NRL club, the Cronulla Sharks, are in crisis just 48 hours out from their season opening encounter with the Gold Coast Titans, however insists the club will have a full team on Sunday night and full coaching and medical staff in attendance.
The embattled club, entrenched in the drugs in sport saga with ASADA investigating their practices in 2011, have made “significant management changes”, including its coach Shane Flanagan being stood down.
The Cronulla board also sacked football general manager Darren Mooney, head trainer Mark Noakes, physiotherapist Konrad Schulz and long-serving medico, team doctor Dave Givney, who is also the NSW State of Origin team’s medical officer.
The club issued a statement earlier last night stating the management shake-up was not because of the continuing drugs investigation centered at the club, rather “preliminary enquiries indicated there were management failures within the Club’s football operations and other issues.”
Former Broncos Chief Executive, Bruno Cullen has been appointed as the new interim CEO.
“Bruno has been one of the most successful chief executives in rugby league and we welcome him to the Sharks at this important juncture in the Club’s history.”
“The Board is having business advisory firm, Grant Thornton conduct a full management review of the club.”
“The Sharks Board has gratefully accepted assistance from the NRL through the provision of personnel and funding and is committed to making the club even stronger in the months ahead,” it said.
“The Club engaged former Justice of the Industrial Court and former Deputy Chair of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, Dr Tricia Kavanagh, to undertake an investigation and legal review of the Club’s activities during a period in 2011 that is the subject of a current ASADA investigation.
“We make these decisions in the interest of our club going forward, in the interest of the game itself and the welfare of our playing group, which is uppermost in our minds.”
“We understand that Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters will be shocked by this news, but the Board determined this was the most responsible and appropriate course of action to be taken at this time.
The club insists in the absence of ASADA action against any player, no player will be stood down or otherwise adversely treated by the Club.
“Each player is entitled to an unfettered presumption of innocence.”
“The consequence of any decision by players to provide substantial assistance to the ASADA investigation are a matter wholly between the players, their legal representatives and ASADA.”
“The club has made it clear that any player who does cooperate in this manner will receive financial support.”
“In respect to re-signing players for 2014, the Club has said to players that each case would be judged on its merits – with such consideration not including a player’s dealings with ASADA.”
“We thank our loyal supporter base for the support they have provided in recent days and commit to providing further information as appropriate.”
Meanwhile, the NRL has reassured fans that the club will take the field on Sunday and that the NRL will support the club and its Board throughout the current ASADA investigation.
“With the season kick-off just hours away we accept that the ongoing speculation around the ASADA investigation is causing incredible uncertainty for many in the game, particularly right now for Cronulla and its fans,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr Dave Smith, said today.
“As I have said from day one, the NRL is taking the ASADA investigation very seriously.
“It is an investigation that must be allowed to run its course and it is inappropriate for us to enter into speculation about what may be taking place.
“Let me make it very clear, however, the absolute majority of our players – the absolute majority – are doing the right thing. They are great ambassadors for the game, on and off the field as we will see at Allianz Stadium this evening.
“The Telstra Premiership is the closest and most exciting competition in sport and there is every reason for fans to look forward to a great year of Rugby League.”