EVERYONE knew the decision to sack Manly favourite son Geoff Toovey as head coach was coming, but that didn't mean everyone was happy when it was finally announced.
After months of speculation, club chief executive Joe Kelly revealed the game's worst-kept secret yesterday, with Toovey (pictured) to see out the season before Trent Barrett takes over for the next three years.
The decision prompted a savage reaction from many former club greats, as well as the Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club board, which has two of the seven seats on the Sea Eagles board and 14% stake in the NRL club.
"It's a sad day when an icon of our great club, which next year celebrates its 70th year in the competition, is told he is unwanted as the coach despite being under contract until the end of 2016," the MWRLFC said in a statement.
"It is bewildering to anyone who follows the game that a coach who during his tenure has taken his team to every final, including a grand final, and currently sits just two wins outside the top eight should be treated in this manner.
"His position as coach was undermined even before the season began and continued relentlessly throughout the entire 2015 season. He has not been treated with the respect he has earned and deserves."
Kelly said while Barrett, who has worked as an assistant to Ivan Cleary at Penrith this season, and also coached the NSW Country Origin side since 2012, would take over from 2016, Toovey's contract would be honoured in full until it expired at the end of next season.
Kelly also said Toovey would always be regarded highly by the Manly club.
"Geoff has been an influential figure within the Sea Eagles organisation for almost three decades," Kelly said. "His contribution on and off the field is unprecedented, and he will always be one of the club's favourite sons."
Toovey's axing followed reports the club was set to show up to 14 players the door at the end of the season, one that could see the club miss the finals for the first time since 2004.
Chairman Scott Penn said the changes were critical to the club once again becoming a force.
"Significant changes will be occurring. These changes won't take away from the success the club has enjoyed, but will help reinforce the foundation for a successful future," Penn said. "We are excited about 2016 and beyond."
Toovey is expected to address the media today, but Barrett said he would not be commenting on his appointment until after the end of the season.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU