Paul Gallen of the Sharks reats during the Round 20 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Thursday, July 26, 2018. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Paul Gallen of the Sharks reats during the Round 20 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Thursday, July 26, 2018. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Cronulla threatens legal fight with NRL

Cronulla has announced it will appeal the $800,000 fine handed down by the NRL on Wednesday.

Chief executive Barry Russell said the club will review the evidence compiled by the NRL integrity unit before responding to the breach notice surrounding its dealings with now-deregistered coach Shane Flanagan.

While the club is determined to reduce the impact of the NRL's financial punishment, they will not take any action on Flanagan's behalf.

Russell said it is up to Flanagan to decide if he will challenge the preliminary findings of an NRL integrity unit investigation - which saw the premiership winning coach issued a breach notice for breaching the terms of his 2014 suspension. The NRL claims it uncovered a series of emails which show Flanagan had regular contact with club officials throughout his suspension.

Russell's revelation that the Sharks will seek to have the size of the fine reduced came as the club also announced it will field co-coaches in 2019 following Flanagan's breach notice.

Cronulla have installed assistants John Morris and Jim Dymock as their caretaker NRL coaches after the provisional deregistration of Flanagan.

 

Big Gal.
Big Gal.

"I've got confidence in them for the time being," captain Paul Gallen said of the assistant coaches on Wednesday.

Gallen said the club has survived much worse scandals than the one the club now finds itself in.

"I've seen this before," Gallen said.

"It's not good. It's a distraction but at times like these you find out a lot about people. Who's with you, who's not.

"I've said it before about this club, it's the most resilient room in Australian sport. We've faced going broke half a dozen times, we've been through scandals, a lot of which have been our own fault, but we're still here fighting and we will continue to be.

 

Barry Russell Cronulla Sharks CEO.
Barry Russell Cronulla Sharks CEO.

"Even when we're struggling in years gone by we've still been a team that other team's don't want to play.

"No matter how many times we're kicked when we're down, we keep getting back up again."

Flanagan and the club have until the end of January to respond to a breach notice, which is when the NRL will make its final determination.

Until then Flanagan cannot have any official involvement with the club. To avoid punishment it appears the Sharks will have to successfully counter evidence found by the NRL integrity unit that more than 50 emails were sent by Flanagan concerning retention and recruitment.

His first correspondence was sent just weeks after his suspension and continued all the way to September 2014.

The club is believed to have initiated most of the discussions, resulting in the extra $400,000 fine.

No other Cronulla officials have been punished because then-CEO Steve Noyce and then-football manager Darren Mooney are no longer NRL officials.

The whole saga began when Russell self reported an improperly disclosed payment of around $50,000 made to a player in 2015.

Despite Cronulla throwing themselves open to an NRL investigation and ultimately being hit with the full force of the independent commission's powers, Russell said he does not regret coming forward.



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