By Jeff Wall, Crikey’s rugby league writer

I am fully expecting the relevant NSW minister, or even the federal minister for the environment, to nominate Parramatta coach Brian Smith for the “protected species” list after the extraordinary show of support from the Eels’ CEO Dennis Fitzgerald in today’s media.

Smith is the second-longest-serving coach in the NRL, having coached Parramatta since 1997. For much of that time, certainly in recent years, Smith has had at least as much power over the recruitment and release of players and team selections as, say, Wayne Bennett has had at the Brisbane Broncos.

Notwithstanding the fact that his coaching “record” at the Eels is, to say the least, very ordinary, Smith has been assured by the CEO – in the most unequivocal terms – that he will remain coach until the end of the 2006 season when his contract expires.

There is more on the website here.

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