Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan apologises for post-match referee outburst

Sorry: Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. Picture: John Veage
Sorry: Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. Picture: John Veage

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has issued a lengthy apology on the Sharks’ website for his outburst after Cronulla’s controversial finals exit to North Queensland.

It is understood Cronulla will attempt to have their $30,000 fine from the NRL reduced with the Sharks due to submit their response to the league on Tuesday.

Flanagan blamed match officials for Cronulla’s loss to the Cowboys in week one of the finals in an emotional post-match press conference.

"I owe you an apology. I owe the game an apology. I'm sorry for the way I reacted," Flanagan wrote to fans.

"My answers in that press conference were born (sic) out of honesty and the disappointment of a shattered dressing room.

"I took all that emotion into that press conference. I know that doesn't make it right though."

Flanagan admitted in the letter his side's performance had contributed to the loss to the Cowboys.

"In 2017, we were nowhere near the standard required to be challenging for this year's premiership," he wrote.

"In the end, that's what cruelled us against the Cowboys.

"Our discipline and errors - particularly in possession - wasn't good enough and in the biggest game of the season, we were found wanting."

Shane Flanagan’s full letter to Cronulla Sharks fans

It still hurts doesn't it?  

To each and every loyal Cronulla Sharks sponsor, member and supporter, trust me when I say, I know exactly how you're feeling.  

It's a combination of disappointment and frustration, isn't it?  

I know that feeling because I love this amazing Club as much as you do.  

And I suppose it's that feeling, of almost numbness isn't it - which I promise your Cronulla players are feeling too.  

Alongside my assistant coaches Steve Price and James Shepherd, I've conducted interviews with every player who pulled on a Sharks jersey in the NRL this season.  

Some things need to remain behind closed doors, but there's still some small part of me that I only wish you could've witnessed the honesty, self-appraisal and confronting nature of that process.

As coaches, we would've been majorly concerned if in each and every single one of those interviews we didn't detect mass regret and disappointment from your players.  

Which in part, is why it's taken me just over a week since our golden-point loss to North Queensland, to reach out to you.  

To a man, and that means every single player on our roster, our committed coaching staff, administration, board and most definitely you, are far from satisfied with the way we under-achieved in 2017.  

Without hesitation, I can say with confidence the only goal we - your Sharks team - began 2017 with, was to win back-to-back premierships.  

Winning our Club’s second ever Premiership in 2018 is most certainly our goal.

Lifting the 2016 NRL premiership trophy delivered you and our Club its greatest memories.  

As a professional sporting organisation, I'll defy anyone who suggests our 2017 squad lacked the desire, to experience rugby league's greatest-high again.  

But desire is only one contributing factor towards success.  

And you know it as much as I do, discipline and attention to detail, is equally as important.  

And in 2017, we were nowhere near the standard required to be challenging for this year's premiership.  

In the end, that's what cruelled us against the Cowboys.  

Our discipline and errors - particularly in possession - wasn't good enough and in the biggest game of the season, we were found wanting.  

We all know what happened after the loss to the Cowboys. In the post-match press conference, I was asked about the performance of the match officials.  

As it stands, our Club has been hit with a $30,000 breach notice for my response.  

I owe you an apology. I owe the game an apology. I'm sorry for the way I reacted.  

I'm writing this note to you because I reckon if you support this great Club, you'd know the type of person I am.  

If I believe in something, I very rarely keep that belief secret.  

My answers in that press conference were born out of honesty and the disappointment of a shattered dressing room.

Again, if only I had a camera in our dressing room after that loss. I promise you that cold silence of defeat will drive us over Summer.  

And so I guess, I took all that emotion into that press conference. I know that doesn't make it right though, does it.

In 157 games as head coach of Cronulla, I've never been hit with a breach notice by the NRL for disrespecting our referees.  

Our Club prides itself on working extremely hard in all areas of rugby league, including grassroots and particularly with match officials.  

I would like to think one of the major reasons why our Club was named Club Champions this year, was because of the decision by our club several years ago to invest in grassroots.  

What I need to do is learn from my mistake to ensure it doesn't happen again.

That's intersting that line actually, "learn, so it doesn't happen again.''

That sentiment will be critical for our Club in 2018. We need to be smarter and more disciplined than ever before.  

We need to respond. That means me, my staff, our players, our board, our administration and hopefully you.  

I can't overstate how important you are to this Club.  

I still get goosebumps when I sit down in my coaches box, just before kick-off and I look down from the Andrew Ettingshausen grandstand, right to the Monty Porter, across to the Peter Burns and left to the Family Hill and see nothing but blue, black and white.  

We will all take plenty of fond memories from of our 50th anniversary year in 2017.  

I want make special mention of the incredible feat by Chris Heighington, Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen to achieve 300-games in 2017.  

Truly remarkable and an honour to witness.  

I want to also recognise Jayden Brailey and Jesse Raimien for achieving their lifelong dream to play NRL. I believe they both have incredible futures ahead in the black, white and blue.  

Remember, this was a year for our Club which began with proud naming of our 50-year anniversary team and an historic overseas match against Wigan in the World Club Challenge.  

It was a year that also included representative selection and reward for their country, state or City-Country for 11 of our current NRL squad.  

Andrew Fifita's Origin I performance for the Blues was something special and while I might be a proud New South Welshman, how couldn't you be in awe of Valentine Holmes' performance on the wing for QLD, scoring three tries in Origin III and becoming just the fifth player in 37-years to score a hat-trick in an Origin match.   

What gives me great confidence in our Club's future is the selection of six players from our under-20s squad and coach John Morris in the Holden Cup Team of the Year.  

May they continue to apply themselves and work hard to achieve a long career in the NRL.  

I also want to thank and wish our very best to all of those players who played for our wonderful Club in 2017, but won't be with us in 2018.  

I apologise if this note is a little long, but honestly I could keep going.  

From the bottom of my heart and so too the players, thank you so much for getting behind us in 2017.

We have an exciting mix of experience, rising stars and world-class talent joining our Club in 2018.

I hope you can join us.  

Up Up Cronulla. 

Kind regards,  

Shane Flanagan.