Rugby union coaching guru Eddie Jones has been linked to the Cronulla coaching job as the incumbent, John Morris, endures a tough season.
Rugby union coaching guru Eddie Jones has been linked to the Cronulla coaching job as the incumbent, John Morris, endures a tough season.

Morris defiant over future as Sharks slump to new low

Cronulla coach John Morris insists the NRL hasn't seen the best of his coaching yet after a tumultuous two seasons in charge of the Sharks.

In a week where England rugby coach Eddie Jones was linked with the NRL job as his replacement, Morris has defended his record at the club following the Sharks' fourth loss from five games.

On Sunday night the Sharks were beaten 30-16 by previously winless St George Illawarra at Campbelltown Stadium, and the pressure on Paul McGregor's shoulders seemingly transferred to Morris in the process.

 

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Sharks coach John Morris is feeling the heat at Cronulla. Picture: Getty
Sharks coach John Morris is feeling the heat at Cronulla. Picture: Getty

Speaking afterwards, Morris said the Jones report had blindsided him in the week, and cited last year's finals finish as proof he could do the job in difficult circumstances.

"I'm a young coach, that's for sure, but I think everyone across the game can appreciate the challenges that I've had over the last 12 months," he said.

"We've had massive challenges at the club with salary cap fines, had to let players go as a result of that, playing finals football last year, my first year as a rookie coach.

"I don't want to sit here and feel sorry for myself or anything like that, but I think I've done a really good job so far.

"We had a lot of injuries to our top five players last year and we still can't put our main side on the park at the moment."

 

Morris has had to endure a rocky period, including the Bronson Xerri drugs scandal. Photographer: Adam Yip
Morris has had to endure a rocky period, including the Bronson Xerri drugs scandal. Photographer: Adam Yip

Morris is battling to keep his side together after the shock of losing Bronson Xerri to a positive drug test, releasing Test centre Josh Morris to the Roosters and a growing injury list.

Star fullback Matt Moylan has played just two games this season with hamstring and calf injuries, and Morris has been forced to sign former Dragon Nene Macdonald from rugby league abyss to bolster the backline.

Among all the upheaval, Morris is confident he has the support of the club and insists there has been no mention of uncertainty of his position at the club.

"I'm working really hard," he said.

"We've got some unprecedented challenges around our club at the moment and we're all working as hard as we can to get through that.

"We had to release Matt Prior before the season started to help with our salary cap, we had to let Josh Morris go.

"There's some challenges there and the more the club can support me as we get through these challenging times, the better we will be in the long run."

Steady, Eddie: Morris shrugs off Sharks coach rumours

By Matt Logue, David Riccio and AAP

Dual-code legend Mat Rogers has declared Eddie Jones would be a revelation as an NRL coach and is certain his former Wallabies mentor would take the jump to rugby league in his stride.

Rogers played under Jones for three years when he switched to the 15-man code in the early 2000s, and claims the current England rugby coach's work ethic is among the best in sport.

Jones has been linked with Rogers' former club at Cronulla, with reports suggesting the Sharks could consider him as an option to replace current coach John Morris.

The 60-year-old has never coached in rugby league, but Rogers believes from his dealings with Jones that his knowledge of the game and capacity for hard work mean he would quickly pick up the intricacies of the sport.

 

Sharks Coach John Morris says he isn’t worried about rumours linking Eddie Jones to Cronulla.
Sharks Coach John Morris says he isn’t worried about rumours linking Eddie Jones to Cronulla.

"He'd be a revelation," dual-international Rogers said.

"He has a brilliant mind. A brilliant sporting mind. And his work ethic is relentless. He knows the game of rugby league, he knows it really well. "Alan Jones did it (at Balmain), and I would put Eddie Jones on another level in his work ethic. I can see him being a success 100 times over. "There is no way I look at it where I can't see him being a success, the way he operates."

Jones is tied to English Rugby until 2023, and they have indicated there has been no request Rogers points to the way Jones built Japan's national side ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and has subsequently turned England back into a powerhouse.

"He's a brilliant coach and a hard taskmaster. He will get the best out of his players," Rogers said.

"The great coaches demand a lot from their players.

"Look at Des Hasler, Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett. These guys are hard taskmasters but they are fair.

"Whoever landed (Jones) as coach would do well. It might be a year or two transition until he gets the squad he wants. But he is a career coach." Morris, whose side are aiming to recover from a 1-3 start when they face St George Illawarra on Sunday, said he had been surprised by reports of Cronulla's interest in Jones.

"They came from left field," he said. "I can't control that, I can't control the rumours or innuendo around the game ... I can't get caught up in off-field matters like that.

"My contract goes until the end of 2021. I'm really committed to this club and building something special."

Morris says he is focused on securing his future at the club with results on the field. Picture: Brett Costello.
Morris says he is focused on securing his future at the club with results on the field. Picture: Brett Costello.

Cronulla coach John Morris isn't concerned about rumours linking Jones to his head coaching role at the Sharks, saying he is determined to secure his future with strong results.

Morris is contracted until the end of the 2021 but influences around the club are having a quiet look at alternatives following Cronulla's 1-4 start to the season.

Other names to be mentioned as potential coaches at Cronulla are North Queensland Cowboys Paul Green, a premiership winning coach and former Sharks grand finalist, and Warrington coach Steve Price, who briefly worked in an assistants' role at the club.

Morris said he was "quite surprised" when he read reports linking Jones to the Sharks.

"It certainly came from left field. Think everyone was surprised by it. I don't know where it came from and I can't control rumour and innuendo around the game or what gets reported.

"All I can control is what happens here inside Shark Park and preparing our footy team and I can't get caught up in off-field matters like that.

"I'm contracted until the end of 2021 and I'm really committed to this club and building something special.

"I'm really excited about the season ahead. When we get everyone out on the park we will be really hard to beat."

Sharks will welcome back stars Andrew Fifita and Chad Townsend from injury. Picture: AAP.
Sharks will welcome back stars Andrew Fifita and Chad Townsend from injury. Picture: AAP.

Morris confirmed the Sharks will welcome back halfback Chad Townsend (hamstring) and prop Andrew Fifita (calf) for Sunday's crucial local derby against St George Illawarra.

Fifita hasn't played since the club's round 2 loss to Melbourne, so his addition is a major boost.

Morris is focused on helping Cronulla back up last week's big win over North Queensland with a victory over the winless Dragons and their desperate coach Paul McGregor.

The Sharks will also face former premiership-winning mentor Shane Flanagan, who is now as assistant at St George Illawarra.

"There is a lot of attention around the Dragons," he said.

"We certainly can't control what is happening in their camp, but we know that they will need no extra motivation to get up for a local derby.

"I think it is a game that both clubs need.

"The Dragons are looking to turn around their season and we are looking to build on our win last week."

Nene Macdonald will join his fifth NRL club since 2014. Picture: AAP.
Nene Macdonald will join his fifth NRL club since 2014. Picture: AAP.

Morris also confirmed the Sharks have signed former St George Illawarra, Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast and North Queensland outside back Nene Macdonald, who is expected to arrive in Sydney this week.

Cronulla was chasing an outside back after Josh Morris' departure to the Roosters, Bronson Xerri's provisional drug suspension and Ronaldo Mulitalo's long-term knee injury, which will force the youngster out for four weeks.

Morris said he will wait up to three weeks to allow MacDonald to build fitness before handing him his Cronulla debut.

"We've secured Nene, which is exciting news," he said.

"He has shown some really good signs over the last few months. He is training really hard and his life is back in order.

"He is coming down for a second shot at it. We all know the talent that he was and he will bring much needed experience as well as a different body shape."

 

Jayson Bukuya has announced his retirement from the NRL after 13 years. Picture: Getty Images.
Jayson Bukuya has announced his retirement from the NRL after 13 years. Picture: Getty Images.

SHARKS VETERAN TO HANG UP THE BOOTS AFTER SHUTDOWN

-David Riccio

A "player's player" is how Cronulla forward Jayson Bukuya will be remembered after announcing his immediate retirement after 13 years in the NRL.

Hugely popular among his peers, the robust Sharks forward has made the decision not to return from rugby league's 10-week isolation period, opting to retire from Cronulla's challenging 2020 campaign.

Bukuya's retirement has provided the Sharks with unexpected salary cap relief and allowed them to secure winger Nene McDonald, while the club is also circling Souths veteran Bryson Goodwin and Tigers forward Matt Eisenhuth.

Bukuya retires after 186 NRL games over 13 seasons. Picture: Mark Evans.
Bukuya retires after 186 NRL games over 13 seasons. Picture: Mark Evans.

Hanging up his boots with a career-highlight 2016 premiership ring and 186 NRL appearances, including 18 matches for the Warriors in 2014, Bukuya also represented Fiji at the 2008 and 2013 world cup.

His durability and consistency to average 18 games per season over more than a decade of NRL after arriving as a teenager from Brisbane was why Bukuya was always one of the first players chosen by his coaches, particularly under former Sharks head coach Shane Flanagan.

The 31-year-old underwent off-season ankle surgery and while originally focused on playing again this season, time spent with family during the COVID-19 stand-down provided the robust ball-runner with a change of heart.

Bukuya's immediate retirement will also have a major impact on the Sharks salary cap, which had been under heavy strain due to a $350,000 penalty for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Originally published as Morris defiant over future as Sharks slump to new low

News Corp Australia


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