Wakefield chairman Michael Carter admits he’d a “frosty” relationship with Brian Smith since Christmas, but admitted he was still stunned by the shock exit of the former Parramatta and Syney Roosters coach.
The 61-year-old, who had been in the job just nine months, offered no explanation when he quit the Super League club on Tuesday and Carter, who single-handedly fronted a press conference on Wednesday, said he first discovered the news from an official of another club.
“I actually got a text message from a CEO of another club asking if I was on the look-out for a new head coach, which came as a bit of a surprise,” Carter said.
“I texted him back saying, ‘I don’t know what you are on about’, and within an hour Brian walked into the office, said he was terminating his contract and walked out. And that was it.”
Smith succeeded fellow Australian James Webster last June and, after helping secure their survival in Super League with victory over Bradford in the Million-Pound Game in September, signed a new 12-month contract.
Carter said he did not try to dissuade Smith from quitting and insisted he’d backed him “to the hilt”.
“I was a little stunned,” he said.
“But, by his manner, you could tell it was a decision that wasn’t going to get changed.
“We’ve had a frosty relationship since Christmas.
“He was the highest paid coach we’ve ever had, 19 of the 31 squad members were signings or re-signings that he sanctioned, it’s the highest playing budget we’ve ever had and we put extra resources into strength and conditioning, phsyio and training facilities.
“From my point of view, I tried to back him to the hilt with everything he wanted. I guess at the end of the day that wasn’t enough.
“We make no secret of the fact that we don’t spend the salary cap because we haven’t got someone that’s willing to throw STG250,000 or STG600,000 away year on year like two other clubs have.
“Brian was aware of that when he came across here. We tried our best to back him. I can’t ever recall having a request for something and saying, ‘No’.
“I don’t feel let down. He’s obviously got his reasons for leaving. He came across last year and did the job I asked him to, he kept us in Super League.
Carter said he hoped to make a quick appointment as he began the search for a fourth head coach in three years and revealed he has fielded interest from overseas.