Off the Wall

Ivan Henjak is not the first coach to be punted half way through his contract, or even sooner, but we have to hope the way he has been treated is looked at very closely by the new independent commission - and that the commission requires clubs to do much better than the Broncos have done this week.

Without going over the whole sorry saga, the key point is that he had to sign a confidentiality agreement when he was sacked, and so did the club. Ever since, the Courier Mail, owned by News which is the controlling shareholder in the Broncos, has been dumping on Henjak's coaching record and more from a great height.

Henjak has maintained the silence the confidentiality agreement requires. However, last night the former Broncos CEO, Bruno Cullen, came to his defence on a key claim - that he offered to resign at the end of the 2010 season. Cullen flatly denied the story, but the damage has been done.

The Broncos, not Ivan Henjak, are now the real losers out of what has been a PR disaster of monumental proportions. That is just not good for the game.

But we have to hope that not only the Broncos learn from the experience, the independent commission soon to run the NRL does so as well.

There is a simple solution - ban confidentiality agreements that prevent a sacked coach, or player, or official, defending themselves.

Clubs and staff are free to keep confidential payout figures if they want to, but where is "transparency and openness" in the administration of the game when a condition of a player getting a payout is that he will not discuss his dismissal - even when others do so in a provocative and, in this case, unfair, way?

The terminating of coaches mid-contract is never easy. But it needs to be managed in a way that is not unfair to the sacked coach.

The independent commission needs to lay down some benchmarks early in its term on issues that damage the standing of the game.

The business of coaching an NRL team is hazardous. Ivan Henjak is the first to go this year, but there is already speculation about who will be next. When I last checked you can even bet on who will be sacked next with some betting agencies!

Clubs have the right to change coaches, though you would think doing so three weeks before the start of the season is hardly good timing.

So we don't have a repeat of what we have seen this week - and the other 15 NRL coaches must surely have been reading about it all with some alarm - I hope the commission lays down some basic protocols.

And the first one must be that linking a payout to silence on the sacking is not in the best interests of the coach, or the game - and will be made illegal at the first possible opportunity.

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