Interim Sharks coach Josh Hannay admits the departure of John Morris could impact the team's output in Friday night's away clash with the Knights.
But Hannay, who joined Cronulla as an assistant to Morris in the pre-season, is adamant he can lead the club to success before handing the reins to Craig Fitzgibbon at the conclusion of the year.
After guiding the Sharks to back-to-back finals campaigns under trying circumstances, Morris left the club on Tuesday night as the messy contract saga came to an abrupt end.
Speaking to Nine News on Thursday, Morris admitted he took the news hard.
"Quite devastating to be honest. I didn't think I'd be in this position," he said.
"It is tough to take. I love this club. I've given the last 10 years of my life to the club."
Having played for Cronulla, Morris was popular amongst the team and Hannay conceded that "does add a layer of complexity" to his challenge of refocusing the players.
"It may affect our performance, it may not," said Hannay, who played three NRL matches for the Sharks in 2007.
"I can't stand here and tell you I know how each and every individual feels about the situation. Footballers are good at telling you what you want to hear.
"I'll look them in the eye and I’ll ask them how they're feeling and they'll tell me they’re good to go. But I know behind the scenes some will be feeling it a bit more than others."
Following his first media conference since being unexpectedly thrust into the role, Hannay was set to address the squad as interim coach for the first time on Thursday morning after they had Wednesday off.
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"One of the things that have been relayed to me over the last 48-72 hours is that the playing group are extremely supportive of me and very confident in my abilities to lead them," he added.
"I haven't been here for a long time but I am confident of the impact I've had in a brief time. For me, it's about continuing to have that positive influence over this group."
Hannay will talk with the club's football department over the weekend or early next week to decide if they'll bring in another assistant coach to support him.
"If we feel like we could use another set of hands, we'll go down that path," he said.
"But for now, I certainly feel like the group we've got here, the staff we've got here and the program we've got here is really strong."
It's not Hannay's first rodeo as an interim coach after he took over at the Cowboys for the last 10 games of 2020 when Paul Green departed.
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He won only two matches but believes this scenario is markedly different.
"With all due respect … this club's in a much healthier position," he said.
"The roster's in a much better position, there's a greater camaraderie amongst the group and they’re performing pretty well.
"I don't feel like coming into this situation that there's a lot to fix. I just think that it's about making sure we don’t fall into a hole and go backwards from here.
"I think there's been enough shown in the opening rounds to suggest that if we can continue to improve and make a few little adjustments that we want to be contending for the top eight."
While Hannay has expressed his desire to one day become a full-time NRL coach, and will treat his time in charge like an audition, he is keen to stay at the Sharks under Fitzgibbon in 2022.
And he expects to have some contact with Fitzgibbon, currently a highly regarded Roosters assistant, during the season.
"I'm open to doing whatever I can to help Craig with his transition coming in next year, so I dare say there'll be conversations," Hannay said.
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He has also spoken with a "disappointed" Morris.
"I went through a similar situation last year having applied for the Cowboys role full-time myself [and missing out], so I think I've got a fairly good grasp on how he's feeling," Hannay said.
"He's got a strong emotional attachment to this club; I had a strong, emotional attachment to the Cowboys. I think we were able to have a really good conversation and share our experiences yesterday.
"But as I said to him, he'll look back at some point in the future on this experience and it will help shape who he is as a coach moving forward."
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