The Roar
The Roar


NRL's Sharks sanctions nothing more than a slap on the wrist

NRL CEO Dave Smith and head of the NRL Integrity Unit Jim Doyle speak to the media during a press conference regarding sanctions for the Cronulla Sharks. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
17th December, 2013
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After hearing today’s NRL announcement on the Sharks, I suspect the Cronulla Sharks have been saved by the NRL’s billion-dollar television deal.

The League’s integrity unit investigated the club’s drug supplements scandal and recommended that the Sharks be fined $1 million (with $400,000 suspended) and that coach Shane Flanagan be stood down for 12 months (nine if he attends proper training).

In addition, the Sharks’ former strength and conditioning guru, Trent Elkin, would be deregistered for an indefinite period.

Dave Smith, the NRL chief executive, announced the provisional penalties at a media conference, climaxing a year of damaging headlines and rumours, many of which suggested the Sharks might be lucky to stay afloat.

Well, they look like being around for a few more years, ensuring the League maintains its maximum number of clubs to satisfy the rich agreement with Channel Nine and Fox Sports.

That may sound a little on the cynical side but the NRL has invested much of its future on the revenue coming from the TV networks and one club less would place the entire deal in jeopardy.

I figure the Sharks will struggle to find the $600,000 but the figure is not insurmountable – and Peter Sharp (or Brett Kimmorley) could slot into Flanagan’s job in the proverbial heartbeat.

Supremo Smith was full of strong words and gravity today but I feel the Sharks have got off lightly.

The NRL did not announce any penalties for Cronulla’s player roster, although the results of ASADA’s drawn-out investigation have yet to be made public.


Perhaps there are dark days ahead for the Sharks footballers, perhaps not.

No action is expected to be taken against the four Cronulla personnel who were stood down earlier this year after an internal investigation.

The quartet comprised trainer Mark Noakes, club doctor David Givney, football manager Darren Mooney and physiotherapist Konrad Schultz.

At its media conference, the NRL listed its preliminary findings against the Sharks for breaching the League’s code of conduct. It found that the Cronulla club in 2011:

• Exposed players to significant potential risks to health

• Exposed players to possible breaches of the code’s anti-doping rules

• Allowed persons without the necessary qualifications and training to administer supplements to players

• Failed to obtain the fully informed consent of players to the administration of particular supplements


• Failed to ensure proper supervision and controls were in place

• Failed to devise and implement systems to ensure compliance with appropriate standards to safeguard the health and welfare of its players

• Failed to take appropriate action when it became aware that unsafe practices had been employed in the administration of supplements to players.

In my book Roarers, those are pretty damning slurs on any professional sporting club and a mere fine (with a suspended portion) plus an official or two stood down is a slap on the wrist if ever I’ve seen one at this level.

I do not think the penalties announced fit such obvious crimes. I wonder if anything had gone wrong in this systematic scheme and someone had died, if the sanctions would be as kind.

“Naughty boys Cronulla, you’ve left us no choice,” the NRL might as well be saying.

“Shame on you, blah, blah and so forth.

“But please, dear chaps, be a part of our wonderful comp next year and beyond.


“We will forgive you – while helping you out of strife yet again – but we feel everyone deserves another chance. Put this whole sordid exercise down to mis-management and the best of luck in your endeavours in 2014.”