Will Cronulla Sharks take ASADA bait?

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen is worried pleading guilty to ASADA charges would see him labelled a drug cheat. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen is worried pleading guilty to ASADA charges would see him labelled a drug cheat. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY LEAGUE

So, the blackest day in sport came down to this?

The Sharks players from 2011 had a window of not even 48 hours to make a decision over whether to take a lesser penalty, or keep fighting to clear their names and let the whole ASADA investigation keep dragging on.

It's a difficult decision, one with which the players should not have been left with.

On Friday morning, the players will have notified ASADA whether they will take a ban that could add up to just three games and do the rest of their time over the preseason.

All of this has been hanging over them and their families for months and now they are expected to make one of the hardest decisions of their careers - and their lives - effectively overnight.

Whichever call the players make, there is a downside.

Take it and their reputations are harmed; don't take it and they risk a bigger penalty.

Put yourself in Paul Gallen's shoes for a moment.

"It's [our reputation] tarnished now already, but no matter what, if we do this, we're going to be labelled a drug cheat," he told Sky Sports Radio.

"Our mind and our mood changes every 10 minutes. At one stage, we're [thinking] 'Thank god, this is going to be over, hopefully. Whatever happens is going to happen and we can just get on with life'.

"Because closure on this thing would just be unbelievable [after] what we've gone through the past two seasons.

"But then you say 'Let's stuff this - we've done nothing wrong'.

"It's a real hard situation to be in."

If there is an upside to this mess, it is that the deals offered might start to bring this all to a close. It has dragged on way too long and is not fair on anyone.

It's crunch time

THIS season will be the making of this young Tigers team. The heat has been on them for the past few weeks, but what they have had to deal with recently will only benefit them in the future.

The club has so many great young kids and whatever happens for the rest of this season, it will be character-building to handle playing in the NRL next year and beyond.

It's a really crucial time for every club in the NRL, even those out of the finals equation.

Look at the Sharks.

They have had another really difficult week before a game against Canberra that will decide the wooden spoon.

Both teams have struggled with form and injury, but you think Sunday's game at Remondis Stadium won't mean a lot to them? A couple of wins at this time of year can make all the difference when you turn up to preseason in November; it can help rebuild belief.

The Sharks are awaiting the return of Shane Flanagan as coach, while Ricky Stuart is in the early stages of trying to turn the Raiders around.

At the other end of the ladder, there are a couple of really important games as well.

The Warriors need to show they are premiership material in Sunday's game against the Roosters. It is easy to be impressed by the Warriors when they click and throw the footy around.

But it has to be more than that to win a premiership; they have to be consistently impressive and prove they have what it takes against the reigning premiers.

The Panthers have really surprised me, but compare them with the Rabbitohs of the past couple of years.

When the heat is on, the Bunnies have struggled in big finals, but showed they might finally be ready to win a title by beating the likes of Manly.

The real tests are still ahead for the Panthers, but defeating the Storm on Monday might yet convert a few more into believers.

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