Phil Gould’s relationship with the senior playing group of the Cronulla Sharks in recent years has been nothing short of frosty.
His call for Paul Gallen’s State of Origin sacking was minor compared to his comments that the Sharks had won a “soft competition” in 2016.
The players and fan base haven’t forgotten.
However, the recent approach by the Sharks to look after their football operations, as well his son’s selection in the 2019 Jersey Flegg squad, suggests that there is nothing wrong with his relationship with the club itself.
In fact, the Sharks should try and convince Gould to take on the role as the general manager of football operations.
There is a changing of the guard at Cronulla and the timing is perfect for Gould to come in.
After years of very few – if any – local juniors playing in the first grade team, the last few years have seen a change.
Chad Townsend played in the 2016 premiership win and Jayden Brailey featured in 2018.
A number of juniors have cemented their place this season. Blayke Brailey and Bronson Xerri will be first-graders for years to come, while Kyle Flanagan and Scott Sorensen are looking to make the most of limited chances.
Although they’re not local juniors, Briton Nikora and Will Kennedy have both come through the Cronulla system and are looking very promising.
However, with the loss of Shane Flanagan and the promotion of John Morris, new resources need to be focused on junior development.
Phil Gould was instrumental in the establishment of the Panthers Rugby League Academy.
Of course, the Sharks don’t possess anything like the same budget, but Gould remains the perfect candidate to develop a framework that will develop the next crop of juniors.
Even if the late 1990s did not yield any premierships, Sharks fans still see that era as one of their favourite periods, when a side dominated by local juniors played an exciting brand of football.
While the game has clearly changed since then, Gould could oversee the continuation of this junior pathway to develop first-graders.
Gould also has a history of securing big-name sponsors.
The Panthers’ two main sponsors are Oak and Hertz. The Sharks’ two largest sponsors are Ace Cutters and Pointsbet.
No one would question Barry Russell’s perseverance in attracting these sponsors during a difficult time for the club, but Cronulla have always struggled to attract long-term partners.
Having Phil Gould running that role could result in a large difference going forward.
The large problem in attracting sponsors in recent years has been the off-field troubles surrounding the club. The peptide scandal hit in 2014 and the salary cap breaches took their toll in the form of massive fines for the club and the permanent loss of their premiership coach.
It’s easy to look at things in hindsight, but it’s hard to see how Gould would have let the same things happen.
In his role at the Sharks, Gould wouldn’t need a five-year plan as the club has consistently been a contender in recent years.
He will instead need to lead an administration where these errors just don’t occur.
With John Morris making his debut as first-grade coach this year, Gould would also be keen to work for a club where a developing coach may appreciate his guidance.
Finally, there’s no doubt that Phil Gould is a highly respected figure within the NRL hierarchy.
The Sharks have never had that type of representation at NRL board level, instead seemingly engaged in a constant battle to avoid relocation.
There’s no doubt that Gould could change this perception.
The Cronulla Sharks are in a good position. The $40 million windfall via the sale of their share of a blue-chip property development gives them financial stability.
On the field, the club continues to have success.
However, in the area of junior pathways, club sponsors, sound administration and status within the NRL, much work remains to be done.
Phil Gould is just the man for the job.