'No control': Key player's big call on under-fire coach

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
Pictured here, Cronulla coach John Morris at a press conference.
John Morris is a man under pressure at the Cronulla Sharks. Pic: Getty

Cronulla star Shaun Johnson has made an impassioned defence of John Morris, amid growing reports the under-fire Sharks coach is set to be sacked.

Speculation around Morris' future has intensified recently, with the Cronulla mentor's agent meeting with club bosses to discuss his future on Monday.

ALL CLASS: Latrell Mitchell's heartwarming surprise for parents

WOW: NRL shattered after tragic death of teenage Knights player

TRAGIC: Erin Molan breaks silence after devastating family diagnosis

It comes as reports emerged linking the Sharks with rookie coach Craig Fitzgibbon, currently assistant to Trent Robinson at the Sydney Roosters, for next season.

Morris is off-contract at the end of the season as well as at least 14 Sharks players - including Johnson - putting the club in a precarious situation with their roster beyond this year.

However, Johnson told Fox Sports on Sunday night that Morris had done a commendable job at the Sharks under trying conditions over the past seasons.

"If I was at the club next year I'd love for Bomber (Morris) to be around because for me personally, he's definitely brought a better version of myself out," Johnson told Fox League.

"Coming over from New Zealand, what I got with Bomber was someone who genuinely believed in me and pushed me every day.

"We'd have open conversations. It's probably a bit selfish for me to say that he should stay on in any capacity but I think he's beyond (being an NRL assistant).

"You look what he's done, he hasn't had any control over the roster, he's been in a situation where our cap has been shot the past few years and he's just made do and got us all on board."

Seen here, Shaun Johnson carries the ball during an NRL match for the Sharks.
Shaun Johnson is one Sharks player who wants his coach to remain at the club. Pic: Getty

Morris has been working with a depleted salary cap and an immense injury toll over the past two seasons but the Sharks have still managed to play finals football.

In 2019 and 2020 they were forced to play $350,000 under the salary cap as an NRL penalty for previous breaches.

Morris took over as head coach in 2019 after Shane Flanagan's registration was cancelled by the NRL, but has been in the club's coaching system since he retired in 2014.

"I just look at the facts," Johnson said.

"I don't know how you can have a coach who has been thrown in the deep end right from the start, had to take over a difficult situation with Flanagan leaving, taken a side to the finals for the last couple of years and then finds himself in the position that he's in now."

Roosters assistant firms as likely successor

Johnson's passionate defence of Morris comes ahead of a meeting on Monday morning between Sharks boss Dino Mezzatesta and Morris' manager Chris Orr.

It's understood that Fitzgibbon has all but agreed to join the Sharks and has informed the Roosters he intends to take up an offer.

It comes after Saturday night's 26-18 loss to the Roosters, which was seen as further evidence of the Sharks' recent struggles against top eight teams.

They have not beaten one since August 2019.

Adding further weight to the speculation about Morris' future is the fact that the Sharks have so far knocked back multiple requests from the coach about an extension to his contract.

"I don't intend going down without a fight." he told News Corp on Sunday.

"I love this club and my commitment and work ethic will remain strong.

"The constant speculation around my job hasn't been pleasant but, until I get told differently, it's business as usual preparing for our next game."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.