Some of Manly’s biggest names have savaged the decision to sack Geoff Toovey as the club’s coach for the 2016 NRL season.
Toovey’s axing has opened a political divide at the Sea Eagles with the Manly Warringah Rugby League Football Club board, including Cliff Lyons, Mal Cochrane and Darrell Williams, describing the decision as “bewildering”, as well as a “sad day” for he club.
The club board in a statement, which was also signed by Sea Eagles director Bob Stevenson, praised Toovey for services throughout his 268 game playing and coaching career, during which he took the side to three finals series including a grand final.
“It’s a sad day when an icon of our great club – which next year celebrates its 70th year in the competition – is told he is unwanted as the coach despite being under contract until the end of 2016,” the statement said.
“It is bewildering to anyone who follows the game that a coach who during his tenure has taken his team to every final, including a grand final, and currently sits just two wins outside the top eight should be treated in this manner.
“His position as coach was undermined even before the season began and continued relentlessly throughout the entire 2015 season. He has not been treated with the respect he has earned and deserves.”
The football club holds two of seven spots on the Sea Eagles Limited board which is controlled by the NRL side’s owner Scott Penn and his family.
Lyons formed one of the competition’s most potent halves partnerships with Toovey during the 1990s and they played together in the Sea Eagles’ 1996 grand final-winning side.
Tuesday’s announcement ended weeks of speculation about Toovey’s position at Brookvale, with reports in the last week indicating the 46-year-old’s axing was imminent.
He was sacked because of the side’s disappointing on-field performance with the Sea Eagles struggling to make the top eight for the first time in a decade.