Following the departure of John Morris from the Sharks this week there’s a real possibility some other club boards may be about to add a new item to the agenda for their next meeting: coaching options.
With the coach-sacking ice has been broken there will be a number of coaches wondering if they could be the next to go, and if so, how soon, particularly if they recall the carnage of 2020 when five first-grade coaches either were asked to hand in their clipboards or resigned before they were sacked. Last year’s coaching clean-out surely couldn’t happen again this year.
Or could it?
As John Morris can now attest, a week is a very long time in rugby league, and if I were a betting man, I’d like to have some money on another couple of coaches joining him in the exit queue before too long.
That brings me to Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who looks to me to be in dead-man-walking mode as he fails to either shake or cajole any level of pride of performance from his players.
Maguire came to the Tigers on a three-year contract at the beginning of 2019, replacing Ivan Cleary, who had suddenly jumped off the Wests Tigers bus. Maguire was very well credentialled, having guided Wigan Warriors to both Super League and Challenge Cup victories in England and taken South Sydney to multiple final series before securing their long-awaited 21st premiership in 2014.
Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to replicate that success with Wests, and he is currently sitting on a win ratio of just 39 per cent compared to win ratios of 75 per cent and 56 per cent achieved at Wigan and Souths respectively.
Wests finished ninth in his first season as coach in 2019, slipped to 11th last year and currently sit in 13th position with just one win in five games. It’s hard to see them rising out of the bottom four this year.
These are hardly results to write home about, and they are far worse than John Morris achieved with his two finals finishes and his win ratio with the Sharks of 47 per cent.
Of course Maguire can claim the usual excuses for his team’s lack of success, including the now favourite ‘inherited poor roster’ excuse that failed to save Morris this year and others like Dean Pay in the past. Yes, there were some underperforming players taking up cap space when he was appointed, including Russell Packer, Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye, but I’m assuming that Maguire had some input into the recruitment of both Joseph Leilua and James Roberts and also in the departure of one of their best forwards in Josh Aloiai, so fair’s fair on that front.
Yes, he’s had his original three-year coaching deal extended until the end of 2023, but what does that really mean? Wests have a proud history of contributing to the lifestyle of sacked coaches, and we all know that these days any contract can be broken seemingly at will.
I’m not even sure that Maguire is even enjoying his job these days. Yes, there was a rare smile captured on camera a couple of weeks back, but his body language generally shows a high level of frustration with his team.
But most worryingly for Maguire are the recent statements made by Wests chairman Lee Hagipantelis, including this gem: “There is no change of coach on our radar whatsoever”.
In league circles that’s as good as saying, “Hand in your swipe card, return the car keys and mobile phone and move directly to the building exit”.
So it looks to me that Madge will be the next coach to go this year, but I hardly think he’ll be the last.