Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is back at the helm of the besieged NRL club, but not before admitting he was part of management failures which resulted in the board sacking four football staff members.
Two weeks ago, Flanagan was stood down and four of his colleagues axed by the club’s board following a review of their handling of alleged issues in 2011 that are now the subject of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s investigation.
On Friday, an emotional Flanagan was reinstated by the board based on information provided by a second independent review.
Flanagan will return to the coach’s box for Sunday’s clash with the Warriors at Sharks Stadium, with Peter Sharp reverting to being his assistant.
However, new chairman Glenn Coleman made it clear the sacked quartet of football manager Darren Mooney, physio Konrad Schultz, trainer Mark Noakes and doctor Dave Givney, who has indicated he may take legal action, won’t be getting their jobs back.
When stood down on March 8 with the board citing management failures, Flanagan, like the sacked staff, said he had no idea what he’d done wrong.
But on Friday, Flanagan admitted some fault and said he understood why the board had taken such strong action.
“It has been a tough few weeks for all of us, but I now understand why I was stood down and why the board made the decisions it has,” Flanagan said.
“There were management failures.
“We have agreed that there have to be changes in the way we work and the way we look after players.”
Asked if he had been told by the Sharks to toe the party line in his comments on the board’s action, Flanagan said: “Definitely not.”
He said he bore no ill-will towards the board for their decision and said he was “grateful” to be back.
Coleman said the club was standing firm on their decision to part ways with the other four staff members.
“We’ve made a decision as a board and we’ll be sticking with those decisions and we look forward to working with Shane going forward,” Coleman said.
Flanagan remained supportive of his former colleagues, but said it wasn’t up to him to reappoint them.
“I’m disappointed for those people. They’re friends of mine but the club has made that decision with the information they had and I’ve got to move ahead and coach this team,” he said.
Flanagan denied an approach by St George Illawarra for his services and said he would now see out the final two years of his deal regardless of the outcomes of the ASADA investigation.
The 47-year-old said he must re-focus his team, despite the fact up to 14 of his players might be implicated in the drugs drama – with ASADA in the process of requesting one-on-one interviews with players.
The coach remains confident no one in his squad has knowingly committed a doping offence.
Sharp, who guided the Sharks to a 1-1 record as interim coach, said Flanagan’s return would provide a significant boost to the team.
“It’ll be pretty big. The bounce-back factor will be pretty major,” Sharp said.