Irvine next in line for exit

CRONULLA chairman Damian Irvine is expected to become the latest casualty of the doping and salary cap scandals that have engulfed the club and left sacked football manager Darren Mooney in hospital with stress.

Irvine, who returned from overseas business to attend Sunday night's match against Gold Coast at Shark Park, is understood to be considering his future after angering players, officials and fans by claiming players at the club in 2011 had been injected with substances meant for horses.

Mooney, head trainer Mark Noakes, doctor David Givney and physiotherapist Konrad Shelks were all sacked last Friday, while coach Shane Flanagan was stood down.

Irvine, who also confirmed in a Fairfax Media report that there were salary cap allegations against the club, had attempted to defend the board's decision to stand down Flanagan and sack the others.

Fairfax Media reported last week that one of two substances taken by Cronulla players in 2011 that was alleged to have been illegal was Thymosin Beta 4, which is used on horses.

Up to 22 members of the 2011 squad, including 14 current players, face bans ranging between six months and two years for doping violations. However, Flanagan and

the sacked members of the coaching staff have denied any knowledge of players being given vials labelled ''for equine use only''.

''Horse steroids or supplements that aren't for human use - I knew nothing about that,'' Noakes told Channel Seven. ''For someone to come out and say that, [or] allegedly say that, it just makes us look guilty of doing that, which I have no recollection. I've never seen anything like that; that even resembles that.''

Cronulla players are upset at the treatment of Flanagan and other members of the football department, including Mooney, who was taken to hospital on Sunday suffering from stress. With board elections due next month, Irvine is under pressure to hold his place on the board.

The Sharks are also under scrutiny from the NRL over allegations that players received under-the-table payments from a security company sponsor.

The allegations emerged after Cronulla recently severed ties with the company E Group Security, which was a sponsor and provided security to the club, and replaced it with another security firm.

It is understood Irvine is struggling with the fallout from the crisis and he is expected to announce on Monday that he will stand down from the role. Irvine was not keen to comment when approached by media at Sharkies Leagues Club before the match against Gold Coast.

''What I've got to say is that we've made strong decisions, we're happy with the decisions and there'll be more to come out later on in the week but at the moment there's nothing more to say,'' he said.

Noakes, whose sons were ballboys for Cronulla in the match, said he was devastated by the club's decision to sack him. ''I'm just totally dumbfounded. It's honestly crushed me,'' he said. ''If I had known there was any illegal substances being used in the club of course I would have come forward.''

While the rumour mill went into overdrive over the weekend with claims that Manly would face the same problems over doping allegations as Cronulla, Fairfax Media understands ASADA has not contacted the Sea Eagles since a meeting last month with the six clubs named in the Australian Crime Commission report.

■ Knights coach Wayne Bennett said he had not spoken to former Cronulla players Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith about the drugs scandal that has rocked the Sharks or the potential for any aftershocks in Newcastle.

A Belmont North and Knights junior, Snowden played for Cronulla from 2008 to 2011 then returned at the end of 2011 and played for the Knights last season. Smith spent 2011 and last year at Cronulla and arrived in Newcastle last November, having signed a three-year deal with the Knights.

''I haven't had to speak to them [Smith and Snowden]. We're just getting on with business here, and Cronulla have got to sort themselves out first,'' Bennett said on Sunday. ''I'm sure that's where ASADA is at the moment, and we'll see what happens after that.''

with Brett Keeble

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