Sharks recruit Prior casts aside ASADA probe

RUGBY LEAGUE

Amid the gloom surrounding Cronulla and the continuing  ASADA investigation, former Dragons forward Matt Prior only sees the light provided by his NRL lifeline.

Unwanted by St George Illawarra, Prior stared down the prospect of a premature end to his NRL career by moving from Thirroul to the Shire.

Now he’s determined to make the most of his second chance on Saturday against the club that cut him loose.

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The durable 26-year-old notched 120 games for the Dragons in a five-year career, including the 2010 premiership under Wayne Bennett, and admits he hoped the red and white jersey would be the only won he’d ever wear in his NRL career.

It appeared that may be case after being quietly shown the door by Steve Price at the end of a disappointing 2013 season, with precious little time to find a new club for 2014.

Enter now deposed Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan who, amid the off-field turmoil engulfing the Sharks, saw enough in Prior to offer him a two-year contract and a second shot  in the NRL.

Prior said Saturday’s match will inevitably stir high emotion in one of the NRL’s fiercest local derbies.

‘‘I never wanted to leave [the Dragons] but it’s just one of those things that happened,’’ Prior said.

‘‘When you do leave, you’re going to have to come up against them at some stage but it’s definitely going to be a big one with Cronulla and the Dragons being such big rivals.

‘‘I can already tell how much it means to the Cronulla boys.

‘‘They’ve been talking about it all week, how big the game is,  how big the crowd is and how much they enjoy playing in it, so it’s definitely a big occasion for us.’’

Still living at Thirroul, Prior said he had  given his former teammates the cold shoulder for one week at least.

‘‘I’m approaching it like any other game but obviously it’s going to be a big one for me coming up against the old club and a few of my good mates,’’ he said.

‘‘I usually talk to the boys throughout the week but I haven’t spoke to anyone this week and it’s going to be all business once we get out on the field.’’

Prior said the long-winded ASADA investigation that  cost the Sharks coach Flanagan for the 2014 season had no bearing on his decision to join the club.

‘‘I just thought whatever happens [with ASADA] happens,’’ he said.

‘‘I had a couple of options with a few clubs in the NRL but Cronulla was just the best fit for my footy and going forward in my career.’’

Though it was Flanagan who brought Prior to the club, the 26-year-old is yet to be coached by him in the top grade after his suspension handed down by the NRL following an investigation into the club’s 2011 supplements program. 

Now under the tutelage of Peter Sharp, Prior said the playing group is more concerned with arresting an 0-2 start to the season than the off-field turmoil engulfing the club.

‘‘You read about it but we don’t talk about it a lot,’’  he said.

‘‘We just try and get along with business and training and keep it as positive as we can.’’

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