Sharks worried for axed coach’s welfare
DEEPLY-concerned Cronulla chief executive Barry Russell has pledged to support Shane Flanagan as the shattered mentor weighs up whether to fight for his NRL coaching career.
Flanagan has until January 31 to appeal a notice of intention to deregister him from the game after being accused of communicating with the club while banned in 2014.
"This is an extremely traumatic thing to happen to a person," Russell said when asked about Flanagan's welfare.
"He is a person. He's got so much passion for this game and club, for his wife, for his children, and we need to rally around him as much as we can and support him."
The development comes months after the NRL integrity unit began investigations into the club following Russell's decision to self-report salary-cap irregularities stemming from three years ago.
But Russell insists he has no regrets for self-declaring potential cap breaches before he took the helm in February this year, which has now inadvertently resulted in Flanagan's apparent dismissal.
Sharks officials co-operated with NRL investigators by handing over computer servers, but Russell didn't realise the examination would dig prior to the 2015 season.
"I had to self-report. If you haven't got your integrity, you haven't got anything. And I would do the same thing again," Russell said. "If you've done the wrong thing, you have to suffer the consequences. No one is bigger than the game and no one is bigger than the club."
Flanagan is known to be confused about the guidelines of his 2014 suspension. Despite being instructed not to communicate with any Sharks players or officials in 2014, the NRL bizarrely allowed him to re-sign with the club during his suspension.
"He's allowed to communicate with the club about (his) future contract and that was part of the discussion that we had," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said, when asked about Flanagan's re-signing in 2014.
"But, ultimately, the decision on whether they contracted him, that was a decision for the club."
Having been allowed to secure his own future at the club beyond his suspension, Flanagan doesn't believe his responding to club officials' emails about player retention and recruiting from 2015 amounts to effectively coaching the Sharks in 2014, as he stands accused of.
Greenberg hailed Russell's honesty after the Sharks CEO unwittingly brought down his club's 2016 premiership-winning coach.
"Barry Russell deserves significant credit in this in a difficult environment," Greenberg said.
"Barry Russell loves his club and loves the game, so what he's tried to do is get to the truth - an uncomfortable truth for him and his club.
"But he's acted with integrity and with professionalism throughout, and he's a shining light of an example of what leadership looks like in a club inside the NRL."
Co-captain Paul Gallen said he was also concerned for his coach's wellbeing. "The most important thing for Flanno at the moment is him as a person and I think everyone needs to remember that," Gallen said. "There's a human element that goes along with this as well.
"Flanno's under a fair bit of pressure at the moment. Everyone needs to respect that a little bit and we'll move on. But, as personal friends of Flanno, we'll be there for him personally."