Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and captain Paul Gallen.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and captain Paul Gallen. DEAN LEWINS

Sharks will never forget forgiven coach Flanagan

MY DEAR departed dad impressed on my three siblings and me that unless we forgave, we would never forget.

He was a religious man and told us that if God could absolve us of our sins, then surely we could forgive those who, in our eyes, had transgressed. In other words, never hold a grudge.

And so it should be today where the Cronulla Sharks are concerned.

They are rightly the NRL premiers for 2016. And while their players involved in the peptide scandal from 2012 may only have served a minuscule time on the sidelines compared to their AFL counterparts Essendon, they have still paid their dues.

The same goes for the coach. Whereas the players involved effectively served a meagre three-match ban, Shane Flanagan was booted out of the game for 12 months.

As he proved last night, Flanagan is no doubt an outstanding coach, mentor and man manager.

To win a premiership the coach must be many things, but a great tactician, motivator, communicator, talent spotter and a discerning and convincing recruiter are paramount qualities. In his six seasons with the Sharks Flanagan has demonstrated all those strengths.

And while this might be a naive assumption, he doesn't come across as someone who would deliberately and systemically rort the system, let alone put at risk the health of his players.

So when Flanagan says - as he did this past week in relation to the peptide saga - that the Sharks "were hoodwinked by a bloke who came in here for a couple of weeks and caused nearly irreparable damage”, his explanation is believable.

Shane Flanagan and those around him who may have transgressed in the past - innocently or otherwise - absolutely deserve the plaudits that have come their way since last night's win and will continue in the days, weeks and months to follow. They have, after all, broken the game's longest premiership drought.

And the Sharks board, often described in the past as a basket case, deserves a pat on the back for some foresight, which at the time was viewed in some quarters as arrogance, bordering on contempt.

Just four months into his year-long ban the Sharks re-signed their out-of-contract coach to a new three-year deal. It was a decision comparable to the Broncos giving Wayne Bennett a lifetime job following the uproar that resulted from his sacking of Wally Lewis as captain back in 1989, although the Sharks' decision was - under the circumstances - much more daring.

But obviously the audacity of that board decision - whether made with impertinence or with foresight - has proven to be masterful.

That year, without Flanagan, the Sharks finished last, sixth points adrift of 15th with just five wins. Last night, fielding nine players from that 2014 roster, the porch light once famously referenced by the legendary Jack Gibson, and which had burned for 50 years, was finally extinguished.

So Shane Flanagan, a coach without a club just three years ago, has achieved something giants of the game such as Ken Kearney, Johnny Raper, Ted Glossop, Norm Provan, Terry Fearnley, Arthur Beetson, Johnny Lang, Chris Anderson, Ricky Stuart and Jack Gibson could not.

And that, folks - in any way we view it - is simply a masterstroke.



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