Cronulla stand down coach and launch private investigation.
The embattled Cronulla Sharks have stood down coach Shane Flanagan, appointed a new chief executive and instituted an investigation into the club’s activities in the wake of a damaging doping probe.
The moves come amid an investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into reportedly 14 of Cronulla’s players for using banned drugs two seasons ago.
The club is in upheaval just days before Sunday’s opening game of the 2013 season against the Gold Coast Titans.
The Sharks Board said among management changes was the appointment of former Brisbane Broncos administrator Bruno Cullen as interim CEO filling an existing club vacancy.
The Board also stood down Flanagan pending the outcome of a full management review, while the services of football manager Darren Mooney and head trainer Mark Noakes were terminated.
The club said it had also engaged former Justice of the Industrial Court and former Deputy Chair of the (then) Australian Sports Drug Agency Tricia Kavanagh to lead an investigation and legal review of the club’s activities during 2011 that is the subject of a current ASADA probe.
“The advice to the Board arising from Dr Kavanagh’s preliminary enquiries indicated there were management failures within the club’s football operations and other issues,” a club statement said.
“Today we are dealing with the identified management failures.”
The Board said in the absence of ASADA action against any of its players, no player would be stood down or otherwise adversely treated by the Club and each player was entitled to “an unfettered presumption of innocence”.
The Board has also assigned a business advisory firm to conduct a full management review of the club.
“It is with great regret that the Board has taken this course of action, but it does so given the serious nature of the management failures identified,” the statement said.
“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.”
NRL CEO Dave Smith gave his support to the Cronulla Sharks Board as it implements wide-ranging management changes for what he said was to provide certainty for players and fans in the new season.
ASADA’s swoop on the Sharks comes after six NRL clubs were last month identified in a nationwide sports doping scandal revealed in a sweeping Australian Crime Commission investigation.