Leader also calls for the NRL to “stand up” over ongoing allegations.
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan admitted the ongoing doping scandal enveloping the club is taking its toll mentally on many of the players.
The Shire-based club has become the focal point of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) probe into performance enhancing drugs in all football codes in the country.
With as many 14 players under suspicion and currently being interviewed about their knowledge of any doping schemes, Flanagan said emotional wear is starting to affect the players’ performances.
“Gal (Paul Gallen) is better (than he was) but is mentally drained. A lot of the players look to him but he can’t help them anymore. He is a wreck,” Flanagan admitted.
“There are some of the younger players who are breadwinners for their families. They are under enormous pressure. I do have concerns about their health.”
Despite the bombshell being dropped on the Sharks’ doorstep before the first round, the team used the extra attention on the field as they began with solid wins against North Queensland and New Zealand.
Since then they have dropped their last two games in tight contests against St George Illawarra and Parramatta with the talent-laden side not living up to its potential.
Their task does not get any easier this weekend when the Sharks face the high-flying Manly side who have comprehensively beaten the Wests Tigers and Canterbury in the last fortnight.
Flanagan said the club is considering bringing in a sports psychologist in order to help some of the younger players prepare for the game.
However, the Sharks coach hinted maybe the NRL could be doing more to support his players until they are proven guilty of offences they are being accused of.
“To me, if we had real strong leadership, I am not saying we haven’t, but I don’t see (Dave Smith) standing up or the commission standing up,” Flanagan said.
“We are damaging our game. We are damaging our club. Maybe if it was the AFL they would come out and say we are not putting up with this.
“This ASADA are a law unto themselves, but is it the Australian way that we threaten lives and careers and a sport with all these accusations with no real facts or evidence?
“As I said, if they have got some evidence, put it out on the table and let the boys answer it and we will go from there.
“But at the moment they have got nothing or they are not telling us what they have got.
“They are just trying to shake the tree and see what falls out.
“I don’t know if that is the correct way to do things.”
Flanagan backed his side to fight through the drama, but they will not have an easy run over the next five weeks as they face Manly, Canterbury, Newcastle, Wests Tigers and Canberra.