The Dragons’ naming of Anthony Griffin as their new head coach has sparked a meltdown from two journalists over claims they tried to sabotage the appointment.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Webster and Nine’s Danny Weidler both penned scathing columns about Griffin last week in which they called into question both his coaching ability and his character.
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Webster said it was “inconceivable” that the Red V were considering Griffin as Paul McGregor’s long-term replacement and claimed his “headmaster style” of coaching had led to dressing room descent at Penrith, prompting his sacking by Gould.
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It prompted criticism from NRL360 host Paul Kent and The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield who accused the pair of running a campaign to sabotage Griffin.
“A lot of it was around Phil Gould and his brutal sacking of Griffin when he was running fourth two years ago,” Rothfield said on NRL360.
“Gus for some reason had a falling out with him and has absolutely no time for Griffin.
“This appointment is an indication that Gus has lost a little bit of influence in clubland, he was very close to St George Illawarra last year, he did a review.”
Gould works alongside Webster and Weidler in his job with Fairfax and Nine.
Paul Kent, meanwhile, said the sustained criticism of Griffin could have cost him the Dragons job.
“The campaign against him was very slanted – it was deliberate and it was spiteful,” Kent said.
“It came at a time when he could have been particularly vulnerable when he was right at the end of this interview process.”
This prompted an angry public response from Webster who took to Twitter on Monday night to declare: “I’ll be clearing the air on this bulls***”.
Appearing on 100% Footy, Webster launched an astonishing attack on his critics.
“It’s gotten really nasty in the past few days from people at News Corp who have been saying that both myself and Danny Weidler have run some agenda against Anthony Griffin,” he said.
“I wrote a column, Danny wrote one column. That’s it. So, Fox Sports people have been running an agenda to try and get Anthony Griffin a job for two years.
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“I remember the circumstances in which he left Penrith. I’m not running Gus’ agenda, I run my own race, I write what I believe. I know plenty of people at Penrith at the time, and people who are still there now that remember the negative aspects of Anthony Griffin being at that club.
“So, being a proper journalist, I went and talked to numerous sources at that club from back then and also last week before I wrote that column, and I wrote an honest opinion piece.
“Now, unfortunately, if you write an opinion that people at News Corp don’t like then you’re the bad guy. They’ll bash you up and say you’re running a massive campaign when all it is, is an opinion.
“So, apparently no one else can have an opinion in this game except for them. And it’s been really, really appalling how they’ve come out attacking us for what we’ve had to say in the last couple of days. As I said, it was one opinion piece and one column [that we wrote].”
Speaking on Big Sports Breakfast, Weidler denied running a smear campaign on behalf of Phil Gould.
“The person that I would know best who has worked with Griffin is Phil Gould, you are seeing a media storm at the moment driven by Newscorp saying that Andrew Webster and I have some sort of agenda against Griffin, because we’re friends and colleagues with Phil Gould,” he said.
“It’s a load of crap. I can’t speak for (Andrew Wesbter), but in my area Gus has never asked me to say a single thing about Anthony Griffin.
“There’s an accusation of agenda, I can speak for myself. I wrote one story, I can’t remember the last one I wrote about Anthony Griffin before the weekend.”
Gould, meanwhile, claimed that there had been an agenda against him for the best part of three decades.
He also suggested that Griffin had been deliberately leaking information to discredit him.
“They’ve been running a campaign against me for 25 years” Gould said. “No one has cared too much about that.
“The misreporting around my relationship with him, and his parting of ways with Penrith has been nothing short of disgraceful.
“And a lot of that is fuelled by Anthony himself.
“I’m not going to reside away from that fact, but I’m not going to publicly debate him about it.
“He can get on with his life, coach his football team and he’s there to prove to everyone whether or not he’s a good coach or not.”