Jeff Wall writes:

The lot of an NRL premiership coach is never an
easy one, but for two coaches the 2006 season has been made just that much more

The Parramatta Eels’ Brian Smith and the Newcastle
Knights’ Michael Hagen have both been told by their clubs they will not be
coaching in 2007 – regardless of how well, or how poorly, they do in 2006.
This is surely a recipe for instability – and
possibly under-performance – in the coming season.

And how uncomfortable it will be if either is to be
replaced by one of their current coaching staff or understudies?

That almost certainly won’t happen in the case of
Brian Smith because he is likely to be replaced by Michael Hagen. But the Knights,
having told Hagen last Friday he was not wanted for 2007, has
already begun searching for his replacement – and it might come from within the
Knights “family” of former players and coaching staff.

If, as expected, Hagen is named as coach for the
Eels in 2007 in the next week or two, the media and the fans will spend a good
deal of the 2006 season comparing how Smith and his successor are going.

And let’s suppose the Eels perform badly at the
start of the season – as they did last year. The clamour for Smith to be replaced
mid-season will be deafening. The same will happen at the Knights. Maybe the best outcome would be for both to start
badly, and Smith and Hagen to be punted, with Hagen switching to the Eels and the Knights starting
their new man half a season early.

That’s the ridiculous position both clubs have
created for themselves. It’s a “no win” for the coaches involved, and it’s a
“no win” for the players as well. Knowing full well their current coach won’t
be there is 2007 will hardly inspire great loyalty in 2006, will it?

At least it will give league writers, including
yours truly, plenty to comment on in the season that is less than 2 months
away. We may be the only “winners” from this sorry saga.