Shane Flanagan must be looking forward to the start of the NRL season more than even the most avid fan.
The Cronulla Sharks coach will be keen for the fresh start following his return from suspension for his part in the 2011 drug saga, for which he still considers himself hard done by. He has, however, collected many critics from the whole affair.
The pressure Flanagan feels was best highlighted when, in his first media duties following the lifting of his suspension, he stormed out in disgust at the very mention of ASADA, saying he didn’t want to talk about the past, and only look to the future. It didn’t help his cause with many quick to criticise Flanagan, saying he could have dealt with the matter there and then.
Many fans called for a change of leader to move on from the failures in governance that took place in 2011, a cleanout that had already happened at a board and club level. The Sharks however stood by their coach, who the players admired, and others came to the club to play under.
For his part, Flanagan must think that the time to deal with the matter is now, and not so much with words, but results. And he would have breathed a sigh of relief following the side’s performance at the pre season Nines competition, the Sharks finishing runners up, going down in the final in an extra time golden try scenario.
Following the team’s performance, their coach heaped praise on the side, and said the biggest positive was the jostling for position in the backline that will be seen this season. This has been an area of weakness in recent times at the Shire club.
The sun seems to be about to rise on a new era for the Sharks. Following two seasons that were demolished by rumours about ASADA and a dreadful injury toll in 2014, the clubs looks to be standing on solid ground. The recruitment of Michael Ennis adds another strong leader in the club, and the likes of Ben Barba, Gerard Beale and Jack Bird can add the spark. The team has unearthed good young talent in Sosaia Feki, Valentine Holmes, Jacob Gagan and Ricky Leutele. Any talk that the hangover from the whole affair would mean players would steer clear of the club seems to have been laid to rest.
And it isn’t just the on field changes that have them feeling positive about the future, the club’s finances look firm, as the work is well underway on their property development that is set to make the club one of the more wealthy in the competition.
For Shane Flanagan however, silencing the critics will all come down to results. For the past to be put to bed, the team will need to fire, a feat coach Flanagan must be feeling extremely positive about.