Annesley: Player power not behind Henry's axing
He admitted that Jarryd Hayne's comments brought the issue of Neil Henry's tenure as Titans coach to a head but club CEO Graham Annesley was adamant that player power was not the sole reason behind the coach's sacking.
Just over three years since stepping in following the sacking of foundation coach John Cartwright, Henry was on Monday relieved of his duties despite being contracted through until the end of the 2018 season.
It was the effort to get the team into the finals last year that earned Henry his one-year extension but less than 12 months later he was given his marching orders with no real public explanation given for his dismissal.
Just over a month ago the Titans were in finals contention but a meek surrender to a Wests Tigers team battling to avoid the wooden spoon and a club record 54-0 hiding at the hands of northern neighbour the Brisbane Broncos pointed to an issue larger than a supposed Henry-Hayne falling out.
That loss sparked a series of interviews between Annesley and senior players and when Hayne said in the wake of the 42-16 loss to the Dragons the following week that he and Henry were barely speaking Annesley and the board instigated a further round of crisis meetings.
Last Monday's hastily arranged board meeting was followed up by another last Saturday where it was decided that the best option for the future success of the club was to remove Henry from his position, a decision the coach was informed of after overseeing Monday morning's session at the club's Parkwood headquarters.
Assistant coaches Terry Matterson and Craig Hodges will act as interim co-coaches for the final two games of the season and the club will begin the search for the third coach in the Titans' history immediately with a view to having them on board when pre-season begins in early November.
Annesley and deputy chair Darryl Kelly refused to reveal the full extent of the reasons for the board's decision – Annesley admitting that there were "contractual issues" to consider before speaking – but were at pains to say that they weren't simply responding to a group of discontented players.
"This is not a Neil versus Jarryd issue solely. If it was player driven then we would not be standing here having this discussion today, we'd probably be having a different discussion," Annesley said.
"There were a range of reasons. I know in the media it's been focused very much on a head-to-head issue between Neil and Jarryd but that was really just the catalyst that brought the issue to the fore and meant that it needed to be addressed before we got to the end of the season.
"There were wider issues, many of which I can't go into but other issues that the board needed to consider.
"There is a view that this is a player-driven outcome. If it was a player-driven outcome Neil would still be the coach. The board has a wider responsibility and they have a legal obligation as company directors to take what they believe to be the right decision in the circumstances for the club.
"It has nothing to do with personalities or particular points of view of individuals. It's about assessing all the information and hopefully making the right decision. Time will tell."
Kelly spoke in the wake of the humiliating loss to the Broncos at his disillusionment and doubts as to whether to invest in the purchase of the club in the coming months only to step back from the severity of those comments the following day.
He is a man who has seen plenty of lows and few highs during his time associated with the club and was adamant that the investigation into Henry's position began the week prior to Hayne's claims that he and the coach were barely speaking.
"This issue wasn't raised by Jarryd. This issue was raised a week before," Kelly said.
"Jarryd's only made one public comment and that was the week after this issue was raised. Let's make that perfectly clear.
"The issues that have arisen this year were highlighted by the events of the last two weeks and made us, the board, consider our position and we've made a decision."