Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
5 hours ago
The Wests Tigers have gone into damage control as the drama surrounding the National Rugby League club's coaching position threatened to rip them apart.
Six senior players took the unprecedented step of signing a statement endorsing the club's pursuit of a new coach while chief executive Steve Noyce flew to Brisbane to hold further talks with Broncos performance director Craig Bellamy.
Bellamy remains the Tigers' preferred choice to take over from Terry Lamb next season and could make a decision as early as Friday, although he may wait until Monday after watching the club's clash with Brisbane at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The upheaval in Tiger town didn't end there, with City centre Kevin McGuinness turning his back on the club and signing a three-year deal with Manly.
And the club's centre depth could be well and truly tested next season, with former Test centre Terry Hill to front the Tigers board next week following a story in Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
Hill, claiming to be speaking on behalf of six of the club's senior players, said assistant coach Paul Langmack was their No.1 pick to take over from Lamb.
However, the six players - Darren Senter, Corey Pearson, John Skandalis, Mark O'Neill, Matt Seers and Ben Galea - said they had not been consulted by Hill.
In a statement signed by all six, and noticeably without Hill's signature, the players denied any involvement against the club board.
"The allegations made had no foundation as these players were never consulted and they would like to make their position very clear," the statement said.
"They fully support their CEO, Steve Noyce, and the board on their decision to find them the best person for the coaching position for next year."
Hill, who has one year left on his contract with the club, may not see out the season.
The 30-year-old has endured a controversial stint at the Tigers, falling out with with Lamb last season and suffering a groin injury in March which has sidelined him for most of the season.
Hill, who visited his surgeon Neil Halpin while his teammates went go-karting, said he expected to be part of the Tigers' set-up next season and would support whoever the club appointed to take over from Lamb.
"Whether it is Craig Bellamy, Bob Lindner, Gary Freeman or Shane Flanagan, I will support them 1000 per cent," Hill said.
"It's not our decision to start with.
"We're not trying to tell the board to do their job. We're worrying about playing football.
"I'm dying to get out to help the players. It breaks my heart to see them out there getting beaten by big scores.
"I'm sick of hearing the rumours, Hill is leaving, Hill is doing all this.
"I'll be there next year."
But it seems unlikely Hill will remain with the club beyond this season - if he survives next week's board meeting - particularly if Bellamy decides to take the reins.
The Tigers have a meeting scheduled for next Thursday, but one leading official said it would be brought forward and all seven players named in the article would be asked to front.
Noyce, who said he was unaware of any move to oust Hill, took a copy of the offending article to Brisbane for his meeting with Bellamy.
"I think Craig was initially taken back by it," Noyce said.
Noyce said he had not flown to Brisbane to secure Bellamy for next season, but rather to continue talks over the coaching position, which has already been knocked back by English Super League club St Helens coach Ian Millward.
"Both Craig and I had set the ground rules and it wasn't about me coming back with Craig's signature on a piece of paper," Noyce said.
The Broncos remain confident of holding onto Bennett's assistant, while his manager John Fordham tonight indicated the picture would become clearer in the morning.
"I think it's in the interest of both parties to have it resolved sooner rather than later," Fordham said.
"The picture will become a lot clearer tomorrow."