When you’re winning, negative stories rarely seem to find their way into the press. However, when you’re losing, fingers start being pointed, and suddenly everyone’s reported as hating each other.
So it goes in the NRL, and with the Titans falling to 14th on the ladder following their 54-0 capitulation to the Broncos, it should come as no surprise that the negative stories of internal turmoil are bubbling to the surface (it’s worth remembering that just a few short months ago, the Panthers were languishing in 15th spot, and speculation about player unrest at Penrith was rife; with them now having won 9 of their last 11, those reports have mysteriously disappeared and Penrith are the sweethearts of the NRL. So do we put a whole lot of weight into these sorts of stories? No, we do not).
According to Daily Telegraph reporter Paul Kent on NRL 360, Titans coach Neil Henry didn’t want star fullback Jarryd Hayne in the first place, and had him foisted on him by the board against his will.
“It was the board that wanted to sign Jarryd Hayne, not the coach,” said Kent.
“He didn’t want him there, because for Neil it was about managing the salary cap, there was too much money being put into one player for the salary cap.”
“It’s not working because his board said ‘we’ve got this guy here, we’re going to take him here, we’re going to pay him a fortune to play here’, and suddenly everything Neil Henry had planned for that side is now out of shape.”
Speaking of Henry, fellow News Limited journalist Phil Rothfield joined in the Titans bashing, claiming that Henry is losing the support of the playing group.
“I think you’ll find if you dig a bit deep at the Titans, that he’s very close, Neil Henry, to losing the dressing room,” said Rothfield. “I’m told he does not have a great relationship with his players.”
“I spoke to Graham Annesley today, he didn’t confirm it, but didn’t deny it.”
For what it’s worth, we struggle to see how Hayne is to blame for the Titans’ supposed downturn, and for that matter, we don’t think they’re that much worse than last year (they only won 11 matches to make the finals in 2016, and have so far won 7 with four rounds remaining. The illusion of a collapse from being a finals calibre team to an also-ran is borne out of the Eels salary cap scandal – the Titans ill-deserved 2016 playoff berth coming courtesy of Parramatta’s points deduction.)
But, deserved or not, the nature of the NRL is such that somebody has to be on the bottom, and with the Knights and Tigers already rebuilding from the ground up, the attention has turned to the Titans. They can either start winning, or expect to read more of these stories.