Phil Gould’s intriguing comments about the Canterbury Bulldogs coaching situation have fuelled speculation that NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler could be primed to take over at the NRL's bottom club.
The Bulldogs general manager of football this week claimed that he had given the vacant position "no thought", despite former coach Trent Barrett leaving the Canterbury club two weeks ago.
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“I’ve had no applicants, nor am I waiting for any applicants," Gould said on Nine's 100% Footy.
“No I don’t (know who I want). I’ve given it no thought. Just recovering from the fact we’ve had a coach resign.”
Speaking on NRL 360 on Tuesday night, co-host Paul Kent questioned Gould's claims and said the league icon had contradicted his own comments after Barrett's exit.
“The day he sacked Trent Barrett he said the phone has been ringing hot so I don’t know what is going on there,” Kent said on NRL 360.
“We all know Shane Flanagan has shown interest in the job and wants the job. Apparently Cameron Ciraldo has expressed his lack of interest in the job, so it certainly seems like there has been feelers put out there.
One man who has consistently been linked with a return to full-time coaching is NSW mentor Fittler, who admits he would like another crack in the NRL but insists his focus is on the upcoming Origin series.
“The other thing is he (Gould) said he wants a coach by September," Kent added.
"So are we waiting for Brad Fittler to finish his commitments with Origin before we decide on who the Canterbury job might be? Or are they going to wait until the last week of September and make a decision then?
“Why wouldn’t you be out there now as part of your job description basically starting to peel back the candidates and who is available? Who is ready? Who is right for the job? Who is not right for the job?”
Fellow NRL 360 panelist and News Corp league writer Paul Crawley is also sceptical that Gould would have let Barrett go without having someone in mind to take over.
“It is hard to believe a word that comes out of his mouth because he said that and then today he said there has been no calls,” Crawley said.
“We are two weeks down the track.”
Bulldogs premiership winner Braith Anasta agreed that the lack of noise coming out of the Bulldogs camp about their search for a new coach, suggests something is up.
“It has left that conspiracy for Freddy open because of the lack of talk or noise around any coaches,” Anasta said.
Phil Gould and Brad Fittler have long history together
Gould and Fittler are known to have a tremendous amount of respect from one another, with Gould having coached Fittler to a premiership with the Panthers in 1991.
The pair have been close for more than two decades and have also worked alongside each other for Channel Nine.
Kent says the more he thinks about it, the more he sees Fittler taking over the Bulldogs after the Origin series as a distinct possibility.
“It makes sense if Brad Fittler has already been sounded out about it,” Kent said.
“That would be a private conversation between Gould and Fittler.
“Fittler has told people around the game that he is interested in coaching in the NRL again one day.
“But when it was put to him about coaching Canterbury specifically, he came back with, I have a job at Channel Nine and I have a job with the Blues and that’s it.
“He wouldn’t talk beyond that period so are we just waiting until the end of the Origin period before that becomes the conversation? In the past that is often how it has played out.”
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