Cronulla stand by Flanagan amid NRL probe

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is being investigated for flouting his 2014 suspension.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is being investigated for flouting his 2014 suspension.

Cronulla are standing by Shane Flanagan, insisting he will be their 2019 coach amid a new controversy at the embattled NRL club.

Flanagan faces another ban after it emerged the NRL integrity unit has uncovered evidence he communicated with the club during his 12-month suspension in 2014.

Flanagan is under investigation after emails accessed as part of the NRL's ongoing salary cap probe into the Sharks raised suspicions.

Cronulla CEO Barry Russell expected the investigation into their coach to be finalised by Christmas after revealing the issue emerged weeks ago.

He was adamant Flanagan would be holding the reins in 2019.

"Shane Flanagan is our coach, contracted in 2019 and has done a wonderful job," Russell said.

"I've met with the players and staff today and have sent the same message - it's important we stay focused on and off the field.

"We've been working with the NRL for six months now. It came to light a couple of weeks ago around 2014 and the salary cap.

"I was aware there was some issues in relation to 2014. What they are and how far they spread I'm not sure.

"To date, it (penalty) is pure speculation until we sit down with the NRL and an outcome is determined."

An edict under the terms of Flanagan's suspension imposed after the supplements scandal stated that the coach was to have no direct or indirect contact with Sharks officials and players.

However News Corp Australia reports emails and phone messages during his ban revealed Flanagan communicated with senior staff on issues relating to the 2015 season, when he was set to return.

Flanagan's case is now a separate NRL investigation to the salary-cap probe that started back in August when Russell self reported suspicious payments.

The ARL commission is set to meet in Sydney on Tuesday to consider possible punishments over the claims against Flanagan.

If Flanagan is found to have broken any rules he could face another ban and the Sharks a hefty financial penalty.

Cronulla were fined $1 million over the supplements scandal with $400,000 suspended.

"It's business as usual for Shane," Russell said.

"No one likes to read the papers but Shane is our coach. Training is on again tomorrow."

The ongoing cap investigation has stalled Cronulla's bid to re-sign the off contract Flanagan, a 2016 premiership winner.

The cap probe surrounds discrepancies involving up to $250,000 in payments from the 2015 and 2017 seasons and is expected to continue into the New Year.

In another twist, it has been revealed Flanagan's son, Kyle Flanagan, could be lost to the Sharks if the NRL slaps another ban on the coach.

The Sharks wouldn't confirm if 20-year-old Flanagan has a get-out clause when his contract extension kicks in for 2020 if his dad is not coach.

Australian Associated Press