and was not being courted by any other side, what equates to a four-year deal.
With all due respect to a player who seems to be in the 20th year of his career yet is still only 30 year’s of age, Townsend does not have Ben Barba and James Maloney by his side and doesn’t look a top four or five halfback.
The Sharks’ potential chase of Adam Reynolds may rest entirely on Townsend’s player-option decision. If he re-signs for two years the Sharks have neither the money nor position to offer the Rabbitohs’ genuine season-changing number seven.
If Bellamy does not end up with the Sharks, the talk is the club is sounding out Craig Fitzgibbon. Despite huge wraps on the Roosters assistant, I’m unsure a rookie coach offers a better option right now.
There are plenty of reasons the Sharks could, and perhaps should, re-sign Morris, but for every positive there is a question.
The Sharks need to be sure of Bellamy’s decision, as well as the availability of players and even the fitness of their off-contract stars before a call is made.
My feeling is the club genuinely doesn’t know. I don’t believe there are games being played. At least part of the board seems unable to move on from Shane Flanagan. A third is behind Morris and wants his future sorted now. The remainder want to look at other options.
There’s absolutely no rush. I’d hate to lose Morris after all the good he has done, but I’d expect a decision midway through this season.