MANLY coach Geoff Toovey was involved in a heated row with new Sea Eagles chief executive Joe Kelly on Friday over the proposed recruitment of South Sydney international Tom Burgess.
The Sunday Telegraph has been told some Sea Eagles staff members were cleared out of the club’s Narrabeen offices as Toovey and Kelly engaged in a robust debate about the Rabbitohs forward.
With the Sea Eagles still working overtime to retain star halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, Toovey was believed to be fuming over Kelly identifying Burgess as a priority target.
The connection between Kelly and Burgess comes from the new Manly CEO’s previous role as South Sydney’s chief financial officer, a position he held from 2007.
Geoff Toovey (R) is desperate to retain Kieran Foran (L). Picture: Gregg Porteous
Toovey attempted to hose down the ferocity of the debate when contacted, while Kelly confirmed the majority of his conversations as Sea Eagles CEO had been “robust”.
“Everything’s good. He’s doing a good job and we’re working hard to try to sign our off-contract players,” Toovey said.
“We’re a tight-knit group at Manly. We always have discussions about things every day and we finish in agreement.”
Tom Burgess is off contract at the end of the year. Picture: Mark Evans
Since taking over the head coaching role from Des Hasler in 2012, Toovey has guided the Sea Eagles to one grand final and has operated using a recruitment and retention committee for those players off contract.
The committee comprises Toovey, football operations manager Steve Gigg and recruitment scout Dave Warwick, with the Sea Eagles looking to retain a host of stars including Foran, Cherry-Evans, Steve Matai, Matt Ballin and young gun Clint Gutherson.
Tom Burgess is also off-contract, with the Rabbitohs facing a huge assignment trying to retain the English forward, gun halves Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary, as well as their rising stars Alex Johnston, Cameron McInnes and Kyle Turner.
Kelly reiterated the Sea Eagles’ long-standing policy about refraining from commenting on negotiations with players and stressed any “robust” conversations always finished with the club “finishing on the same page”.
Sea Eagles’ CEO Joe Kelly. Picture: Troy Snook
“The only way to go about running a business is to have robust discussions,” Kelly said.
“Anything that goes on at our club internally, we will always keep it internal but you can rest assured plenty of discussions will often be robust.
“Any recruitment related matters we will always follow club policy which is to refrain from commenting until we’ve finished negotiations and always notify our members first.
“Whatever goes on internally we all finish on the same page and we all move forward together in the best interests of the club.”