The Courier-Mail

Perfect Fitz for rebuild

Hannay to warm Sharks coach’s seat this year

- DAVID RICCIO

SHARKS assistant Josh Hannay has been appointed caretaker coach for the rest of 2021 after Cronulla yesterday named Craig Fitzgibbon as their coach for next season.

Fitzgibbon, the NRL’s most sought-after coach-in-waiting, who knocked back a $2 million deal from St George Illawarra only seven months ago, will start his first grade coaching journey in 2022 at Cronulla – the club his father Allan coached 30 years ago.

While continuing to work for the Roosters and NSW Origin team as an assistant, Fitzgibbon will spend the next six months deciding the futures of 14 off-contract Sharks players. Some of the club’s biggest names are without a contract for next season, including Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan, Aaron Woods and Toby Rudolf.

The crucial task of reshaping the Sharks’ salary cap is only superseded by Fitzgibbon’s desire to lure highly rated Penrith defence coach Cameron Ciraldo back to the club he made his NRL debut with as a player in 2005.

The pair share a close mateship and similar coaching philosophi­es, having worked together as coach and assistant for Country Origin in 2017.

After knocking back big offers to coach the Dragons, Warriors and Cowboys in recent years, Fitzgibbon’s patient approach to identifyin­g the club to start his coaching career ended when he signed a three-year deal of around $500,000 a season to coach the Sharks from 2022.

The signature triggered the cut-throat casualty of current coach John Morris, who was unable to prove to club bosses that he deserved a contract extension beyond the third and final year of his contract.

The Sharks released a media statement to confirm Morris’ immediate exit.

“This decision was certainly not lightly taken, much discussion and considerat­ion took place at board and management level before Craig was approached and now appointed, and we are thrilled he has accepted the position,” club CEO Dino Mezzatesta said.

Hannay last year held the reins of the Cowboys as their interim coach for 10 matches following Paul Green’s midseason departure.

Cronulla players were informed of the decision via their WhatsApp group message.

The immediate departure of Morris ends months of speculatio­n over his tenure.

He leaves the club after 51 games in charge and with a winning percentage of 47 per cent. The Sharks play the Knights on Friday night in Newcastle.

 ??  ?? Craig Fitzgibbon (left) and Sharks assistant Josh Hannay.
Craig Fitzgibbon (left) and Sharks assistant Josh Hannay.

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