Coach becomes casualty in Cronulla crisis
Christmas is set to be a cruel one for the Sharks, with the NRL to suspend its coach Shane Flanagan for up to 12 months, and former head of strength and conditioning Trent Elkin to have his registration cancelled.
The financially embattled club will also be fined $1million for failing to safeguard the health of its players during its controversial supplements program in 2011, headed by sports scientist Stephen Dank.
While a separate ASADA investigation continues, the NRL's Integrity Unit yesterday announced a number of breaches by the club.
They include exposing the players to potential health risks and failure to obtain the fully informed consent of the players to the administration of supplements believed to be banned peptides CJC-1295 and GHRP-6.
Flanagan, who was found to have failed to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, could have his sentence reduced to nine months if he completes further education and training on drug awareness.
Assistant coach Peter Sharp is an early tip to replace Flanagan in 2014.
Breaches against Elkin included injecting players without adequate qualifications, and misrepresenting facts to those players regarding the supplement program.
Elkin, who is now employed by Parramatta, can appeal his sentence but it appears unlikely he will resume any role in the NRL within the next two years.
"We will not accept practices that put our players at risk," NRL chief executive David Smith (pictured) said. "Clubs are obligated to ensure proper processes are in place to protect our players and we will hold clubs and individuals to account if there is a failure to do so. The NRL has also taken significant steps to ensure risk is minimised in the future.
"We have established an Integrity Unit, implemented new and sophisticated drug-testing procedures, and introduced new supplement and medical procedures including mechanisms that elevate the role of doctors."
Smith did not want to make comparisons with the AFL's penalties against Essendon, which was fined $2million and suspended senior coach James Hird for a year after the club was found to have breached player safety regulations.
"My absolute commitment has been to this code, and making sure we follow a true process that's fair, that allows all the information to be gathered and doesn't over-react in any way shape or form," Smith said.