John Morris has rejected a request from Josh Morris to be released from his contract with Cronulla to join his brother, Brett, at the Sydney Roosters.
Cronulla coach Morris confirmed on Tuesday the request had formally been denied, informing the experienced centre that he was an integral member of Cronulla's squad with 30 days until the start of the 2020 NRL season.
With Matt Moylan battling a hamstring problem and Josh Dugan unlikely to be fit for the start of the season, it is likely Morris will start the season at fullback when Cronulla take on South Sydney in round one.
Morris denied the re-signing of young centre Jesse Ramien had upset the former representative star. Ramien, a specialist right centre, was always expected to line up on the right for Cronulla this season. But it was the emergence of young star Bronson Xerri at left centre last season that saw Morris shunted to the wing.
Coach Morris said that while he could understand and appreciate Morris' desire to finish his career playing alongside his brother, his priority was on doing what was best for the Sharks.
"What are we to do, let our most experienced guy walk out 30 days before a competition starts? I think our members and fans deserve better than that," Morris said.
"But knowing Josh Morris, he's the ultimate professional. There's been a number of things said around his position and all that stuff. He hasn't missed a session all pre-season. He rips in, he helps the young guys, he leads from the front. I'm hoping this will be water off a duck's back for him and he'll be able to commit to the season proper which starts in 32 days.
"He's got a bit on his plate himself. He's just had a little baby boy. And it was gut-wrenching for him to weigh it up and approach the club. I understand it's a hard thing to do. Like I said to Josh there's other things at play. We've got our members and supporters and commercially our sponsors and I doubt there'd be one Sharks fan, player, staff member, supporter who'd be happy to see Josh Morris just walk out the door. So that's our stance.
"He's been pretty good about it as I'd expect. I just want to be up front and honest about everything we do. Whether that be contractual conversations or negotiations, team selections, I just want to be up front and honest and provide that transparency to our fans so they can see what's going on."
Morris has been an outstanding pick up for the Sharks, leading the way with his professionalism at training and his consistency during games. Coach Morris also paid tribute to Morris' involvement in Xerri's breakout campaign after Morris took the 18-year-old under his wing during last pre-season.
Morris is also part of Cronulla's squad for the NRL Nines in Perth this weekend.
While coach Morris was full of praise for the centre, he stopped short of guaranteeing him a place in the centres ahead of Xerri and Ramien, with fullback likely to be where he will line up against the Rabbitohs in the season opener on March 14.
"Who knows. Bronson is recovering from his shoulder surgery. Josh is a very quality outside back. He's played fullback, he's played centre, he's played wing. The games he played wing last year he was statistically one of the best performing wingers. He scored three tries in his first game outside Bronson against the Broncos," he said.
"He's trained most of the pre-season at fullback. So it's funny, everyone is talking about him playing on the wing, he's probably more chance of playing fullback at the moment because Matty Moylan is still restricted with his hamstring and Duges is out injured as well. So he's a crucial part of our team whether it be fullback, centre or wing and in my opinion he's equally good at any of them.
"He hasn't missed a session. He's leading from the front and that's what makes him so good. He's consistent, he's very durable, very rarely gets injured or misses a session. If you watch him train he leaves nothing in the tank so that's the exact type of person we want in our club."
"I've got other things at play here too. I've got to build a roster for a long-term vision of this club. Jesse is 10 years younger than Josh and definitely wasn't signed over the top of Josh. Jesse is a specialist right centre. At the time early in the year Josh was playing left centre. It was actually the emergence of Bronson Xerri which pushed Josh to the wing. Who would have thought an 18-year-old kid would arrive on the scene like Bronson did.
"So that's just an unbelievable left edge of Wade Graham, Bronson Xerri, Josh Morris. And to be fair Josh had a lot to do with Bronson's development [last] pre-season. I think if it wasn't for that Bronson is probably not the player he is now. I just think it's a great mix, you've got Ramien, Xerri, Josh. And I'll tell you now Josh is going to spend a lot of time at various positions this year because he's good enough to do that."
Morris said he was confident his young Cronulla side could make the finals again this season despite losing a number of experienced players.
"We've just lost 1000 games of experience with Paul Gallen gone, Matt Prior gone, Sosaia Feki gone, Kurt Capewell gone, Jayden Brailey gone," he said.
"A lot of these other than Gal have been the result of a pretty horrific salary cap fine that was leveled at our club. That happened before I started and I'll do my best to bring the club through it. And part of that is keeping this team connected, working hard and getting some wins along the way.
"And we showed last year, we had more adversity than any other club in the NRL, we had 1000 games [of experience] out at times throughout the year and we still played finals football. So it shows a lot what we're building in this club in a really difficult time. And I have full confidence and belief that this squad of boys will play finals football again this year."