AQUIS Gold Coast Titans Chief Executive Officer Graham Annesley has openly discussed the clubs mounting injury toll and the fallout from last week’s media furore surrounding star recruit Jarryd Hayne during an extended radio interview with Paul Kent, Gordon Tallis and Ryan Girdler on Sunday MMM NRL.
Paul Kent: obviously enjoying life on the Gold Coast? You wanted Jarryd Hayne there, you wanted to be apart of the Rugby League conversation, you have accomplished all that now?
Graham Annesley: (Laughs) Well you could say that in the light of the last week or so, but you know we are trying to build a strong team, yesterday wasn't too enjoyable down in Newcastle, we've got a stack of injuries not only from yesterday but leading into yesterday but we aren't complaining, we will just dust ourselves off and have another crack on Friday night against the Eels.
Paul Kent: How tough has it been for the club the last week?
Graham Annesley: Look it hasn't been tough for the club, I think, it's been time consuming, there's been a lot of media interest nationally in Jarryd and that comes with Jarryd and when you have got a high-profile player then you are going to get more that the normal amount of interest and Jarryd's a pretty misunderstood character I think, and so he attracts a lot of controversy wherever he goes.
Paul Kent: Why do you think he's misunderstood?
Graham Annesley: Because generally, I think he's quiet a good bloke, I mean I've only known him closely since he joined the club and that was only at the end of last year and when you get him in kind of a social environment, you know he's a terrific fella, but he is very wary of people and the media in particular and that's because he thinks he's suffered at the hands of some of those things in the past
Paul Kent: Have you spoken to him this week about some of the things that have been going on and how to handle that?
Graham Annesley: Yeah, we have had a couple of chats and meetings, and he has handled it in the later part of the week he’s handles it really well, I mean he was in a good frame of mind yesterday going into the game and you know he kind of put it all behind him by the early part of the week and then it was just the media that fed off each other for the remainder of the week, you know each day there was another story that ran off the day before and there was obviously not much else to report last week mate!
Paul Kent: Oh, look when you have got the big dog, that’s what happens sometimes.
Graham Annesley: (laughs) that’s true but as I said we are not complaining but Jarryd does attract his fair share of publicity and sometimes that can be unfair, but that’s the fishpond that we live in.
Paul Kent: Neil henry walked out on a press conference this week, do you support what he did and have you spoken to him about how he handles this stuff because Neil is a coach that doesn’t like outside distractions, he tries very hard not to have outside distractions, but clearly with a player with the personality that Jarryd brings to the team and to the game, that’s going to happen!
Graham Annesley: Yeah I think it’s probably a bit of a stretch Paul to say that he walked out on a press conference, yes he did walkaway when he got asked the same question for about the sixth time, but I was actually there when that happened and he walked away with a smile on his face so he basically answered all the questions that had been asked, they just kept getting asked in different ways so it’s not like he stormed out half way through a press conference it was basically complete.
In relation to Neil, he has been around a long time, you know he is a former Dally M Coach of the year he’s coached teams to finals, he’s been an assistant origin coach, he’s had a lot of success and he’s certainly not inexperienced so he knows how to deal with these things.
Paul Kent: The clubs got a one year contract and I believe Jarryd has the option for next year is that correct?
Graham Annesley: Yeah that’s true and there has been a fair bit made of that in the last week as well but it’s kind of irrelevant Paul because any player that’s in the last year of their contract can sign with another club at any stage during that last year so you know there is always focus on dates, I mean I have heard April, I have read May, but effectively any player in the last year of their contract can come to their CEO in the last year of their contract and say I am not re-signing, so it’s an irrelevant date.
Paul Kent: When do you begin discussions then with Jarryd then about next season?
Graham Annesley: Well I mean obviously things have changed a little bit in the light of yesterday in that he’s not going to be on the field for a while I think. It still remains to be confirmed how serious the injury is, but when I looked at it yesterday his ankle was about twice the size of the other ankle and there will be scans, he will undergo scans tomorrow morning but I don’t expect we are going to see him on the field for an extended period of time and you know those April, May dates become even more irrelevant because he’s not going to be on the field for the next month or so I would think.
Paul Kent: Do you really believe they become irrelevant though because you have been around the game for a long time and you know this is the type of conversation that has now begun about Jarryd s place in the side and his place in the culture of the club and with an option for next year, with next year looming everyone is going to be whether you like it or not, that will become part of the conversation about what he does and whether he commits to you again for next year or not!
Graham Annesley: Absolutely Paul and I accept that and the thing is we don’t have to renegotiate with him because we already have accepted terms for next year, it’s just a matter of whether he is going to take them up or not, so we don’t have to sit down and negotiate with Jarryd, if he stays with us, he knows exactly what he is going to get.
Paul Kent: But you will want to know an answer I imagine because if he doesn’t stay then you will have to go into the market place?
Graham Annesley: well sure, but every club is in that position every year with their marquee players if they are coming off contract.
Paul Kent: but that’s why they would like it done sooner because, it’s nothing special, I’m, sure you would like it done sooner rather than later?
Graham Annesley: We would obviously like to plan for next year in the same way that any other club would if they have got players coming off contract and sometimes those decisions are made earlier, sometimes they are not. The bottom line Paul is that if Jarryd wants to stay with us, there is a contract there that he has already accepted for next year, but that’s a decision that only Jarryd can make. He’ll take his time with that and we will talk to him constantly of course about how he’s feeling and what his views are, but when that decision will be made I can’t tell you here and now.
Paul Kent: The club itself made great strides last year built on a chemistry and a culture that Neil Henry bought in where everyone went out and did their bit, [played their part and the club was having a lot of success doing that, then midway through the season you sign Jarryd Hayne and everyone thought that would be the launch of the side and send them deep into the playoffs and into the mainstream or the big leagues of finals contenders, but he hasn’t really had that impact, is that something that’s taking a little bit of time to work out?
Graham Annesley: Well Paul, I mean we made the finals last year and if you go back twelve months, at the start of last year everyone basically predicted us to win the wooden spoon um, but the players performed above and beyond expectations, there was a great spirit in the club and there still is a great spirit in the club and I think we saw that again yesterday when despite having only one player on the bench for the entire second half they almost pulled off a miraculous win actually, in front with eight minutes to go.
So, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the spirit in the team, you know we are zero and two, but we aren’t the only team in that position and we are certainly not giving up and we are certainly not panicking at this stage.
We think we have got on paper one of the best teams in the competition, but you have got to have them on field and you have got to have them performing and at the moment we are having a lot of trouble getting them all on the field.
Paul Kent: Those injuries yesterday, they weren’t ideal; were they, they came at the wrong time in the game and obviously, your star player plus two crucial players, it’s going to be a tough next month for you guys?
Graham Annesley: All three of those players are possibly facing an extended period of time on the side-lines, again all depending on scans tomorrow, but Anthony Don has already had a couple of shoulder reconstructions and he’s done his shoulder, so add that to Jarryd and we are in a bit of trouble injury wise, but we will scrape a team together and we will go out and compete against the Eels.
Gordon Tallis: Graham, what’s easier being a politician or being the CEO of a footy club?
Graham Annesley: Well they both have their ups and downs, you know I love the game, I have been involved since I was twelve years old on and off the field and I have had a long career in administration as well. I broke it up for a while to again stay involved in sport, but on a wider stage and so I was really fortunate to come back to the game full time.
I still say, this club is celebrating its tenth year in the competition, if you think about the sharks, it took them 50 years to crack a premiership and I can absolutely guarantee it’s not going to take the titans anywhere near that period of time.
Gordon Tallis: And what about the Gold Coast as a market for a sporting team, obviously, we have watched a lot of sides fail there, mate is it a difficult market?
Graham Annesley: That’s an interesting question Gordy, I mean it’s the sixth largest City in the country, and it’s an hour by plane to Sydney, it’s an hour up the highway to Brisbane, it’s a fantastic place for people to raise young families, it’s going to continue to grow at above the national growth rate of most cities and so if we can’t make rugby league work, in rugby league heartland, in the sixth biggest city in the country then where else are we going to take the game. If we talk about expansion and I know that’s off the table at the moment, but we have to make it work in the areas that are already strong.
We have six thousand local juniors in our catchment area and that’s just behind Parramatta and Penrith.
Are people a little fickle sometimes and they come out when the team is winning and when they are losing, but when you look at any team in the competition and interestingly when I was at the NRL when I was the Chief Operating Officer, I used to have club CEO’s come up to me all the time and say our crowds would have been better if we had better time slots and when it rained, but the only thing that I saw that consistently impacted on crowds going north or south was team performance.
Ryan Girdler: I just wanted to go back to Jarryd quickly and recruitment, obviously, it’s a big part of the NRL these days Graham and something that you are very involved in as part of your role at the Titans, when you guys went after Jarryd you would have expected not just headlines like this, you would have had high expectations of him on the field, off the field though you have been involved in the game as you said from when you were twelve years old and we all know, the insiders in the game, we all know that Jarryd, well he hasn’t been a great trainer and he’s had his issues at Parramatta with his commitment to team culture and then also we have seen that at representative level to some degree as well. What did you guys expect to get out of Jarryd, not in a marketing sense, not on the field on the weekend in what we see as a player in Jarryd Hayne, but in a sense in leadership at training, commitment to his players around him, was that something that you addressed as you spent a big chunk of your salary cap on him, or was that something that you thought you would manage when you got him here?
Graham Annesley: Well look, we bought Jarryd as a marquee player and every team in the competition, if you are going to be serious about trying to contend in this competition I mean it’s so close, you have to have great players on your roster and it’s difficult to have more than one in most cases because of the impact on the salary cap. You know we had the Daly Cherry Evans debacle if you want to call it that a year or two ago and it was only through that falling over that we had enough cap space last year to pick up some great players towards the end of the year on Konrad Hurrell and then Nathan Peats and then of course Jarryd Hayne.
So, we picked up three really strong players because we were in a position and because we didn’t panic last year, I mean Neil henry could have rushed out and bought the first players that became available, but he was patient and he took his time and said, no let’s wait and see who becomes available as we work our way through the season.
So, when we got Jarryd on board you know we bought him as a marquee player and he is inspirational in what he does on the field, if he can be playing at his best and all this stuff about training and so on, it becomes no conversation if Jarryd is out there performing and leading the team and that’s what he does best.
We know he’s proven to be able to do that and he’s done pretty much everything he’s attempted to do in his sporting career he’s been successful at, so if we can get Jarryd on the field, without injury, I have no doubt he’s got a lot to add to our team.