Cronulla Sharks chairman Damian Irvine has quit the embattled NRL club.
Irvine had been under intense pressure after the board’s controversial standing down of coach Shane Flanagan and the sacking of key staff members including Darren Mooney, Mark Noakes, David Givney and Konrad Schultz.
Former Sharks player Glenn Coleman will be the new chairman.Irvine said he felt his "presence at the club may prove to be an obstacle" to the investigation into drugs at the Sharks.
"As a result I’m standing down as the chairman of the board of directors today. The club needs some time to investigate and plan the way forward without added distraction.
‘‘The pressure on our organisation . . . has been extreme and has taken an enormous personal toll on many people. (But) From our very first advice that our club was mentioned in the report, we have and will continue to act in the best interests of our playing staff.
‘‘The full support and resources have been made and provided to the playing group.’’
Irvine, who said he would again run for the board at the upcoming election, maintained that ‘‘self-preservation and protection were the furthest things from the minds of all directors, when making those extremely tough calls last week’’.
‘‘I represent the club and the board as chairman, and any criticism should be directed at me and held on my shoulders,’’ he said.
‘‘I do believe and I did believe, and I’ll always believe, that we made the right decisions for the right reasons. If there's any anger to be directed, direct it at me."
Irvine was also confident the club would survive the scandal."We have a bright future financially at the Cronulla Sharks,’’ he said. ‘‘Our membership is booming compared to previous years and we’re not going anywhere."There’s no stronger or tougher club to get through it."
The NRL have been very supportive. They’re in a difficult position as well. The players are under the ASADA code, we are under the NRL code, it’s very complicated."
Irvine said he ‘‘would not like to think the board will be tarnished’’ by the latest saga.
Coleman said: "We need to focus 100 per cent on the interests of our players who are tangled up in this ASADA investigation. I am worried about our players.
"We’ve got a review in place at the moment which we want to get through as quickly as possible."
Former Brisbane Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen will start at the Sharks today.
"Bruno is a friend of mine," Irvine said. "I’ve known him for a while. He will come in and help at a time when . . . the board had to make a very difficult decision at a horrible time. It would have been very easy to put that off, or pretend that a decision didn’t need to be made. But when you’re made aware of things, that’s when you make decisions.’’
Cronulla kicked off their season with a 12-10 win over the Gold Coast Titans at Sharks Stadium on Sunday night. Players and fans were open in their support for Flanagan, Mooney, Noakes, Givney and Schultz.