Sacked coach of the Gold Coast Titans, Justin Holbrook, has launched a spectacular tirade at the club after being dismissed just days after an NRL victory. Holbrook, who will be replaced by Des Hasler for 2024 onwards, says he is ‘p***ed off’ at the way the club handled his abrupt dismissal.
The NRL world was largely taken aback by Holbrook’s axing, with the 47-year-old telling the Courier Mail that the decision had left him in disbelief. He said he was called into a meeting early on Thursday morning, where club officials informed him their decision would be taken with immediate effect.
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Holbrook isn’t the only one to be left offside by the sudden decision, with Titans senior advisor and rugby league legend Mal Meninga reportedly considering quitting his role as a result. The Titans currently sit ninth on the NRL ladder, tied on points with eighth-placed Parramatta despite having played two less matches.
The Titans have been anticipating the return of several key players from injury, leaving Holbrook frustrated that he was not given the opportunity to see out the season and potentially make a charge towards the top eight. Holbrook said he was ‘gutted’ by the decision, adding that there were no negotiations – he was simply called in and told he was out of a job.
“I did not see this coming at all, that’s what I am pissed off about,” he said. “I could understand if they said, ‘Look you have three games or whatever time period to do something’, but to be moved on like this, I’m still coming to terms with it.
“If they were a bit more open about the way things were heading, I would have been able to digest this, but it’s hit me out of the blue. I had no inkling at all.
“I went in for a meeting and (CEO Steve Mitchell) said, ‘We are going to terminate you as of right now’. I said, ‘Shivers, on what … performance?’ I said, ‘Mate, I thought you would have given me a chance of getting the guys to the finals with our best players back’.
“Anyway, it was a waste of time talking. It wasn’t a negotiation. They had made up their mind.”
Des Hasler to replace Justin Holbrook at Titans in 2024
Holbrook led the Titans to the finals once in three full seasons in charge and posted an underwhelming 38 per cent winning rate from his 82 games at the helm – perhaps making his exit not all that surprising. “We are here to bring success to the Gold Coast and in order to do so we feel that this is the change necessary to deliver on our promise which is to win premierships,” Mitchell said.
What has come as a surprise to most is the appointment of Hasler and Gold Coast’s ability to keep the issue under wraps, particularly in a league-mad state such as Queensland. Hasler joins the club after being fired from his second stint at the Sea Eagles, following the fallout of the club’s Pride jersey saga last season.
Curiously though, the former Manly mentor will not take up his new role until 2024 in a move that suggests the Titans are heavily focused on next season. What that means for their current campaign remains to be seen, with the club tied on 18 points with the 8th-placed Eels and very much still in finals calculations.
Hasler has a tremendous track record in Australian rugby league, having won a premiership with Manly as a player before coaching the Sea Eagles to two more – in 2008 and 2011. He also coached the Canterbury Bulldogs to two grand-final appearances in 2012 and 2014 and has coached 458 first grade games for 258 victories – a winning record of a very respectable 56%.
“I’m looking forward to joining the Titans and to the 2024 season,” Hasler said on Thursday. “The club has a strong playing roster, the region is blessed with emerging talent and the organisation is firmly embedded in the community. I’m confident we can deliver success to the region in the coming seasons.”
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