If there was any doubt that Phil Gould is one of the shrewdest operators in the business, the Bulldogs general manager has proven it once again in the past week.
Cronulla are reportedly on the cusp of rewarding John Morris a much-deserved contract extension, thus granting the underrated coach an extra two years of being internally white-anted.
While yet to be confirmed, pundits believe club officials are poised to ignore every one of their instincts by bowing to logic and locking-in their cost-effective manager for an extended period.
Word is powerbrokers have become so unwelcomingly impressed with Morris’ ability to work under pressure – some of it even external – that he has “earned the security” of being facelessly undermined for another few years.
While not the high-profile name the club can barely conceal its lust for, Morris has punched well above his weight across his two years in the role at the Sharks.
But despite producing wine from water on shoestring resources, the 300-gamer has suffered constant speculation about his job even in the face of two finals berths and no ASADA ban.
While this precarious axe has never been officially ratified, the rumours of Morris’ impending sacking have been confirmed via notorious conduit Phil Rothfield, and the regular assurances of support from club officials.
Despite vague denials, it is believed the Sharks have harboured concerns about Morris continually failing one key metric, which is not being Shane Flanagan.
Additionally, there are internal worries about his style of coaching, with his clean-cut and lawful methods grating against the club’s desire for someone who breaks rules in a habitual and nonsensical manner.
But even without talisman Shaun Johnson and a gamut of other first grade talent, Morris has now forced their hand by proving he has the full support of the playing group and not the board.
The former utility’s side sits inside the top eight in season 2021 after spanking the hapless Cowboys on Saturday, with his charges exhibiting their trademark spirit despite losing Ronaldo Mulitalo (an injured knee) and Josh Dugan (because he’s Josh Dugan).
It is an impressive start that has quelled noise around the club’s pursuit of Craig Bellamy, and other coaches they probably viewed as “better-performed” like Todd Payten and Trent Barrett.
Sources originally reported the club was to postpone a decision on Morris’ future until Round 12, thus giving him the chance to rack up the losses and/or scandal required to make their job easier.
But this decision was brought forward once the club realised their plausible deniability was about as believable as their chances of getting Bellamy.
Morris ascended to the head coaching role in replacement of Flanagan in 2019, inheriting a side with an abysmal salary cap weighed down by an albatross of heavily back-ended deals and crusty Panthers.
Despite coming in to the role largely untested, Morris was granted patience by the Sharks board to turn things around, with almost five solid minutes passing before the internal sniping commenced.
Following two impressive seasons, the Sharks believed this off-season they had finally ‘got their man’ after rumours broke the coach had lost the playing group under a coup allegedly driven by Andrew Fifita and Matt Moylan.
However, this revolt regrettably never came to fruition for the club after the sabotage ultimately broke down with a soft tissue injury.