Off the Wall

There is little surprise in today's news that Ricky Stuart will be leaving the Sharks at the end of the season.

He is probably just the first of a number...yet the argument for his demise is probably weaker than that for a number of other coaches who have been rumoured to be "under scrutiny" even though the season is not yet half over!

If my memory is correct, speculation this year has included: Ivan Henjak (Broncos); Tim Sheens (Tigers); Ivan Cleary (Warriors); Neil Henry (Cowboys); John Lang (Rabbitohs); and Daniel Anderson (Eels). And I may have missed one or two!

The "blame the coach" game is as alive and well in the NRL as it is in the AFL!

The departure of Stuart is today being put down to a falling out with the board at the Sharks, and more particularly the Chairman.

Ricky Stuart's record at the Sharks in the last two seasons has been poor. But you have to look at the "cattle" he has been served up by the Directors and Management.

The Sharks are significantly under the salary cap because the club is in dire financial straits. No salary cap rorting issues at the Sharks!

By seeing off the coach, the board and management will believe the heat will be off them. And by choosing the club's long-time assistant coach they will believe they have made a safe, and relatively cheap, choice!

But isn't it time directors and CEO's started taking some responsibility when the team underperforms - especially when the club is in such dire straits that it cannot even fund what is a comparatively modest NRL salary cap?

The problem Stuart faces is that every game the Sharks lose from now on there will be calls for him to leave immediately. Again, no one will focus on the fact he has not been given the "cattle" necessary to field a competitive team week in, week out.

And every time he is seen in Brisbane, or a particular Sydney suburb, there will be speculation he going to the nearest club.

Then there will be speculation about who is really coaching the team - Stuart or Flanagan?

Now that his departure has been confirmed, which coach will be next? That speculation will be the focus once Origin One is out of the way.

Stuart is not the first coach to go mid-season, and he won't be the last.

But if Sharks supporters - and officials - think yesterday's news is going to benefit the club's season, on the field, then history is not really on their side.

The only real beneficiaries in the short term will be the directors and management - but that might not last longer than a couple of weeks!

And there is one thing Stuart's departure does not solve - the dire financial position of the Sharks. That is something not even the directors and management can avoid.