Sharks players hold a meeting to discuss the latest crisis.
Sharks players hold a meeting to discuss the latest crisis.

The meeting that could define Sharks’ season

It's the snap player meeting that could define the Sharks' 2019 season.

On the second floor of the old North Cronulla Surf Club at 11.30am on Wednesday, millions of dollars worth of Cronulla playing talent gathered amid the firestorm surrounding their head coach, Shane Flanagan.

There's still 92 days before the NRL season kick-off - yet every available squad member of Cronulla were asked to gather - both old and new.

Andrew Fifita, Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan, Matt Prior and Josh Morris were among the playing group.

Even the coach's son, Kyle Flanagan, was there.

 

Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita leave North Cronulla Surf Club. (Brett Costello)
Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita leave North Cronulla Surf Club. (Brett Costello)

 

One of the few remaining constants of the crisis-engulfed Sharks, the finals-consistent football department, came together and listened as co-captains Paul Gallen and Wade Graham asked their teammates to form a pact.

"Stick together, work hard and this won't break us.''

Despite the maelstrom of media, which - not for the first time this year - circled them, the room remained calm and quiet throughout.

Specifically, Graham spoke to the younger players about turning up to work today with the same relentless attitude they had shown over the first month of pre-season training.

He told them to continue to chase their first grade debuts by leaving nothing behind in their preparations.

 

Shane Flanagan‘s son Kyle  was also present. (Brett Costello)
Shane Flanagan‘s son Kyle was also present. (Brett Costello)

 

Graham spoke of refusing to let the team's hard work, and the strength of their top-four roster, go to waste.

Gallen, the elder statesman of the group, has been through turmoil before.

So he spoke with experience.

He talked about focusing on the controllables; training, attention to detail and letting the front office deal with the NRL salary cap investigation, while "we focus on ourselves.''

He also spoke about the senior group and staff's emotional connection to Flanagan and a desire to continue to support their coach.

 

Flanagan is facing down another NRL investigation. (Jeremy Piper)
Flanagan is facing down another NRL investigation. (Jeremy Piper)

 

The players and football staff, who were inside the closed doors of the 68-year-old surf club, were hoping for answers when CEO Barry Russell arrived to also address the players.

Some wanted to know if an outcome would be, as expected, reached on Tuesday, following an ARL Commission meeting.

Some staff wondered the worth of self-reporting to the NRL Integrity Unit, given the damage and personal toll.

Some players wanted to know why the media knew more about the investigation than the club.

But effectively Russell could only state what he would later repeat at a press conference held at Sharks Leagues Club on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Cronulla CEO Barry Russell is trying to keep the club clean. (Brett Costello)
Cronulla CEO Barry Russell is trying to keep the club clean. (Brett Costello)

 

"I wanted to meet with the players and the staff to relay a simple message,'' Russell told The Daily Telegraph.

"One, that Shane Flanagan is our coach and has a contract for 2019.

"And how, it's important for us to stay focused on our preparation as a team.

"I told the players everything I know, which isn't a lot given the limited information we have been provided.

"But that is, we've been working with the NRL for over six months on a 2014 salary cap matter and another issue (related to Flanagan).

"And after talking to the NRL, that matter will looked to be finalised before the end of the year and the salary cap component resolved in the new year.

"Until then, it will be training and business as usual for us - and hopefully we all get some answers, sooner rather than later.''

A scheduled recovery session for the players enabled Flanagan to spend the majority of yesterday in meeting's with his agent Wayne Beavis before he's expected to return to oversee training Thursday morning.

 

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