Manly owners address coaching changes
Manly's chairman Scott Penn and CEO Joe Kelly say the decision to move on club legend and coach Geoff Toovey with a year to run on his contract was done "with a heavy heart" but in the best interests of the club.
Addressing media a day after announcing Toovey would not see out the final year of his contract, with his job to go to Trent Barrett, Penn acknowledged it had been an emotional time for fans and players but said the club was "a results-driven business".
He said the results in 2015 have not been in line with what the Sea Eagles – finals contenders for 10 straight years with two premierships in that time – are used to.
"This year, we'd been making decisions based on our results, some 10 to 12 weeks ago when we were bottom of the ladder with not a lot of a hope for the future," Penn said.
"So therefore we went through an exhaustive process to make sure that we had the right processes in place for 2016 and beyond. And therefore, Geoff as the head of our football operations, we've obviously made a decision about his future. And we're looking for a fresh start in 2016."
Manly have had plenty of other disruptions this season with a lengthy injury toll and protracted negotiations with star halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, who both agreed to leave the club on big-money deals at the Titans and Eels respectively. Cherry-Evans was later persuaded to stay on a long-term deal once club legend Bob Fulton was brought on in an advisory role mid-year.
Asked if the club could have handled Toovey's departure better, Penn said: "It's a very difficult situation. We're dealing with someone who has been an important part of our club for over 30 years. It's never going to be easy. We have been in dialogue with Geoff throughout this process.
"It's not something that... we haven't just pulled the shutter down. We've been in dialogue with him since the beginning of the year in terms of what our expectations were.
"I had a frank conversation with Geoff in March to say that I really think we're going to be watching this closely. We don't want to make any rash decisions, but if we don't perform the way that we want to, we might have to have a tough conversation. And unfortunately we've had that tough conversation."
Penn also indicated that some player retention and recruitment decisions, including the controversial loss of club favourite Glenn Stewart last year, had played a part.
"There's been a number of well-documented stories in terms of some decisions that have been made over time. And that's potentially contributed to it. But the fact is that we are here. We brushed a lot of those aside at the beginning of the year and looked for a fresh start. But we have underperformed this year," he said.
"[Stewart] is certainly one example that has been a critical decision that was made last year."
Penn said when both halves were on the way out earlier in the year and the club was running last, "we didn't have a lot of hope for the future".
"In the last 10 weeks, we've implemented a lot of changes behind the scenes. We've brought in some advisors to help with that process. And what that has done has given us hope for the future.
"We've signed a number of marquee players [such as Nate Myles and Lewis Brown] for next year. And there's a lot of hope around the place. The fact is we didn't believe we had the best coaching structure in place at that point in time and we made some changes for '16."
Shortly after the announcement on Tuesday, the Board of the Manly Warringah Rugby League Football Club put out a strongly-worded statement in support of Toovey, calling it "a sad day for the club" and labelling the decision "bewildering".
"That's the district football club, who own less than 10 per cent of the club and have the right to have two board seats," Penn said. "That's their opinion. But this decision has been made by the owners of the club, who are tipping in 100 per cent of the funds to fund the club going forward.
"Their release yesterday was very disappointing, because that's an emotional response. This is a business decision that we believe is in the best interest of the business going forward. And their emotional response doesn't help it."
On Barrett's recruitment, Penn said there had been an extensive review of the club's football operations and Barrett had been identified early on as a key candidate.
"There's certainly been a lot of questions asked and we're looking at the structure that we think is appropriate for the future. We made 10 finals in a row, four grand finals, two premierships, and we have those high standards that we need for the future. And we think Trent's the right person to take us back there."