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Raper out, Sharks' Kimmorley may follow

By Adrian Proszenko 22/09/2006 06:25:45 PM Comments (0)

Cronulla halfback Brett Kimmorley will follow coach Stuart Raper out of the Sharks if another NRL club is prepared to pay out the final year of his lucrative contract.

Raper was on Friday released from his deal with the Shire club for 2007, with dumped Sydney Rooster mentor Ricky Stuart expected to be appointed coach after a board meeting on Monday.

Stuart's manager John Fordham issued a press release confirming negotiations had begun with the Sharks on Friday, although it's understood the parties had opened talks more than two weeks ago.

Former New Zealand coach Graham Lowe on Friday applied for the position, but Stuart is almost certain to be appointed next week.

Raper's fate was sealed at a meeting of club directors on Thursday night, with the former Wigan mentor informed of the board's decision at a meeting at the leagues club on Friday morning.

The 41-year-old's release brings to an end weeks of speculation over his future after the Sharks crashed to 10 straight losses to end their season. The Sharks slumped from fourth to 10th as a result and missed out on the play-offs.

Sharks CEO Greg Pierce indicated the final year of Raper's contract, believed to be worth around $200,000, will be paid out.

"I spoke to him this morning, and we have been mates for a long time, and I was pretty upset," Pierce said.

"He's a terrific fella ... and he took it very well."

Raper is the second Sharks coach in three years to fail to see out his contract following the dismissal of Chris Anderson in 2003.

Anderson was last week appointed the coach of the Sydney Roosters to succeed national coach Stuart.

"It's not ideal but it's not the first club it's happened to and it won't be the last," Pierce said.

The arrival of Stuart may result in former NSW No.7 Kimmorley also exiting the club, with the Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers his most likely destination.

The biggest stumbling block would be Kimmorley's asking price, believed to be $425,000.

"It depends on if anyone has the money to buy him," Sharks recruitment manager Theo Burgess said when asked about a possible release for Kimmorley.

"He's on a pretty solid contract and if a club wanted to buy his contract out we'd certainly look at that.

"We've got (Brett) Seymour, (Adam) Dykes and Brett Kearney - we've got three top-line halves, so if someone wanted him ..."

The Sharks board this week received a presentation from the Mercury Group, which had recently completed an independent review of the football club operations.

Pierce, who insisted the review played no part in Raper's demise, said Stuart's appointment was not a fait accompli.

"I'm not saying Ricky won't get the job, don't get me wrong, but I have not spoken to Ricky Stuart about this issue ever," he said.

"There are rumours of Brian Noble, David Waite, Adrian Lam, Graeme Lowe, Daniel Anderson - I don't know if it's a beat up or not."

Sharks prop Ben Ross said he was disappointed with the release of Raper but excited about the prospect of Stuart coming on board.

"I guess someone had to be accountable for the losses and unfortunately it's him, because it was the players' fault as well," he said.

"If Ricky takes over that's a good thing, he's the reigning Australian coach and he's won grand finals, so it can only improve the club.

"If Ricky Stuart was the coach I'd be very happy."

Asked if he had a clause in his contract allowing him to leave the Sharks should there be a change of coach, Ross mysteriously replied: "I'm going to keep that undisclosed at the moment, we'll see what happens."

Lock Paul Gallen didn't want to discuss the coaching issue but confirmed his commitment to the Sharks, regardless of coach.

"I'm at the Sharks now for at least next year and that's all over," he said of his recent request for a release.

Tigers coach Tim Sheens said Kimmorley's asking price was likely to prove too big a stumbling block to him joining the club.

"I could throw in the old line that he's a quality player and you'd have a look at him, but I don't think we'll actively chase him at this stage," Sheens said.

"His price is prohibitive ... I don't think there's anyone that can afford to pay him what he's on."

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