NRL head of football Todd Greenberg denies that Cronulla reaching the grand final would be difficult for the code if the Sharks are still under an anti-doping investigation.
The prospect of fifth-placed Cronulla playing in the October 6 season decider appeared more realistic after they dismantled the ladder-leading Sydney Roosters in a 32-22 win on Monday night, securing their spot in the finals.
The AFL was at pains to head off a similar scenario with Essendon, securing an interim report from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority on their ongoing investigation into that club’s controversial 2012 supplements program ahead of the finals series.
However the NRL has been steadfast from day one of ASADA’s probe into rugby league and Cronulla’s 2011 supplements program that it will take no action until the ASADA investigation is finished.
ASADA interviews with Cronulla players were only completed last week, leaving the likelihood the investigation will still be going during, and after, the NRL finals.
The possibility of the Sharks winning the first premiership in their 46-year history would seem a worry for the code should the club subsequently face sanctions, even though the period being investigated dates back to 2011.
Hypothetically, it could force them to consider taking 2014 competition points from the reigning premiers.
But Greenberg, who’s only been in his new role for less than month, insisted it’s a scenario that’s not being discussed in the corridors of power at Rugby League Central.
“I don’t think it would be (a difficult problem),” said Greenberg.
“(NRL CEO) Dave Smith has spoken about this already and I am going to say the same thing, (the ASADA probe) is a serious issue and we are taking it seriously.
“It’s my information the investigation is some way from being completed.
“It’s really important we don’t pre-judge it and we wait for the facts.
“When we have the facts, we’ll act upon them.
“I have no idea of that timeframe. We will be led by ASADA and what they tell us.”
Cronulla chief executive Steve Noyce said the club were basking in the satisfaction of the win over the Roosters less than a month after they were hammered 40-0 by Trent Robinson’s side.
And, despite all the turmoil surrounding the Sharks, the veteran administrator saw little sign of stress among the players and staff.
“I admire the leadership that (coach) Shane Flanagan has shown and I admire the resolve from the players and the Shire is right behind the team,” Noyce told AAP.
“I’ve been here four months now and I sense externally there’s more talk about (the investigation) than internally. The interviews have been ongoing and they are all finished now.
“I am sure the players sense that there’s support from head office, support from their managers and support from their families and certainly support from the NRL.
“It’s a feeling of everyone sticking together.”