Cronulla Sharks stand down coach amid scandal

Last updated 20:41 08/03/2013

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Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has been stood down in the wake of the scandal engulfing the NRL club.

Football manager Darren Mooney, head trainer Mark Noakes, physiotherapist Konrad Schultz and club doctor David Givney have been sacked.

They were summoned to a meeting with board member Peter Kerr and a solicitor on Friday afternoon and informed of the dramatic decision to stand the coach down and terminate the contracts of the other four staff members.

Givney has been with the club since 1987.

Flanagan said: "I've got to support the players here. I still believe that the players have not done anything wrong. I don't oversee anything. My involvement ... I've got no idea, bar being coach at the time.

"I've worked really hard to get this footy team together and I feel sorry for all the current players as well as the new players who have come to our club.

"Now they've just been ripped apart."

NRL chief executive Dave Smith today supported the Cronulla Sharks' board as it implements wide-ranging management changes in response to an Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation that found 14 players used banned substances.

Smith has also released details of a comprehensive support package designed to benefit the Cronulla Sharks club, players and supporters.

The NRL support package includes:

 The appointment of Bruno Cullen, a former chief executive of the Brisbane Broncos, as interim CEO pending the finalisation of terms with the Cronulla board early next week.

 A finance specialist to assist in managing the club's operations.

 The secondment of an NRL sponsorship and marketing manager to work with existing sponsors, corporate and charity partners.

 The secondment of an NRL welfare officer to provide welfare and education services to players and their families.

"The Board is acting decisively by putting in place management changes at the highest level," Smith said in a statement.

"Our focus is on supporting the club in a way that will give players, supporters and sponsors confidence in the future."

Smith also reiterated the Sharks would field a team against the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

"Earlier this week we asked ASADA to provide us with the names of any player it currently has sufficient evidence to request the NRL issue an infraction notice under our anti-doping code.

"The response we received back from ASADA was that its investigation continues and will for a number of weeks.

"ASADA indicated it is not currently in a position to request the NRL to issue any infraction notices. Without an infraction notice, the NRL will not stand down any player.

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"Like players and fans, we share the frustrations they are feeling as the ASADA investigation continues.

"We would like to see a resolution and have today urged ASADA to move as quickly as possible."

Flanagan, who took over from Ricky Stuart at the helm of the club late in the 2010 season, has racked up a record of 21 wins from 56 matches in the top grade.

The former NSW State of Origin assistant coach is extremely popular with the Cronulla players and his absence is a major disruption just two days before the club's first match of the season, against the Gold Coast Titans at Sharks Stadium.

Former Northern Eagles and Manly coach Peter Sharp takes over as the interim coach for Sunday's clash with the Titans.

Flanagan started his coaching career as Parramatta SG Ball coach in 1997 and after stints in the Roosters lower grades, he followed Stuart to the Sutherland Shire in 2007.

He took over late in the 2010 season when Stuart stood down.

Cronulla have been a club in crisis this week after ASADA officials told players they were facing minimum six-month suspensions due revelations they may have taken performance-enhancing drugs during the 2011 season.

The 2013 season was viewed as a new dawn for the club following the off-season acquisition of high-profile recruits Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon, Jonathan Wright, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington to boost an already impressive roster which already boasted the likes of NSW captain Paul Gallen, Todd Carney and Wade Graham.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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