Rugby league greats Darren Lockyer and Paul Vautin have suggested the Cronulla Sharks‘ playing group could suffer after John Morris’ shock axing this week.
Morris was ruthlessly given his marching orders just 24 hours after being told he was in the running to be the club’s coach in 2022 and beyond, with Craig Fitzgibbon given a three-year deal to lead the side from next year onward.
The 40-year-old was left devastated by the club’s decision, fighting tears as he spoke publicly for the first time since being let go on Friday.
Both Vautin and Lockyer were critical of the club’s handling of Morris’ exit and cast their doubts over how the Sharks players would respond to the treatment of their old coach.
“It is going to affect them,” Vautin told Nine.
“When you play, you love playing for your coach. Those players, to me, were playing for John Morris.
“What have they got to play for now? The pride in the jumper, which has been hurt because of the way it has been handled? Who knows how they’re going to go.”
“You’ve got to be transparent in this game because there’s no secrets. You’ve just got to be honest and there’s no doubt it was handled poorly,” Lockyer added.
“There will be the distraction of the off-field commentary around it for a number of weeks and that’s going to affect the playing group.”
Vautin was left incensed by the Sharks’ handling of the coaching saga, labelling the treatment of Morris as “disgusting”.
“Just a pair of wood ducks, they obviously don’t know what they’re doing,” Vautin said of the Sharks powerbrokers.
“They’re trying to do their best for the club. I suppose Craig is going to come in and he’s going to have his own staff. You’ve got to feel for John. I’ve met him a few times and he’s a lovely, lovely guy. Andrew Johns swears by him.
“It was obvious to me that the players liked him and he was doing the best he could with not the best roster in the competition, that’s for sure. It’s come as a massive shock to everyone in the rugby league world.”