Why Jai Ingram left Hervey Bay Seagulls
FORMER Hervey Bay coach Jai Ingram has lifted the lid on his abrupt departure.
Ingram, a former NRL-contracted utility, was the Seagulls' marquee signing as it sought to repeat the efforts of Tye Ingebrigtsen's 2016 Bundaberg Rugby League grand final-winning squad.
A large number of players left the club after Ingebrigtsen, who linked with Cairns District Rugby League club Mareeba and is now involved with Northern Pride, delivered the club's first premiership since 2001.
But with Ingram's NRL experience, his deep network of high-quality players, and a desire to help develop a decade's worth of local talent, the Seagulls were on the right track.
Then it fell apart.
Injuries punched a hole in the A-grade side's lineup, even though they managed to win 14 of 16 games on the way to the minor premiership, and Ingram suddenly disappeared from the coach's bench in the final weeks of the season.
The Seagulls, with David Yarrow running the bench, reached the preliminary final, which they lost 44-10 to local rivals Wallaroos.
"I won a minor premiership with Seagulls in my first year coaching but was stood down as coach after a business disagreement just before the semis,” Ingram said.
"I didn't do anything wrong, nor did the club. We just didn't see eye to eye in the end and I wasn't allowed to continue to coach.
"It was disappointing but it is what it is.”
New Seagulls president Brendan Bowers said he was aware there were discussions between Ingram and the club's former committee but was not aware of the specifics.
At the time, Ingram suffered a serious ankle injury and indicated his intent to retire.
His stance has softened in the four months since then. He said he is undecided as to whether or not he will play again, but expressed his desire to develop players.
"I wanted to spend the next decade developing young players and helping guide them on the right path towards their NRL dreams, but that won't be happening at Seagulls,” he said.
Regardless of how it ended, Ingram, who was part of NRL systems like the Gold Coast Titans and Melbourne Storm, still counts 2017 as a successful season.
He said most judges, commentators and fans expected the Seagulls to flop, but the group of "natural footballers and born leaders” came together to win three pieces of silverware: the minor premiership, the George Baumann Shield and Dale Hopgood Shield.
"No one expected us to do as well as what we did and I'm so proud of all the players I had the opportunity to coach,” Ingram said.
"Our 18s and reserve grade coaches were only finalised a month before round 1. We lost our team manager, then head trainer, and our captain all before round 1 kicked off.
"I made the decision after a couple of rounds to drop training to only one day a week due to the lack of numbers.
"I was lucky enough to have a bunch of men though that where natural footballers and born leaders. There's a lot of good people in the club, and I would like to thank a few people. Andrew Staib, Matt & Nerelle Oshea, and Brendon Jackson. They helped out throughout the season.”
The Seagulls are yet to announce its coaches for the 2018 season, while Ingram is considering his involvement with another club.