Veteran rugby league reporter Phil 'Buzz' Rothfield has come out swinging at Cronulla Sharks bosses after claiming their treatment of coach John Morris is "disgraceful".
Speculation around Morris' future has intensified recently, with the Cronulla mentor and his agent involved in discussions with Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta on Monday about his future.
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Morris remained coy about the outcome of the meeting when pressed by Channel Nine's Danny Weidler on Monday, but Rothfield insists his time at the club is as good as over.
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.
Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo has been touted as Fitzgibbon’s assistant, with the pair having coached NSW Country together previously.
Rothfield said on Fox Sports' NRL 360 on Monday night that the Sharks were putting together a "package deal" for the two coaches and that Morris' time at the helm of the club was "all over".
“These two are close, they coached Country together. They’ve remained in touch, they’ve always wanted to coach together,” he said.
“I can confirm powerbrokers at the Sharks have spoken to both of them. They will get the job, providing they can sort out the money – dot the I’s, cross the T’s.
“John Morris met with the club today … It was the first time he actually had the opportunity to push his case for reappointment. But I think he was wasting his time, it’s all over red rover.”
While Morris painted an optimistic picture after Monday's meeting, Rothfield posted a tweet saying his sacking at the Sharks could come imminently.
Former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan - the man Morris replaced - also weighed in on the messy situation by giving the Cronulla mentor his support.
“For me it’s a bit disappointing,” Flanagan told Triple M.
"Being a Sharks fans and I live in the area, I think he’s done a reasonable job, yeah they haven’t been in the top four and I know that’s what the club pride themselves on but there’s been some difficult circumstances.
“There’s been some good players out of form or injured over that period.
“You’ve got to get a bit of luck and to be honest, I feel a bit sorry for John Morris because the club hasn’t told us why they’re getting rid of him.
“They keep trotting out the excuse that they want to be a top-four club and John can’t attract the players to the club that they need to. I don’t cop that. I want to know why they are going to get rid of him.”
League world reacts to Morris situation
Star Cronulla playmaker Shaun Johnson also thinks Morris had done a commendable job at the club under trying conditions over the past seasons.
"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," Johnson told Fox League.
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."
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