Cronulla Sharks to face breach notice for Shane Flanagan post-game referee comments

Tough calls: Sharks back-rower Luke Lewis remonstrates with referee Ashley Klein during extra-time of Cronulla's loss to the Cowboys. Picture: Chris Lane
Tough calls: Sharks back-rower Luke Lewis remonstrates with referee Ashley Klein during extra-time of Cronulla's loss to the Cowboys. Picture: Chris Lane

UPDATE | 

Cronulla have been hit with a $30,000 for coach Shane Flanagan’s criticism of match officials in his post-match press conference after the Sharks had their premiership defence ended in controversial fashion on Sunday.

Manly were also fined $20,000 for coach Trent Barrett’s comments after his side’s elimination final was similarly marred by controversial decisions.

Cronulla’s fine was larger due to a "Cool Down" video filmed for club members in which Flanagan went on the attack further. The Sharks also claimed in an article on their website that finals crowds were beneath expectations because of blunders made by whistleblowers. 

A statement from the NRL quoted its head of football Brian Canavan as saying the penalties took into account the seriousness of the breaches, the fact that the comments went beyond acceptable parameters and that they damaged the game during the finals series.

“In relation to the Sharks, there were separate breaches in the media conference following the game, in a separate interview with the coach which was sent to members and in an article published on the club’s website,” he said.

“That is why the proposed penalty is higher than we have generally issued in the past.”

The Sharks and the Sea Eagles have five business days to respond to the breach notice.

Cronulla said in a statement on their website they would review and take advice on the contents of the breach notice before making a decision on their next course of action.

“Our Club will be making no further comment on the matter at this stage,” it said.

ORIGINAL STORY |

Cronulla could be hit with a fine of up to $20,000 for coach Shane Flanagan’s criticism of match officials in his post-match press conference after the Sharks had their premiership defence ended in controversial fashion on Sunday.

The Sharks fell 15-14 to North Queensland in extra-time at Allianz Stadium in their elimination final which saw the Cowboys advance to a sudden-death semi-final against Parramatta.

Flanagan was left aggrieved with a number of contentious decisions made by referees Ashley Klein and Gavin Badger, calling the refereeing “disgraceful.” Flanagan produced a list of incidents that he believed directly impacted the result of the game.

Manly will also receive a breach notice for their coach Trent Barrett’s emotional comments after the Sea Eagles’ elimination final against Penrith was similarly marred by controversial decisions. But Fairfax Media expects Cronulla’s fine will be larger due to a "Cool Down" video filmed for club members in which Flanagan went on the attack further. The Sharks also claimed in an article on their website that finals crowds were beneath expectations because of blunders made by whistleblowers. 

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg on Monday took aim at what he called a culture of blaming match officials for losses, saying the "game had to grow up" and that the Sharks and Sea Eagles would be receiving breach notices.

"​Unfortunately we've developed a culture in our game of blaming match officials for a loss," Greenberg said. 

"It sets a terrible example to fans and a terrible example to grassroots and it's got to stop. It's time for the game to grow up. I'm not saying referees are perfect. They never have been and they never will be. I'm not saying our referees got every call right [in the first weekend of the finals], but I've reviewed the games and the vast majority of the calls were spot on.

We expect a lot more from people in influential positions.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg

"The disputes we're talking about are on some really tight calls – 50-50 calls. There will be debate and there will controversy no matter which way they go. We expect a lot more from people in influential positions. Our coaches have a responsibility to the game as well as their clubs and their actions and comments must reflect that always. Emotion, passion and the heartbreak of your season ending is not an excuse."

"To suggest a team won't be playing finals football this weekend only due to refereeing errors is ridiculous and it needs to be called out."