The National Rugby League has handed down its preliminary findings in relation to the Cronulla Sharks alleged use of performance enhancing drugs.
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flangan has been suspended for 12 months, former Sharks trainer Trent Elkin has had his accreditation revoked, and the Sharks club has been fined $1 million with $400,000 of that suspended.
This is a crushing blow to the Cronulla Sharks and there is more to come.
Now that the National Rugby League has established that the coach and training staff were involved in a regime of performance enhancing drug use the players involved will start to receive penalties of their own. Whether they knew what they were being given was illegal or not does not matter. If players had illegal substances administered to them they will be banned.
There are a number of points I want to make about this now that the NRL has taken some action.
The Previous Board Made The Right Decision
Earlier this year the previous Cronulla Sharks board held their own investigation. At the conclusion of this investigation the board chose to suspend coach Shane Flanagan. This move was met by almost universal outrage.
The investigation the previous Sharks board held has been discredited by fans and people in the media all year. This despite the fact that very few people have seen the report itself.
The move to suspend Flanagan eventually saw the previous Sharks board lose their positions at club elections. In stepped a new board who reinstated Flanagan.
What does that say about the Sharks now? This current board looked at all the facts in front of them and chose to ignore them. They made the easy decision. A decision that was based on fan sentiment and that would go over well in the media.
That is not leadership.
The previous Sharks board should be commended for their stance.
I Don’t See How Shane Flanagan Can Ever Coach In The NRL Again
To suspend a coach for 12 months because he allegedly put the health and well-being of players at risk by giving the green light for treatment that the medical staff were not informed of is a disgrace.
Any player with a brain in their head would not want to be coached by someone like that.
When you look through sporting history, very few coaches have ever been suspended over performance enhancing drug use. Shane Flanagan is a very good coach, but every single NRL club should run a mile from him. This announcement by the NRL should be the end of his career.
Players Will Start To Be Suspended And Things Will Change
Players will talk about sticking together and supporting the coach. Then the suspensions will start being handed down and everything will change.
Players who went out to get their own legal representation have been vilified in the past. Now we will see, those were the smart ones. In this case it is going to be every man for themselves.
I don’t expect there to be much difference between the bans players get. I think most will receive 6 months simply because the club treated them and they didn’t knowingly take a banned substance. Whether we see longer bans for other players, who knows!
The Real Problem The Club Faces Is Legal Action
Forget the fine and the bans, the real problem the Cronulla Sharks will be facing is legal action from players who will allege the clubs actions have effected their career earnings, their reputation and in some cases, their health.
The possible payout for damages like this would be enough to sink the Sharks for good.
Players SHOULD sue the club. It is a disgrace what happened. Players put their health and welfare in the hands of club officials that have done the wrong thing. Call it careless, call it reckless…it all ends the same way.
It is terrible that players who have done the right thing throughout their careers have been put in this situation by their own club. Those players should be compensated.
Reputations have already been destroyed. Careers have already been defined by this mess. We already know of players who were caught up in this scandal that no longer play the game.
Support For The Condemned
Players deserve sympathy. They were unknowingly dragged into this by club officials they should have been able to trust.
Officials that were involved in this scandal do not deserve any support at all.
You will see people coming out in the defense of Shane Flanagan and Trent Elkin. They doesn’t deserve it.
These are well paid people expected do to a job that complies not only with the rules of the game, but with general health and safety regulations.
Ricky Stuart Brought Trent Elkin To Parrammatta And Backed Him Completely
Trent Elkin has always been a key figure in all of this. When the ASADA investigation started to gain momentum it was clear that Elkin had been involved in some capacity.
By now Elkin was working at the Parramatta Eels. He had been brought to the club by Ricky Stuart. Instead of doing the right thing and standing Elkin down, Stuart backed him.
The Cronulla Sharks felt they had enough evidence in regards to Shane Flanagan’s involvement that they suspended him in early 2013. A decision that it turns out was wrongly overturned by the new board.
While that decision had big implications for the club, Elkin’s position at the Eels was not as vital. Yet, in the face of all the evidence, Elkin was allowed to work with the Parramatta Eels players for the entire 2013 season.
What a disgrace…
It really does put a final exclamation point on Ricky Stuart’s disastrous time at the club.
Can The Cronulla Sharks Survive?
A lot will depend on the players that get suspended and the legal action that will follow.
The Sharks are surviving on handouts by the NRL right now. The club was already struggling as it was. Forget the new development, if the Sharks aren’t around by the time that is earning money it won’t count for anything.
Legal action could see the club sued into oblivion. In that case what I would expect to see happen is the NRL revoke the Sharks licence and hand it to the West Coast Pirates over in Perth.
For most clubs, this would smash them. This would take them to the brink. For a club like the Sharks that has been closer to folding in recent years than many realise, I just can’t see them surviving this.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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