Axed Canberra Raiders assistant coach Justin Morgan. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Dumped Raiders assistant coach Justin Morgan has credited Canberra's players entirely for the club's mid-season resurgence this year and admits he was shocked and disappointed by the timing of his sacking that has left him unemployed.
Short-listed for the head coaching role at the New Zealand Warriors less than two months ago, Morgan remains unemployed after the Raiders cut him without notice only days after the NRL grand final in October.
In his first interview since the split, Morgan said he refused to be bitter. He and the Raiders are in settlement negotiations to pay the final year of his contract.
Morgan has been part of a coaching shake-up since the end of the season, with fellow Raiders assistant staff Andrew McFadden and Matt Ford both quitting the club.
Morgan said he had no indication his job was under threat until Raiders coach David Furner told him the week after the NRL grand final that he would not be required for next season.
Morgan denied a personal fallout with Furner, but admitted the timing of the sacking had left his career in limbo.
The 37-year-old left the safety of a two-year contract as head coach of English Super League club Hull Kingston Rovers to join the Raiders as an assistant this year.
''I took a bit of a punt to come here, I took a hit financially and obviously now I don't have employment,'' Morgan said. ''But I'm a positive person, that's life, one door closes another one will open. I haven't lost my desire to coach.
''The timing [of the sacking] wasn't ideal, it's very difficult after the grand final to try and find employment in rugby league. Everyone tends to have worked their staff worked out well and truly before that.
''It wasn't overly clear to me why I wasn't going to be here. I assume when you sign a two-year contract that you're likely to see that out unless something glaringly changes and I can't see that thing that's glaringly changed.''
Morgan said he was also surprised the Raiders coaching staff had not conducted an end-of-season review of this year, given their inconsistent form. The Raiders were second-last on the NRL ladder at the mid-point of the season, before charging home to make the finals.
Morgan said the Raiders' coaching staff could not claim credit for the resurgence.
''It was nice for us to turn it around but most probably for me the part that we should focus on is the first 12 rounds really, that's what we should have looked at to find out why we didn't play as well,'' Morgan said.
''In all honesty I don't think the credit [for the form change] should be put at our [the coaching staff's] doorstep, I think it's solely at the players' doorstep. We all could sit down and we all could take credit for it, but I think that's solely got to go down to the players. I think they just got their heads down and thought, 'enough's enough, let's get out there and play'.''
Morgan did not want to speculate on why three Raiders assistant coaches had left the club since the end of the season, but said he wished Furner and the club success.
Furner had to endure mid-season pressure that he would be replaced by then-NSW coach Ricky Stuart, at the same time supporting his wife Kellie in her private battle with breast cancer.
''I understand his job's a difficult one, he's had a difficult year both personally and professionally. When he told me [about the sacking] I shook his hand and wished him all the best and said, 'I'm disappointed I'm leaving','' Morgan said. ''I haven't spoken to him from that point, but I wish him all the best for next year.''