Cronulla ready to roll dice


Cash-strapped Cronulla will risk a further $400,000 by contesting the provisional sanctions the NRL imposed upon them over the supplements scandal.

Today is D-day for the Sharks after they were given an extension to respond to a breach notice from the game's governing body.

The NRL's preliminary findings stated coach Shane Flanagan failed to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for players, failed to properly supervise the head of strength and conditioning, Trent Elkin, and failed to ensure that Elkin complied with his obligation to inform the club.

If the provisional findings are upheld the club will be fined $1 million, with $400,000 suspended if the club satisfied several conditions, including the completion of an independent review and more governance changes.

By fighting the sanction, the Sharks risk being slugged the full amount.

After learning of the NRL's provisional findings on December 17, Cronulla officials stated it was "our intention to vigorously defend the charges".

The NRL allowed the affected parties until January 29 to respond.

"We're making sure it's a professional, appropriate and detailed response," said Cronulla CEO Steve Noyce yesterday.

"We were always going to respond to the breach notice, which is the process available to each of the [parties] who have received a breach notice.

"We've been working through that process with the appropriate assistance and obviously I'm aware of the deadline of tomorrow [today].

"We will make sure we respond and we appreciate the support of the NRL by pushing that deadline out [from January 15]."

Asked if the club would be contesting the sanction, Noyce said: "I don't think it's appropriate, we'll respect the process and the NRL have provided additional time. It's professional and appropriate we respond to the NRL without making any comment about what may be in our submission."

The Sharks already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal costs and, as the only club yet to snare a major sponsor, can ill afford another financial hit.

Flanagan employed high-profile silk Stuart Littlemore and will fight his suspension.

If unsuccessful, his nine-month ban will stretch to 12 months.

Assistant Peter Sharp will fill the breach in Flanagan's absence. Elkin, now with Parramatta, faces at least two years out of the game unless he successfully contests the matter.

After weighing up the submissions from the affected parties, the NRL will decide whether to alter their provisional sanctions.

Should the penalised players still feel aggrieved, they have the right to take their case to an NRL appeals committee.

Despite the cloud of the ASADA investigation hanging over the club, the Sharks performed admirably on the field. Noyce said that, despite the latest disruptions, Cronulla aimed to perform even better this season.

"At the end of last year we saw what was in many ways a challenging year for the club," Noyce said.

"The club, through the efforts of the playing group and the staff involved, gave a great account of itself through the final series.

"That lays the platform for wanting to take success to another level. That's where we need to do our talking, on the footy field and get wins.

"That's what professional sport is about. Away from that, people such as myself and others are responsible for managing all of the various off-field matters that come up."

Training at Shark Park.

Training at Shark Park.


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