Kearney won't be sacked say Eels
THE Parramatta board last night answered rampant speculation about coach Steve Kearney's future by declaring he was safe until the end of next year - regardless of whether the Eels crawl off the bottom of the competition table.
Mario Libertini, who is regarded as the most influential member of the board, told Fairfax: ''I'm sick of reading all this rubbish. We're not a club in crisis. The coach has got a contract and we intend to honour that contract, and that won't change regardless of results. The board is united on that.''
Kearney, who has coached Parramatta to just seven wins from 32 games since taking over at the start of last season, is under enormous pressure to get the Eels winning - starting with tonight's big game against arch rival Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.
It has been reported Kearney, who is contracted until the end of next season, is on a deal worth more than $400,000 annually, and that he has a clause in his contract allowing for a full year's payout if he were to be sacked.
Asked about suggestions the board was baulking at sacking Kearney because of the cost, Libertini replied: ''I'm not discussing contracts. All I can do is talk generally and say that if we were in a position where we felt our coach wasn't the right man for the job, it wouldn't faze us to pay him out if we had to.
''We believe Stephen Kearney is the right man for the job. We've taken a decision to move in a direction that includes the coach changing the way things are done here, and if we have to have some short-term pain in order to experience long-term gain, then so be it.
''We are going to stick with the coach and rely on him to get us out of the situation we're in. We saw an example of what the team is capable of in the last 15 minutes against Wests Tigers, and I think there has been improvement in a lot of areas over the last four weeks.
''I don't think there's any doubt we're good enough to start winning and climb off the bottom of the competition table. The players enjoy being coached by Steve and we've got a good playing roster. Stability breeds success, so sometimes you've got to bite the bullet and hold firm. We won't get the wooden spoon.''
Earlier this season, the talk coming out of Parramatta was that they were planning to extend Kearney's contract, but there have been no such noises recently. Asked what was happening in that area, Libertini replied: ''I think it makes sense to wait and see when you're talking that far ahead.
''But if things don't improve in the near future it won't become a case of sacking the coach, it will be a case of reviewing the situation to see what else we can do to help him, in terms of support staff, player recruitment or whatever.
''If we're trying to change the culture, then we have to stick to our guns.
''A lot of people who know the game rate Steve highly, and when he's trying to do a job he doesn't need the constant speculation.''