Phil Gould’s denials of discussions with the Bulldogs’ potential next coach has sparked rumors Blues coach Brad Fittler has already agreed to take the job.
Gould revealed he has given the appointment of the next Bulldogs coach “no thought” and denied fielding offers or having any conversations with prospective coaches about the position.
However, Paul Kent believes Gould has contradicted himself with comments he made after Trent Barrett was sacked, which means he likely has a candidate in mind or at the very least has spoken to potential Barrett successors.
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“The day he sacked Trent Barrett he said the phone has been ringing hot so I don’t know what is going on there,” Kent said on NRL 360.
“We all know Shane Flanagan has shown interest in the job and wants the job. Apparently Cameron Ciraldo has expressed his lack of interest in the job, so it certainly seems like there has been feelers put out there.
“The other thing is he said he wants a coach by September. So are we waiting for Brad Fittler to finish his commitments with Origin before we decide on who the Canterbury job might be? Or are they going to wait until the last week of September and make a decision then?
“Why wouldn’t you be out there now as part of your job description basically starting to peel back the candidates and who is available? Who is ready? Who is right for the job? Who is not right for the job?”
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Paul Crawley doubts Gould would have overseen Barrett’s departure without at the very least having a successor in mind.
“It is hard to believe a word that comes out of his mouth because he said that and then today he said there has been no calls,” Crawley said.
“We are two weeks down the track.”
Braith Anasta believes the denials from Gould has intensified the speculation around Fittler potentially taking the job.
“It has left that conspiracy for Freddy open because of the lack of talk or noise around any coaches,” Anasta said.
Kent explained that both Fittler and Gould’s comments on the position are making the possibility of the Blues coach taking over after the Origin series more plausible.
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“It makes sense if Brad Fittler has already been sounded out about it,” Kent said.
“That would be a private conversation between Gould and Fittler.
“Fittler has told people around the game that he is interested in coaching in the NRL again one day.
“But when it was put to him about coaching Canterbury specifically, he came back with, I have a job at Channel 9 and I have a job with the Blues and that’s it.
“He wouldn’t talk beyond that period so are we just waiting until the end of the Origin period before that becomes the conversation? In the past that is often how it has played out.”
Dave Riccio believes the Tigers are taking a leaf out of the Bulldogs book in getting an answer from their next coach before they make a call on Michael Maguire.
“I think the Tigers are learning from what the Bulldogs are doing here,” Riccio said.
“I don’t think the Tigers are going to move on Madge until they have got their answer, knowing that the Bulldogs don’t have theirs.”
Kent noted that Gould has no history of sacking coaches without having a replacement in mind.
“You don’t get rid of a coach unless you know who you are going to replace him with,” Kent said.
“Phil Gould has never in his life got rid of a coach and not had someone in mind.
“When he got rid of Ivan Cleary the first time around he just went out and got Anthony Griffin. He didn’t interview for the job.
“He just went and spoke to Anthony Griffin and liked what he heard and gave him the job. Then he sacked him. That’s the way it works.”
Crawley believes Gould has a coach in his sights, but warned delaying his appointment will make it very hard for the Bulldogs recruitment department as the team continues to struggle.
“He is clearly not a silly man and if he lets Trent Barrett walk out the door he clearly has another option in mind and he would have to have confidence that he will get that person,” Crawley said.
“But it is such a critical thing for Canterbury fans and their members to see what is happening at the moment.
“Josh Addo-Carr just got dropped from the NSW side because he plays for the Bulldogs. That’s what happened. Matt Burton wasn’t in the conversation because he plays at the Bulldogs.
“So from a Canterbury recruitment perspective and Gus is talking about having all this money that is available in 2024, what rep player or future rep player with half a clue would want to go to the Bulldogs knowing it could be the end of your representative career if you go there?”
However, Anasta believes representative players would want to play for Fittler after having an association with him at Origin level.
“If Freddy is there they might go there,” Anasta said.
Crawley also questioned reports linking Maguire to the Bulldogs position believing it would be a tough pill to swallow for long suffering Canterbury fans.
“How could there be?” Crawley said when asked if there was substance to the rumours.
“You have got a team who is running 16th in Canterbury who has just got rid of Trent Barrett.
“And then to try and sell that you want to recruit the coach of the 15th placed team and their coach is getting marched out the door.
“When Maguire has been there four years and the team has shown no signs of improvement, I don’t know how you can sell that to Canterbury fans.”