‘It’s rubbish’: Sharks deny John Morris claim, hit back over cruel coach sacking

The Sharks have finally weighed in over their messy break-up with coach John Morris, who was sacked this week when it was announced Craig Fitzgibbon would be taking over at the end of 2021.

The Roosters assistant coach signed a three-year deal reportedly worth around $1.5 million to take charge next season as the club declined to extend Morris’ contract, despite him having guided the team to the finals the past two seasons.

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He did so operating $350,000 under the salary cap each year because of penalties handed down by the NRL for previous infringements, and with several high-profile players signed to long-term deals before he arrived either not pulling their weight or being struck down by injury.

There was widespread backlash at the “disgraceful” way Morris was ruthlessly terminated just five rounds into the season, as many fans and pundits accused the club of not being upfront with the coach.

Some of the angst comes from a meeting Morris and his manager had with Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta on Monday, after news of Cronulla’s pursuit of Fitzgibbon broke on the weekend. Morris said in an interview on Thursday that meeting was “encouraging” but 24 hours later he was pushed out the door.

That meeting followed reports the club had continually declined to talk to Morris about extending his contract — something Mezzatesta said was “rubbish”.

“It was a positive meeting because we didn’t go at each other’s throats. We had an adult conversation. But it certainly wasn’t me saying, ‘You’re in pole position’,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald about Monday’s meeting.

“But for that to be presented that this was the first time that I have met with him (about his contract) is rubbish. We work together. All I said to John (was), ‘You’ve had the inside lane because you’re the incumbent. The board knows you’.”

Morris found out on the weekend he was a dead man walking.Source:Getty Images

Addressing criticism about the way Morris’ sacking has played out, Mezzatesta suggested there’s never a clean break when it comes to parting ways with a coach in the NRL.

“Tell me one in the history of this code that’s been done well,” he said. “When is it an easy decision, in any business? When you make these calls, you do so because you know what’s right for the long-term viability of the club.

“Was it poorly handled? You’re racing against a clock, then trying to calm down a situation that’s already getting out of control, then you get media carnage … as a leader, you have to accelerate the process, and we did.

“We had to accelerate the process because of the carnage that was happening publicly. That’s unfortunate, but that’s our game. The minute we speak to individuals, and more than two people in our game know something, you lose control of the narrative straight away.”

Among the lines being peddled by the club this week include suggestions Morris lacked clarity in his dealings with players when it came to their own contract situations, and struggled to attract marquee players.

Even though they’ve made the finals the past two seasons, the Sharks’ record against other top-eight sides is poor, which may have convinced Cronulla bosses Morris was not the man to take the team to the next level.

Morris’ mum lashed out on social media over the way he was cut loose and the coach spoke on Thursday about his devastation at being sacked.

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