Neil Henry is a very good man, and a dead coach walking

Tim Gore Columnist

By Tim Gore, Tim Gore is a Roar Expert

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    Neil Henry is almost undoubtedly going to be sacked in the near future and it isn’t fair.
    His fate will almost certainly be based on one definitive factor: money.

    The NRL wants to offload the Titans from their books and for most buyers Jarryd Hayne and Ash Taylor have far more value – at least in the short term – than Coach Henry.

    The chances are that Henry, a good coach and very good man, will get the punt because his name doesn’t put bums on seats or sell jerseys.

    We’ve seen plenty of player versus coach battles in the history of rugby league. For example, recently we’ve seen Michael Jennings versus Ivan Cleary, Josh Dugan versus David Furner, Robbie Farah versus Tim Sheens, Robbie Farah versus Michael Potter; and of course Robbie Farah versus Jason Taylor.

    They rarely end well and both parties inevitably end up badly damaged.

    The difference in the battle between Jarryd Hayne and Neil Henry is that it is the first one where the NRL has a direct role in deciding the outcome.

    While Rebecca Frizelle is Chairwoman and Graham Annesley the CEO, the NRL owns the Titans.

    It is very possible that Todd Greenberg’s main motivator in this situation will be to get the Titans off the NRL books ASAP.

    And that will almost inevitably mean Neil Henry will get punted.

    Ideally the opposite would happen and Titans Coach Neil Henry would get backed to the hilt. Why? Because he is a very good man and a very good coach.

    How do I know this? Back in the 1980s I went to Belconnen High School in the western suburbs of Canberra. The kids in my year made the experience very much like being in Lord of the Flies.

    And I was Piggy.

    There was a culture of glorifying non-achievement and delinquency, as well as bullying and bastardry. The very worst times of the week were when I had to go to PE. Fear and loathing doesn’t do it justice. Far from our PE ‘teachers’ trying to quell this overtly horrible culture, a number of them openly encouraged it.

    Even then I had a big mouth and a fair bit to say. Agonisingly picking my lips off my braces after being punched in the mouth was a regular occurrence for me, mostly because I was too pig headed to stop pointing out injustice and being obnoxious. The PE teachers hated me for the same reason.

    And I hated them.

    Then one day a young man called Mr Henry turned up. The culture changed almost overnight. He didn’t encourage bastardry and bullying and he was actually interested in developing our physical abilities. To say we liked him is an understatement. There was no question that he was essentially a good bloke. A fair bloke.

    When he turned up years later as the coach of the Canberra Raiders, it didn’t take long for him to get the Green Machine performing decently. He guided a Raiders renaissance to make the finals in 2008 following the necessary sacking of the recidivist Todd Carney.

    Henry insisted that the side could no longer tolerate the wayward Goulburn youth’s behaviour and, following his axing, showed just what he could get a team to do without distractions, winning the award for coach of the year in the process.

    Alan Tongue was captain of the Canberra Raiders under Henry and has nothing but praise for his former mentor.

    Neil Henry

    “Neil is a really good man who is extremely dedicated and works very hard. He expects the same from his players.”

    “He has high standards, believes in them and drives them home to everyone. When he was at the Raiders he didn’t care at all whether you were on $300K or $30K, we were all treated the same on the training paddock, in the review room, wherever. He was a tough, old school coach and I liked him.”

    Let’s also not forget that ‘King Henry’ was also instrumental in the Maroons’ first three victories during their run of eight, when their supremacy was not a given.

    While his tenure as coach in the far north didn’t end happily, by the end of last year he was widely acknowledged to have turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse at Robina when his side qualified for the finals. With the NRL’s prodigal superstar Jarryd Hayne now also in his stable, surely Henry would take them to even greater heights. A fair few of us even had them as a smokey for the premiership.

    However, it has all gone pear shaped in 2017 for a number of reasons.

    The Titans have had zero luck when it has come to injuries. Many weeks they’ve struggled to put a full 17 players on the field. This has not been helped by the NRL’s financial cut backs.

    These have been highlighted recently when the Fan Relationship Management Centre, that Todd Greenberg recently lauded, was suddenly wound up. Other savings the NRL has made include only spending a portion of the second tier salary cap at the Titans, meaning that the Gold Coast side have had fewer players to choose from this year, when injuries have meant they needed them badly.

    Players like Jarrod Wallace, Ryan James and Nathan Peats desperately need a rest but there is no one to replace them so Henry must keep sending them out against fresh opponents.

    It is no surprise that they’ve conceded 122 points in the last three matches. Having already lost their sponsor and not yet having a buyer, the NRL would rightly be getting a bit nervous that this fourth, and most long lived, iteration of Gold Coast rugby league might need lots more money from NRL HQ over the long term to remain afloat.

    Then came issues with Jarryd Hayne. Apparently forced on Henry, the NRL’s prodigal star may have sold lots of memberships and jerseys in 2016 but in 2017 he has not come close to justifying the massive chunk of the salary cap he is taking up.

    Once – when accused of cynical gamesmanship – Hayne was quoted as saying, “I don’t engage in that shit, I just score tries and make people happy.”

    The problem for Jarryd now is that he is not scoring enough tries and he’s certainly not making people happy. He is averaging just 1.5 tackle breaks a game and less than 100 metres. That’s what Jordan Kahu averages when at fullback. And Hayne has only scored one more try than Kahu.

    Further, that Hayne was warned off associating with known criminals in late 2016 doesn’t suggest the best decision making on the part of the boy from Minto.

    Given all this, and mixed with the poor results, it is no wonder that there has been tension between Hayne and Henry. And now that tension has erupted into the public sphere.

    A boardroom meeting on Monday night was meant to sort the issue out but no resolution has been forthcoming. Instead the wound has been left to fester. Reports have now surfaced that Titans management may side with Hayne and sack Henry, fearing that young Titans stars Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey won’t re-sign with the club if Henry remains.

    History shows that this would be a stupid thing to do for the Titans long-term stability. The Wests Tigers board getting rid of Tim Sheens and then Michael Potter led to nothing but more turmoil.

    And what exactly is Henry’s crime meant to be? Is he not just playing the role of scapegoat to the egos of frustrated players having a bad year?

    It would be great if cool heads could prevail across the board.

    Ideally all the parties should take some chill pills, come together for a big truth session and accept that they’ve had a rough season and that the best thing that they can do is to put it behind them and stick together as a unit. A united team is the only sort that ever wins competitions.

    Jarryd Hayne Gold Coast Titans NRL Rugby League 2017

    The Titans list, when fit, is a very good one with lots of promise. If the NRL opens the purse strings to use all of the second tier salary cap and they get the rub of the green with injuries there is no reason that the Titans can’t give the competition a real shake in 2018.

    However, getting all the parties to man up in such a sensible way to forge a new partnership is less likely than Cersei Lannister agreeing to join forces with Daenerys Targaryen to fight the army of the dead. I just can’t see it happening.

    The grim reality is that with Hayne, Taylor and Elgey on the books the Titans are far more saleable, at least in the short term. And what the NRL really cares about here is not what’s fair or right or wrong, or setting an example to the rest of the league. What they care about is getting the Titans off their books.

    When push comes to shove, the Titans management and the NRL will almost certainly punt Neil Henry because it’s the most expedient thing to do.

    And a very good man will have got done over for no good reason.

    Tim Gore
    Tim Gore

    Tim has been an NRL statistician for ABC Radio Grandstand since 1999, primarily as part of their Canberra coverage. Tim has loved rugby league since Sterlo was a kid with lots of hair but was cursed with having no personal sporting ability whatsoever. He couldn't take a hit in footy, was a third division soccer player making up numbers, plays off 41 in golf and is possibly the world's worst cricketer ever. He has always been good at arguing the point though and he has a great memory of what happened. Follow Tim on Twitter.

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    The Crowd Says (113)

    • Roar Guru

      August 17th 2017 @ 6:26am
      The Barry said | August 17th 2017 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      I think there’s one telling line that for me from the outside sums a lot of this issue up. It’s part of Alan Tongue’s quote:

      “He was a tough, old school coach and I liked him.”

      There was a time when almost every coach was it’s certainly not difficult to imagine someone like Tongue and the values he has responding to someone like Henry. And Henry to Tongue.

      But let’s be honest there are fewer and fewer kids today cut from the Alan Tongue cloth. That may be a good thing asthetically but not from a values perspective. Managing someone like Tongue who values his place in the NRL and believes in hard work and graft is an easier ball game than a young punk with a sense of entitlement and thinks his greatness is pre-ordained.

      However, I also say that as a people manager, you get what you accept. If you allow one person to show up late, take long lunch breaks, harass other people, leave early or not complete their work that’s what you will get and it will spread to other people in the team as they watch one person get away with it.

      Even people who don’t actually mimic the behaviour will have a drop in motivation and performance as they see someone getting away with stuff they shouldn’t. Footy is no different in this people management aspect.

      I imagine someone like Hayne would be difficult to manage. But there are still minimum standards that have to be set and if Hayne is objectively not meeting those then he has to be managed, held accountable and there has to be consequences. From the outside that doesn’t appear to have been done.

      The elephant in the room is how much the Titans board has stepped on Henry’s toes saying you have to sign him or you have to play him every week. They say they haven’t. If they have, Henry is probably better off out of the joint anyway. He’ll get another job pretty quickly. Bulldogs?

      But either way the Hayne situation has been allowed to fester and surprise, surprise now Taylor is involved. The timing is interesting. I don’t pretend to be part of the Titans inner sanctum but I haven’t heard about Taylor being unhappy all season. Now Wayne Bennett says he wants to re-sign Taylor and all of a sudden Taylor is following Hayne’s lead and has problems with the coach. Now Elgey.

      Whether it’s at Henry’s level or at the board’s level – you get what you accept.

      • Roar Guru

        August 17th 2017 @ 8:08am
        Emcie said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        I’d be careful what you believe about Taylor and Elgey being thrown into the mix. It was reported early yesterday morning that neither of them would commit to signing anything until they knew who the coach was going to be next year, then ever story after that was that they wouldn’t resign unless Henry was sacked. Sounds to me to be the same as how the media reported the Tigers “big four” not signing until Taylor was sacked and then later coming out that they just didn’t want to sign without know who the coach was going to be. In the end the Tigers sacked the coach and only one of the four ended up resigning anyway.

        If you’re after a coach you could always try for Toovey mate, doesn’t he want to come back or something?

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 8:46am
          Emcie said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Yes, i realise there is a difference between “resign” and “re-sign”, forgive me, I need more coffee…

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 8:56am
          The Barry said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

          Don’t get me wrong, I take it all with a healthy grain of salt but like anyone I’ve only got media reports to base an opinion on.

          Even if we ignore the Taylor and Elgey rumours, the rest of my point stands.

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2017 @ 9:16am
            Emcie said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            Fair enough, and I completely agree with your point that he is probably better off at elsewhere if the board is forcing decisions on him, particularly if those decisions completely undermine the direction in which he was trying to take the team. If that is the case, he’s on a hiding to nothing.

            I just find it really difficult to buy into a story that the Daily Telegragh has a monopoly on (with help from their counterparts in the Courier Mail), with every other league commentator jumping on board to stay relevent.

        • August 17th 2017 @ 9:33am
          Andrew said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          Similarly, I would be careful what one believes about Hayne. His detractors are non players (fans) and the odd ex-player (ie Justin Hodges who clearly flat out doesn’t like the guy – perhaps because he reminds him of himself in his youth..) His team mates seem to like him. That doesn’t make him good or bad for the set-up, people don’t always follow the right person (#cough e.g the current US President), but he can’t be all bad..

          I mean, I love how we have people on this site saying he is a bad trainer – like they attend every training session.

          • August 17th 2017 @ 1:47pm
            Jacko said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

            Mal maninga says he is a bad trainer…I reckon he would know

            • August 17th 2017 @ 1:51pm
              DMac said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

              Sharon Woods reckons he trains harder than most the blues blokes, gets out there 20 minutes early.

            • August 17th 2017 @ 2:52pm
              spruce moose said | August 17th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

              Mal Meninga should shut up.

              Says he’s a bad trainer, but yet would reward him with captaincy.

              • August 17th 2017 @ 10:09pm
                Alan said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

                And right there is displayed the difference between being the most successful Origin coach of all time and someone who thinks being funny equates with borrowing/plagarising a name from a genuinely funny TV show. Cute…

          • August 17th 2017 @ 7:53pm
            Kenw said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:53pm | ! Report

            Not sure about Hodges not liking him. He wrote a column on NRL.com this week saying they should make Hayne captain….

        • August 17th 2017 @ 12:03pm
          Albo said | August 17th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

          Whilst I wouldn’t trust most of the claims the media hacks have been peddling around this issue, I find it very hard to believe that Ash Taylor, and especially Kane Elgey, would dare to weigh into the fray here. Surely they have been set up by someone ? Fancy them threatening the Club after the stunning year of performances they have also produced ??? Taylor might be salvageable going forward , but Elgey should be shopped around now to another naïve club manager.

    • Roar Guru

      August 17th 2017 @ 7:35am
      M.O.C. said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      What amazes me in all this drama, is that Hayne has managed to get a contract for such as large sum of money with no apparent clause regarding his effort and attitude. Given his very chequered history of being a poor trainer, putting in variable effort playing and history of being a coach-killer, any sane employer would have a clause in his contract which allowed for his dismissal or reduction in severance if he violated such clauses. I know effort etc, is a complicated thing to objectively measure but even a blind-man could see this coming. I feel sorry for Henry as he will be the scapegoat and the Titans will go from being a solid team of triers to a fractured group of rabble who won’t play for each other – I hope I am wrong.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 5:08pm
        Fix the scrums said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:08pm | ! Report

        The NRL signed Hayne to the Titans to try and help sell the Titans. A whole lot of people got excited for a while and now that’s all gone.
        The same with Burgess coming back and the possibility of Mundine coming back. You’ll get a few extra bums on seats etc for a while but unless they perform and perform well, it’s money and time wasted.
        Hayne definitely hasn’t performed. This whole exercise has backfired.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 7:46am
      Dan said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      The Titans signed Jarryd Hayne without accounting for his NFL, Fiji sevens mental scarring. Hayne left the NFL because he knew he was not going to make it in the big time. The Fijians were gracious but gave his ego another hit. The battling Titans have not allowed his ego the leverage to find it’s feet and blossom and ultimately translate into the pre-NFL Jarryd. I am sure Ash Taylor looks up to Hayne and feels if Henry can’t get him firing he must be sacked. But is that Henry’s job or a shrinks?

    • August 17th 2017 @ 7:58am
      Oingo Boingo said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Old School V Generation F’d… sickening to think that GF will win every time these days .

      • Roar Guru

        August 17th 2017 @ 8:14am
        Con Scortis said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Yeah mate, the Baby Boomers have done a great job running (ruining?) the planet…

        • August 17th 2017 @ 1:35pm
          yoyo said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          Yes, Con Scortis, And don’t forget, the boomers allowed a small minority of sick psychopaths to own half the planet for themselves, while the masses are now disinherited and landless. And they allowed the psychopaths to destroy most small and medium businesses. And then they expect to retire early and get fed, housed and doctored by the younger generation whom they have disinherited. Boomers are the worst generation.

          • August 17th 2017 @ 1:49pm
            Jacko said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            Yoyo even the computer you wrote your post on was a result of baby boomer genius…Not to mention most things in the average home…..Even Yoyo’s were invented by baby boomers

      • August 17th 2017 @ 9:20am
        Aidan said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        Honestly, Jarryd Hayne’s attitude towards training and the game itself would’ve been more at home in previous generations. The game used to be amateur, not professional. You used to get people like Wally Lewis smoking ‘Cigarettes’ behind the shed at training. I agree that the mentality and morality of many people from current generations may be skewed well off what should be considered the norm, but sweeping statements like that are immature and nothing but sour grapes

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 9:24am
          Emcie said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          I can see it now, both teams engaged in an all in melee in the middle of the field, with Hayne tying up his shoes in the background

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 9:24am
          Emcie said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        • August 17th 2017 @ 10:23am
          Greg said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Cliff Lyons was once spotted having a beer, a ciggy, and playing the pokies at Manly leagues club………2 hours before kickoff

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2017 @ 10:39am
            Con Scortis said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            I wish we had more natural footy players like Cliffy

          • Roar Rookie

            August 17th 2017 @ 12:48pm
            Hard Yards said | August 17th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            Cliffy would also have 2 or 3 gaspers at half time. Wonder what he’s up to these days. Must be in his late 50’s by now.

            • Roar Guru

              August 17th 2017 @ 1:47pm
              The Barry said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

              Probably still playing A grade on the beaches somewhere…

        • August 17th 2017 @ 5:07pm
          Alan said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          Wally (and Strudwick when he was captain/coach)along with half the Valleys team used have pre-training at the Breakfast Creek pub, so I’m not sure about having to hide behind the shed for a quick puff.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 7:59am
      Wild Eagle said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      The Hayne Pain’s career is starting to look a bit like Benji Marshalls to me. Dynamic and dangerous at their best but not adapting to their own declining threat as a runner. Both players started throwing more outrageous passes as their potency stalled and Haynes long and ridiculous flick pass in this years SOO was a very bad sign.

      Darren Lockeyer was a good example of a player who transformed well from a dangerous runner to a calm influence on the team successfully and although he was a different type of player , I think the Plane could need to change his game soon to be effective.

      Being made captain could be the answer.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 10:52am
        spruce moose said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        What an appalling suggestion.

        He’s not shown any demonstrable commitment to professionalism and you think a job promotion is in order?

        • August 17th 2017 @ 1:10pm
          Wild Eagle said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

          Mal Meninga thinks it is a good idea , not my idea. I didn’t realise he was captain at Parra as they surged to their last GF. Artie Beetson wasn’t considered to be captain material at all but Jack Gibson did his research and came up with a winner.

          I’m used to hearing any idea which goes against the grain being ridiculed so labeling the notion appalling has no affect on me at all. Just about anything Manly has done in the last 2 or 3 years has had labels attached to them by their own fans and none of them complimentry. Most of the labels were wrong though.

          I don’t know if it would work but you seem so sure it wouldn’t. Did you think Akila Uate deserved a promotion to first grade at Manly based on his efforts at the Knights?

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2017 @ 1:55pm
            The Barry said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            With due respect taking a punt on a former rep winger discovering form again while Newcastle pick up 3/4 of the tab is a little different to making an under performing player who has been censured by his team mates this season, has a history of poor training and is not a noted leader captain of your club.

            I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with Hayne being captain. But if you were in the Titans shoes you would need buy-in from the rest of the squad some form of reliable commitment from Hayne regarding his own performance and leadership and some sort of reliable measures of performance so he can be managed and held accountable.

            But how much of that is even possible? What guarantees could Hayne give that you would take such a massive gamble of your career on and your club’s short term future?

            It’s certainly not anything Mal or anyone else sitting outside can glibly say would work based on current evidence.

            • August 17th 2017 @ 2:20pm
              Wild Eagle said | August 17th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

              I agree it’s not the same thing but the principle is the same. Uates signing was ridiculed as if the outcome was predetermined and Haynes choice as captain is being ridiculed by this poster as if he already knows the result.

              If the Eagles just looked at players based on their performances at other clubs before they signed them then they would not have signed half of their roster. Hayne could only be made captain based on some insight and guess work as to how he would perform. Is there a better way to motivate the Plane?

              • August 17th 2017 @ 2:53pm
                spruce moose said | August 17th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                Yep. Drop him. Easy.

                How do you make a player play better? Drop him to the lower grades, until his form and attitude improve.

          • August 17th 2017 @ 1:59pm
            spruce moose said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

            Ok, Mal Meninga’s idea is appalling. Happy?

            Jarryd Hayne was a co-captain. Tim Mannah was the other. Go and straw poll the Eels and ask who they would rather line up behind? Hayne or Mannah.

            Secondly, Hayne did have more credentials to the Eels captaincy than he would at the Titans. Hayne was at the Eels for 7 years, and worked his way up etc etc.

            Fast forward to today, Hayne parachutes to the Titans after his failed ‘dreams’ making it clear he didn’t want to be there to begin with and that his primary option knocked him back. He has demonstrably poor attitudes to playing and training, and is disciplined by the leadership group.

            But yeah, promote him.

            While we’re at it, let’s just make Tony Abbott Prime Minster because he’s chucking a tantrum.

            Apparently that’s how we reward petulant children now anyway.

            The issue is not whether it would work or not (it won’t by the way), but whether he deserves it. He manifestly does not.

            • August 17th 2017 @ 6:49pm
              Wild Eagle said | August 17th 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

              You are certain that making Hayne captain is an appalling idea which will clearly fail and I think it is an idea worth considering .

            • Columnist

              August 17th 2017 @ 7:43pm
              Tim Gore said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

              I’ve told you before. You don’t get a gun until you tell me your name.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 11:02am
        no one in particular said | August 17th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        If Haynes alleged petulant attitude is the problem then empowering him isn’t the answer

        • Columnist

          August 17th 2017 @ 7:44pm
          Tim Gore said | August 17th 2017 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

          I disagree. Look at Gorden Tallis.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 10:13pm
        Scott said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

        Wild Eagle, he has no ball skills to change his game

        • August 17th 2017 @ 11:06pm
          RV said | August 17th 2017 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

          Are you kidding me? His passing and kicking game at Parra was unbelievable. It just happened to overshadow by his devastating running game. I wouldn’t write him off as a player just yet.

          He does need a kick up the bum and surely this whole media outcry could be the trigger for some self reflection.

          Watch the Titans tonight? They are awful. It’s clearly not just because Hayne is on $1.2m,

        • August 19th 2017 @ 6:00pm
          Wild Eagle said | August 19th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

          He could be a much better 5/8 than Blake Green at Manly I am sure. Faster , stronger with equal ball skills in my opinion. Much more skillful than players like Des Hasler.

          What would stop him being a very good 5/8 at club level? Lack of maturity and effort would be my guess but he could change that if his mind was on the job and the ego was put aside.

    • Roar Guru

      August 17th 2017 @ 8:17am
      Con Scortis said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      I hope Henry stays on and the Titans are able to get back to the united, cohesive squad they had last year. They were a team like the Knights of 2017 in that they fought hard in every match and took it to much more fancied opposition. A lot of that was due to Henry’s influence and it would be a mistake if they let him go.

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