Gold Coast Titans new head of football Phil Moss, who like a lot of experienced administrators has not been averse to club-land dramas, admits he would have been hesitant to leave Sydney for the strife-torn club a year or two ago.
Now he rates the Titans’ facilities, and potential, as good as any of the four clubs at which he has headed the football operations. And that includes the Parramatta Eels when they went to the 2009 grand final against the odds, the Penrith Panthers where he was Phil Gould’s 2IC when they gave the cash-strapped club new direction, and the Cronulla Sharks who won their maiden premiership in his first season at the helm of football operations.
After starting in the newly created position last week, Moss is still getting used to his new desk chair but was instantly excited with what he has seen and felt.
Moss was enticed to the club directly through his relationship with new coach Garth Brennan, built during their time together at the Panthers from 2011-14 when, under Gould, they helped take what was perceived as a shipwreck to a team that was one win away from the grand final on the back of developing young talent.
“The Titans have had their struggles and challenges, as a lot of clubs have had at various times,” Moss said.
“But the ownership is now settled; there is a great CEO in Graham Annesley; Dennis Watt is an experienced and outstanding executive chairman who has come across from the Broncos and the big thing for me was the opportunity to work with Garth again.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and as someone who can get the best out of his players and I think he will be a long-term NRL coach.
“There is no doubt the Titans are in a better position than when I went to Penrith. That was a major rebuild but a lot of steps are already in place here, we just have to strategically manage what’s next.
“And my first impressions – of the staff and the players I’ve met and their attitude, and particularly the facilities … Sydney clubs would kill for what the Titans have here.
“I believe in the processes we put in place at the Panthers, and Parramatta before that. This is a different club in a different state but the philosophies are the same – build from within and put a real emphasis on providing a good pathway for local talent.”
It is appropriate Moss is an optometrist by profession who retained his practice for many years after first joining the Eels ranks as a Jersey Flegg statistician in 1990 and being a full-time staffer since 2003. His strength is keeping a good eye on the future, as much as the present, with talent flow-charts and precise salary cap management.
“The coach, by nature, has to look at this season and getting the best out of what he has got,” Moss declares, “whereas my job is to look seasons ahead, at least four to five years, and put the club in a really good place even if your planned outcomes change as time goes on.”
He progressed at Parramatta through junior representative manager roles to being chief operating officer. He joined the Panthers midway through 2011 and eventually became general manager of football, was recruited by Wests Tigers in late 2014 in the same role before moving to the Sharks in 2016 and enjoying their memorable breakthrough title.
He has had to navigate plenty of minefields along the way: the overthrow of a board and CEO Denis Fitzgerald then coach Daniel Anderson at Parramatta; the hard-line rescue mission at Penrith; the abrupt departure of CEO Grant Mayer at Wests Tigers (Moss was installed as interim CEO) and the infamous falling-out between coach Jason Taylor and skipper Robbie Farah and the Ben Barba sacking and resignation of chairman Damien Keogh at Cronulla last year.
The irony is he comes to the Titans at a time when their well-documented dramas are hopefully behind them.
While Moss is new to the Gold Coast, there were plenty of familiar faces to welcome him: performance staffers Hayden Knowles and Craig Catterick and assistant coach Luke Burt from his Eels days, plus Brennan and players Michael Gordon, Ryan Simpkins, Leilani Latu and Bryce Cartwright from his Panthers stint.
Titans stalwart Anthony Laffranchi retains his position as football manager and is the sole football department link with the club’s formative years, with Moss overseeing all football and player-related areas with an emphasis on personnel planning.
Moss did not want to comment on the effect of the Jarryd Hayne stint on the Gold Coast, in the wake of the Daly Cherry-Evans contract fiasco, but says he is an advocate of player signings being good “business decisions” more than market forced cherry-picking of talent.
“It’s about business, not just talent.
“Signing a player has to be a good business decision, and sometimes you have to challenge a coach about that although he obviously has to be given every chance to have the players he wants – let’s face it, it’s his job that is at stake from the team’s success.
“But you have to manage the cap, the squad balance and have realistic expectations. Hopefully that’s what I can bring.”