National Rugby League clubs have spent an estimated total of over $15 million paying out sacked coaches in the last decade alone. The monstrous number got bigger this week when the Canterbury Bulldogs parted ways with the embattled Trent Barrett after their round ten loss to Newcastle.
It’s a jaw-dropping number in a time where every cent is being counted at NRL head office and desperate community footy clubs across the land are on their knees.
NRL clubs have been doing it for years.
Throwing darts in the dark.
Since 2017, the Bulldogs have shown the door to three coaches at a reported cost of almost $2 million.
In 2020, the Brisbane Broncos terminated Anthony Seibold’s contract while in just his second season in charge and were forced to fork out $1.5 million.
Stephen Kearney inked a contract extension at the Warriors in 2019 with the club aware of the huge payout available to Kearney if they were to punt him when the team was struggling 12 months later. The club went ahead and fired him at a reputed cost of $2 million.
Roster management, or a lack of it, has been a talking point for many years but the absence of financial accountability from clubs and their administrations when terminating a coach has never really been in the spotlight.
A few years ago, legendary Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson called for a coaches’ union after South Sydney dismissed his counterpart Michael Maguire just a few years removed from Maguire delivering the Rabbitohs their first premiership in 43 years.
It was an idea Robinson first floated in 2015.
“Your first reflection is often personal about how it affects the family and the people around them,” Robinson said in 2017 after Maguire’s exit at Redfern.
“I know Michael’s wife and kids.
“And I talked about it with my partner as soon as it happens, the change that can happen in life and to your family.
“We talked about it as a couple but that’s the life that we chose.
“This is why we do what we do.”
With Barrett the latest addition to the coaching scrapheap and another payout, a reported $500,000, local footy clubs are still battling to make ends meet after a disastrous two years caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many clubs are yet to return to their local competitions.
The ones keeping their heads above water are still waiting for more support from the big end of town.
Torrential rain in many parts of New South Wales and Queensland recently has also left kids without a game in over a month as councils keep their fields closed.
Grassroots is the lifeblood of rugby league but there is a growing feeling out there that the NRL under ARLC chairman Peter V’landys is only worried about growing the NRL salary cap, State of Origin and NRL grand final revenue.
A source who runs a community footy club in Sydney has told the81stminute.com of the issues currently facing battling regions while NRL clubs continue to burn money on the coaching merry-go-round.
“I can’t speak for other [community] clubs but we run seniors and juniors and it costs us around $60,000 or $70,000 a year to run our teams, raise the money ourselves through sponsorship and be competitive,” he said.
“There’s also the costs of insurance for the all the players – it’s so tough right now.
“We need some help out here.”
All the while, NRL organisations are going through coaches like they have the money to waste.
A tiny portion of that $15 million would have been better spent supporting the foundations that truly keeps rugby league alive.
Reported coach payouts over the last decade:
Bulldogs / Trent Barrett $500,000 (Mick Potter interim coach)
Sharks / John Morris $30,000 (Josh Hannay interim coach)
Broncos / Anthony Seibold $1.5 million (Peter Gentle interim coach)
Bulldogs / Dean Pay undisclosed (Steve Georgallis interim coach)
Cowboys / Paul Green $1 million (Josh Hannay interim coach)
Dragons / Paul McGregor $700,000 (Dean Young interim coach)
Warriors / Stephen Kearney $2 million (Todd Payten interim coach)
Titans / Garth Brennan $150,000 (Luke Burt, Craig Hodges interim coach)
Knights / Nathan Brown $0 no payout clause (Kristian Woolf interim coach)
Sea Eagles / Trent Barrett $500,000 (Replaced in 2019 by Des Hasler)
Broncos / Wayne Bennett $400,000 (Replaced by Anthony Seibold)
Panthers / Anthony Griffin $1.6 million (Cameron Ciraldo interim coach)
Titans / Neil Henry $400,000 (Terry Matterson, Craig Hodges interim coach)
Wests Tigers / Jason Taylor $250,000 (Replaced by Ivan Cleary)
Rabbitohs / Michael Maguire $1.5 million (Replaced by Anthony Seibold)
Bulldogs / Des Hasler $1 million (Replaced by Dean Pay)
Warriors / Andrew McFadden undisclosed (Replaced by Stephen Kearney)
Knights / Rick Stone $150,000 (Danny Buderus interim coach)
Panthers / Ivan Cleary undisclosed (Replaced by Anthony Griffin)
Sea Eagles / Geoff Toovey $400,000 (Replaced by Trent Barrett)
Titans / John Cartwright $1 million (Replaced by Neil Henry)
Dragons / Steve Price $150,000 (Replaced by Paul McGregor)
Warriors / Matt Elliott undisclosed (Replaced by Andrew McFadden)
Raiders / David Furner undisclosed (Replaced by Ricky Stuart)
Cowboys / Neil Henry undisclosed (Replaced by Paul Green)
Eels / Stephen Kearney $500,000 (Brad Arthur interim coach)
Warriors / Brian McClennan undisclosed (Tony Iro interim coach)
Roosters / Brian Smith $200,000 (Replaced by Trent Robinson)
Wests Tigers / Tim Sheens $1.5 million (Replaced by Michael Potter)