Shane Flanagan could be back in charge of Cronulla for the NRL finals in September after deciding against appealing against his one-year suspension.
Flanagan was handed a breach notice by the code’s chief Dave Smith last December with the Sharks fined $1 million dollars and former strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin’s registration cancelled for two years.
The NRL have confirmed Cronulla have also accepted the fine, $400,000 of which is suspended subject to the club satisfying governance changes and compliance with the code’s rules.
All of the penalties related to the club’s supplements program during the 2011 season when the squad was allegedly exposed to an 11-week regimen of injections, creams and tablets.
That regimen was being investigated by ASADA, who have completed their inquiry with a verdict still pending.
Smith said in December when initially handing down the sanctions the club, Flanagan and Elkin had failed the players in regards to safeguarding their health and welfare, adding that they were exposed to significant potential risk.
The three parties’ separate submissions to the NRL claiming their innocence were rejected by Smith and chief operating officer Jim Doyle last Wednesday, and Flanagan had said he’d take his fight against the ban to the Supreme Court if he had to.
However, just over a week later he’s accepted the punishment and ready to follow the steps outlined by the NRL that could see his ban reduced to nine months.
Flanagan was found by the NRL to have no input into the supplement program introduced to the club by sports scientist Stephen Dank and he said he was relieved to have been exonerated, but still upset by the decision.
“To me, that’s the important exoneration,” he said in a statement issued by his legal team via the club.
“The adverse findings concerning me were only about the club’s governance in 2011 when, as Mr Smith also accepted, the Sharks were under-resourced and without a chief executive.
“I am bitterly disappointed that submissions made in response to the interim suspension were not accepted.
“The only thing I want everyone to understand out of all this is that I am no drug cheat.”
Flanagan is still being paid by the Sharks and could potentially return this season if he meets criteria laid down by the NRL.
For this to happen the 48-year-old must properly observe his suspension and complete an intensive education and training course that focuses on his responsibilities as a coach.
He must also have no involvement with the team, coaches, players and sponsors of the club.
The former NSW assistant coach will then need to demonstrate to the NRL he understands his duties and obligations under the code’s rules.
Flanagan said he would do everything in his power to return this year.
“I will happily engage with the NRL on its continuing education requirements,” he said.
“Getting back to coaching at the Sharks as soon as possible is my sole priority.”
Smith welcomed the responses from both parties and was happy the matter had been resolved.
“It has always been our aim to deal with these matters in a transparent and fair way,” Smith said.
“We’ve done that and now it is time to move on.
“It’s now up to the club and Mr Flanagan to take the appropriate steps to satisfy the conditions we have put in place to ensure there is no repeat of this breach.”
Elkin has been granted an extension of time until Monday to determine if he will seek to appeal the decision to cancel his registration.
Peter Sharp will continue to coach the Sharks this season.