There is one man who can relate to the backstabbing and bloodletting Neil Henry is currently experiencing at the Gold Coast – former Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor.
In March, Taylor was given his marching orders by Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe and Chairwomen Marina Go after player unrest got too hot for the board to handle.
The club, to save their blushes, argued that the team was beginning to ‘drift’ under Taylor’s leadership.
All signs, though, were pointing to an upward surge in form. Just six-months earlier the Tigers had missed out on the finals by a single point, while James Tedesco, Aaron Woods, and Robbie Farah had all earned NSW Blues caps.
The club attempted to pass it off as a coaching issue, and in many ways it was. But those who know rugby league recognised that there were deeper issues at play and that the club was actually being held to ransom by the ‘big four’ – Tedesco, Woods, Moses and Brooks.
There were rumours circulating at the time that the ‘big four’ had grown unhappy with the coaching situation at the Tigers and so they threatened to hold off on re-signing until the club made changes.
To compound this issue, Robbie Farah had also been forced out of the club at the end of the 2016 season following a bitter feud with Taylor that began way back in 2014.
Taylor allegedly told Farah he was ‘selfish’ for not passing up the opportunity to play for Australia in favour of training with the Tigers.
Farah fired back, mocking Taylor’s brief and ill-fated representative career…or so the story goes.
At the Gold Coast, it is Jarryd Hayne who has grown disenchanted with his coach.
Quite clearly, the relationship between Henry and Hayne is untenable. Both want out if the other remains, even if the former will claim that rumours of disharmony within the camp are nothing more than a media beat-up.
In recent days the issues at the Titans have snowballed, with Elgey and Taylor reportedly issuing the club with a similar ultimatum to Hayne.
It makes you wonder just how much power the players have in this day and age.
The issues between Hayne and Henry stem back to when the former San Francisco 49er first signed with the Gold Coast in August last year.
Hayne, a Parramatta junior, sat in front of an expectant media and spoke only of his disappointment at missing out on an opportunity to return to his former club.
“It’s tough, because you know, there was a few clubs that had offered and straightaway. I always wanted to go back to Parra.”
It was in this moment that Henry realised he would have to tread carefully around Hayne.
You can take the boy out of Parramatta, but you can’t take Parramatta out of the boy, someone quipped.
And so it has proven.
Only months ago stories broke of Hayne and his sloppy training habits.
Former teammates spoke to Hayne’s attitude and laziness in the days following and confirmed the worst for Henry – his poor habits were inbuilt and were not going away anytime soon.
It was revealed soon after that Hayne had been punted from the Titans’ leadership group for turning up to pre-season training overweight.
His former coaches know this side of Hayne all too well.
In fact, during his time at Parramatta, Hayne went through no less than 7 coaches. None could ever fully harness his potential, and so all were told to hit the bricks by the Parramatta board within two years of signing.
Some will say this is the nature of the beast. Coaching is a results driven role and part of the job description is to get the best out of each and every player regardless of the size of their ego or the depth of their pockets.
But Hayne has killed more coaches than Mortein has killed flies. None have been able to tame the beast and get him to deliver on a game-by-game basis.
Henry has been unsuccessful in bucking this trend and now his cards are marked.
All signs point to the Titans supremo being sacked next week in much the same way as Taylor was by the Wests Tigers following his falling out with the big four back in round three.
These days it is the coach who must fall on their sword, not the player. They are the ones held accountable if the club goes down the toilet.
It makes sense for the Gold Coast to sack Henry given they have more to lose by ripping up Hayne’s contract. Not only is Henry one of the most poorly payed coaches in the competition, and will only need to be payed out $400,000 if his contract is terminated, but Elgey and Taylor will follow Hayne out the door if Henry is allowed to hang around.
That’s a risk the club can ill afford to make.
This is a sad state of affairs for the NRL more than anybody. Players have far too much say in what happens at the administrative level and have the power to force a coach out of the club whenever the mood strikes.
In Taylor’s case, it was the players who held a gun to the board’s head and forced them into making a decision. Now three of the infamous ‘big four’ are either at another club or on the move in 2018.
If there is a lesson to take away here, it is that sometimes problems at a football club run deeper than the coach. They are the lightning rods for blame when things go wrong but are rarely the source of a club’s internal issues.
The only coaches immune to this behaviour are seasoned veterans like Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy. They wouldn’t let the players walk all over them like Henry and those before him have.
Bennett is the kind of no nonsense coach a player like Jarryd Hayne needs.
Every other coach in the competition must watch their back. The track record of players pulling a fast one over their so called superior doesn’t make for pretty reading.
Long gone are the days when the coaches say was final. It is the players who now hold all the aces.
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