Inside Morris’s heartbreaking farewell to players
Axed coach John Morris has given a teary farewell speech to his Cronulla Sharks players before the team boarded a bus for Newcastle on Thursday to play the Knights.
Invited to speak to the team by caretaker coach Josh Hannay, Morris broke down as he wished the players success for the remainder of the season.
According to one official inside the room, Morris told the players they could still make the finals and that he would be cheering for them from a distance.
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"John got very emotional," the official said, "and so did a few of the players. Not necessarily about the manner in which he was sacked but the fact he was so attached to the younger players.
"He spoke beautifully and said he'd be cheering for them for the remainder of the season."
A number of the younger players fought back tears.
It was the first opportunity Morris has had to speak to the group since his sacking on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after chief executive Dino Mezzatesta had insisted no decision had been made.
He has been inundated with text messages of support from the players.
A number of the players, especially the rookies Morris introduced to NRL, are angry about the manner in which he was dumped.
But Morris urged the team to stick together to concentrate on beating the Knights.
"He spoke about Newcastle's home ground where he made his own debut and the hometown pride," the official said, "He told the boys they had to forget about what's happened."
NRL PODCAST: Buzz, Mick and Mobbsy slam the Sharks' treatment of John Morris and the embarrassing Wests Tigers' performance, while defending Penrith's 'mug lairs'.
Morris declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Telegraph.
"I appreciated the opportunity to say goodbye but what was said was private and between me and the players," Morris said.
The Sharks need to knock off the Knights to prove they are a genuine top eight chance.
They butchered a certain two points against the Roosters last weekend, blowing a huge lead in the final 20 minutes.
The Sharks play the Bulldogs next weekend followed by a tough six weeks with two games against the Panthers, and matches against Storm, the Rabbitohs, the Dragons and the Titans.
SACKED COACHES TREATED LIKE ROAD KILL
By Dean Ritchie
A director of the Rugby League Coaches Association has claimed coaches ruthlessly sacked mid-season - like Cronulla's John Morris - are treated like "road kill, dirty laundry and collateral damage".
The RLCA's Tim Fuller, also a leading sports lawyer, has demanded the NRL introduce standardised contracts to ensure dumped coaches like Morris are given more financial protection.
Fuller said NRL clubs can escape significant payouts for axing a coach because a coaching contract - unlike that of a player - isn't registered with the NRL.
The Brisbane-based lawyer, who represented swimmer Shayna Jack, said Morris, the NRL's lowest paid coach, probably signed an individual employment contract and could have been bundled out with a modest four-week payout of less than $30,000.
Fuller claimed that to be "completely unacceptable" and "not good enough".
A former South Sydney and Gold Coast player, Fuller called on the NRL to intervene immediately and ensure coaches sign the same NRL contracts as players. That, Fuller says, will give coaches some protection against mid-season sackings and modest payouts.
"Coaches are road kill, aren't they? And it's not good enough," Fuller said.
"In the end, there's got to be better protection for coaches in these types of situations. There have to be protective measures that aren't currently in place. At the moment, coaches are just collateral damage.
"And the reason clubs do it, let's be honest, is because they can get away with it. Clubs shouldn't be allowed to structure these contracts which disadvantage the coach. Maybe clubs will then think twice if they have to start paying through the nose rather than tossing out a coach like dirty laundry.
"The way coaches are sacked like this, just five weeks into the season, it's got to stop. The ramifications for not only John and his family but all the support staff. One moment John is talking about an extension of his contract and then the very next moment he is out on his arse.
"While there may be significant payouts for certain coaches, in the case of John Morris, and I'm not privy to what he was earning, it's quite possible a coach could walk away with four weeks' pay, under the terms of their contract (less than $30,000).
"That is the standard termination clause in most employment contracts. In his mind, he was going to be there for the next two to three years. That's a completely unacceptable situation.
"I know it's outside the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) but I think the NRL can very easily change this and one suggestion would be that all coach's contracts are registered with the NRL. At the moment, they really are just employment contracts.
"The NRL should set down some standards that all clubs need to comply with if they're going to go the line of sacking a coach mid-race. The NRL should take the lead role and standardise contracts for coaches just like they do with players.
"If a club is going to make a decision like (Cronulla) did to terminate a coach, four, five rounds into the season, then they've got to be prepared to compensate that coach more sufficiently. There has to some sort of agreement - and the NRL must drive this - where there is more extensive compensation."
Fuller said an NRL registered contract for a coach could state that "if a coach is sacked mid-season that there is sufficient compensation to enable that coach to walk away and be safeguarded. That is absolutely something the NRL could do".
And Fuller claimed assistant coaches - and other members of a club's coaching staff - must also be financially compensated if dumped.
"It flows down to the support staff as well," Fuller said. "Craig (Fitzgibbon) will come in next year and he will bring basically his support staff and then other people will be out of a job. That's the whole purpose of the coaches association. To try and get some standardisation and security for the coaches that isn't currently there.
"We are absolutely pushing for is the standardisation of employment contracts for coaches. Players are on standard playing contracts that have been effectively agreed through the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) process, agreed between the NRL and the players' association.
"Essentially all the terms as far as minimum wage, all those entitlements, is all standardised. This is the problem with the coaches."
Originally published as Inside Morris's heartbreaking farewell to players