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Rugby League: Dorahy sacked by Wigan for 'gross misconduct': Club's brief statement fails to clarify reasons for dismissing double-winning coach after less than one season in charge

JOHN DORAHY yesterday became arguably the most successful coach or manager in British sport to be sacked by his club before the end of his first season. Wigan, who on Saturday completed a double of the Challenge Cup and the First Division championship, have dismissed him for what they described in a terse statement read out to him after a three-hour meeting as 'gross misconduct'.

'I have no idea what they are talking about,' a stunned Dorahy said yesterday. 'They have refused to tell me what this gross misconduct amounts to.'

Some reports have suggested that Dorahy and his chairman, Jack Robinson, had a heated exchange on the way back from Wembley, but Dorahy denies any such incident.

He was aware and presumably annoyed that Robinson was adding to speculation by telling reporters that it was to be discussed at the end of the season, even as Wigan were celebrating their victory.

Dorahy will be little the wiser over his alleged offence after a brief statement last night in which Robinson referred to 'unhappy differences' between the coach and the club.

Although Dorahy described the timing and manner of his sacking as 'diabolical', he has long been aware of clouds on the horizon.

Despite his generally impressive results, rumours of his unpopularity among the players and other sections of the club have burgeoned during the season.

The appointment of the club captain, Dean Bell, in an ill-defined coaching assistant's role last month looked like a move designed to marginalise Dorahy.

The portents grew worse last week when Robinson began to refer to a one-year contract with an option for an extra two, rather than the three-year deal Dorahy was described as having signed when he arrived.

Dorahy said that he was constrained from going into detail by legal proceedings he will take after failing to reach a pay-off agreement. 'But you will be amazed when the truth comes out just what I have had to put up with,' he added.

Dorahy, with a distinguished playing career but little coaching experience behind him, was a surprise choice as successor to John Monie at Wigan. He was player-coach at Halifax for one season before that arrangement ended in acrimony and had been an assistant coach at the Newcastle Knights in his native Australia.

It is clear that he failed to get the senior players at Wigan behind him, with the result that even when they performed to their best, as in a cup semi-final win over Castleford, it was widely regarded as their work rather than his.

Even at moments of triumph, Dorahy has sometimes looked an isolated figure and he has complained about being caught in the undertow of a battle for control of the club.

He was so disillusioned by the political in-fighting at one stage, in fact, that he planned to resign after Wembley - a plan he abandoned after winning the championship 10 days ago.

Wigan's players were keeping their own council yesterday, waiting for a meeting this morning to clarify matters.

Graeme West, the reserve team coach, will take charge of the side for the rest of the season. Bell, probably the most influential figure at the club, said that he was still committed to joining the Auckland Warriors at the end of the season and that he did not want to be a caretaker coach.

The search for a successor will be concentrated among coaches with a proven track record in Australia's Winfield Cup. Brian Smith, Warren Ryan, Phil Gould and Wayne Bennett all have the credentials, but Tim Sheens of the Canberra Raiders could be the best bet.

The former Wigan captain, Ellery Hanley, has also been mentioned in dispatches, but this is no job for a novice, however illustrious his playing career.

Almost unnoticed alongside events at Wigan yesterday, Tony Gordon has failed to agree terms with London Crusaders' new owners, the Brisbane Broncos, and will leave his job as coach at the end of this season.