Sharks coach must toe the line upon return
Suspended Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan must agree to be more accountable to the club's board before returning to the job, under a new structure aimed at ensuring the Sharks never again expose their players to performance-enhancing drugs.
Flanagan is eligible to apply to the NRL for approval to resume his role as head coach on September 17, having served a nine-month ban for failing to protect the welfare of players during an 11-week period at the start of the 2011 season which resulted in 12 members of the squad being suspended last Friday for unknowingly taking prohibited substances.
Sharks officials and players at Sunday's match against Canberra expressed support for Flanagan but Cronulla chairman Damian Keogh said the coach would not have the same free reign he previously enjoyed when he returns to the job.
"That won't be the structure moving forward," Keogh said. "I was amazed when I came into the club how it was run. I do understand the resource issue but to compete in a professional sport we have got a lot of work to do. The first process in Shane coming back is him being re-registered by the NRL and a decision will be made on that in the next few months, so we will see how that pans out.
"We will sit down with him and work through his plans moving forward and, provided he is happy to go along with the way the club is going to be run and governed and the accountability of his performance, we don't feel he has done anything that he hasn't paid for and it is time to move on."
ASADA kept a close eye on Cronulla on Sunday with officials from the agency in the tunnel as players made their way onto the field.
After being fined A$1 million for breaching the NRL's code of conduct, the Sharks are able to have the penalty reduced by A$400,000 if they meet certain governance standards and Keogh said a review had been undertaken that would lead to an overhaul of the way the club is run.
"We have just finished a governance review with Ernst and Young, which we will put into place," he said. "We are going to do a major review of the whole organisation at the back end of the season, which I will head, and we will put together a strategic plan for the next five years for the club. And an important part of that will be really creating a professional structure, a well governed structure but also a club with very solid values and culture.
"One of the things we have got to learn from this whole incident is that everyone is accountable and if you want to be in professional sport, you have to do the right thing."
Cronulla chief executive Steve Noyce said the club was unsure if ASADA was considering action against Flanagan or any of his support staff but was focused on the future.
"What we have to do is learn from this and make sure it never ever happens again," Noyce said.
Asked if he was concerned about whether the four players still at Cronulla next season - Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Anthony Tupou and Nathan Gardner - held any resentment towards Flanagan and would struggle to work with him, Noyce said: "I haven't heard one player speak of that."
Stand-in Sharks captain Jeff Robson and second-rower Chris Heighington also insisted there were no problems between Flanagan and any of the current Sharks players.
"I came here for Flanno," Heighington said. "He's been a great coach and a great bloke for me and I'm sure he'll come back ready to rumble next year. He definitely retains my support. Hopefully we see him back soon."
Robson said: "He's definitely got my support. Flanno is a great coach and hopefully he's here next year."
The suspended players are not allowed to have any official involvement with their clubs and teammates said they had watched Sunday's match on television at home. Noyce has kept in contact to ensure they were coping with the fallout of their decision to accept the backdated 12-month ban and Canberra coach Ricky Stuart, who had charge of the Sharks for four seasons between 2007 and 2010, also offered his support to the club and to Gallen, in particular.
"I have [had contact[ with Gal right throughout this season but I've left him alone the last few days," Stuart said. "I've texted him. He knows my number and if he needs any assistance or support ... Gal is a mate, so he'll be on the phone if he needs it. I just hope he's handling it as best as he possibly can."
Sydney Morning Herald