Manly chairman Scott Penn has revealed last year’s controversial exit of long-time servant Glenn Stewart contributed to Geoff Toovey’s axing as NRL coach.
While Penn blamed the club’s poor season primarily for Toovey’s sacking on Tuesday, the decision to let go of the older brother of star fullback Brett was also a significant factor.
Stewart’s release caused a major disruption among the playing group at the time, culminating in his defection to South Sydney as well as former Manly forward Anthony Watmough’s move to Parramatta.
“We’ve been clear that there were some decisions we weren’t happy with,” Penn said on Wednesday.
“That hasn’t necessarily been the sole factor, but that certainly did disrupt the playing group at that point in time,” he said.
“There were decisions made last year which led to us not performing as we should have in the finals. And that was one of them.”
Penn explained he had warned Toovey his position as head coach was under threat after the side had lost six of their first seven games.
Although the team had since improved enough to keep their finals hopes alive, Penn said it still wasn’t enough and that he had lost faith in Toovey’s coaching.
“Yes, we did have some injuries earlier in the year. We acknowledge that,” he said.
“But clearly, some of our structures, we don’t believe were right either. And therefore, we’re looking for a fresh start in 2016.”
Penn said he was also upset by a statement released by the Manly Warringah Rugby League Football (MWRLF) Club board on Tuesday that described the decision to axe Toovey as “bewildering”.
The football club holds two of seven spots on the Sea Eagles Limited board which is controlled by Penn and his family.
Penn stressed the MWRLF owned less than 10 per cent of the club that was wholly funded by his company.
“Their release yesterday was very disappointing, because that’s an emotional response,” he said.
“This is a business decision that we believe is in the best interest of the business going forward. And their emotional response doesn’t help it.”
A gracious Toovey expressed his disappointment in losing his job, but didn’t rule out a return to the club in a non-coaching capacity down the line.
“I’m very disappointed that my coaching career has ended … The decision has been made and I just have to accept that,” he said.
“It’s still not over yet. We’re still in it with a chance and, if you saw how the players played last week, you’d be well and truly worried if you were the teams above us.”
Asked whether he would coach again, he said: “It’s too early for me to announce anything like that.
“I need a bit of a break. I’ve had probably one week off in the last four years so I need to take some time and maybe take a breath for a while.”