Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns has slammed Cronulla's "disrespectful" undermining of Sharks coach John Morris ahead of the new NRL season.
Cronulla's season kicks off in 11 days, yet Morris' job security is already being questioned. There have been whispers of senior player unrest, refuted by halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend, plus speculation that former coach Shane Flanagan is poised to reclaim the job if Morris falters early this season.
Morris remains uncontracted past this season despite leading the Sharks to back-to-back finals appearances with a patchy roster. Talks on a new contract have so far come to nothing and the club has been silent on his status amid the conjecture.
Johns, a former teammate of Morris at the Newcastle Knights, believes that the coach has been mistreated.
"I don't like what's happening behind the scenes, before a ball's kicked, where they're questioning whether their coach is going to be there next year," Johns told Wide World of Sports.
"I just find it really disrespectful. John Morris got them to the semis last year when no one gave them a chance; I didn't give them any chance to get to the semis last year.
"He got them into eighth position and they're already talking about him not being there next year, when a ball hasn't even been kicked. I just find it ridiculous.
"There's that old saying about the front office, you've got to have stability in the front office [to succeed on the field]. I don't know where these leaks are coming from or who's making these noises or who's talking about this, but I find that absolutely ridiculous."
The Sharks will be without New Zealand Test playmaker Johnson during the first two months of this season, after he ruptured an achilles last year. It is the latest of many roster setbacks, yet Morris has powered through admirably.
"I gave them absolutely no chance of getting to the semis. He got them to the semis and I think he debuted about half a dozen young players," Johns said.
"His big signings, [Andrew] Fifita didn't play much (12 games), [Josh] Dugan didn't play much (16 games), [Matt] Moylan didn't play much (eight games). Josh Morris left after round two. He did an incredible job."
Sharks legend Paul Gallen told Wide World of Sports that Cronulla could again make the finals, despite their only notable signing being veteran prop Aiden Tolman. He said in the players' case, a raft of contract uncertainty could actually help; 15 players, half the roster, are currently on the off-contract list and will want to earn new deals.
"A lot of players off-contract, which can really help them play well. I think they can be in the top eight," Gallen told Wide World of Sports.
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