National Rugby League Cronulla Chair Damian Keogh "insisted there was still life left in the club" despite incurring a A$1M ($890,000) fine from the NRL, according to Brent Read of THE AUSTRALIAN. And Keogh "had high-powered support" from NRL CEO Dave Smith. Smith, the man who issued the sanctions against the Sharks and coach Shane Flanagan, said that the game's administration "was committed to helping Cronulla go from strength to strength." Those comments "would appear to end talk of Cronulla being relocated" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/18). In Sydney, Carayannis & Walter reported Keogh said that the club is "strongly considering" fighting the fine proposed by the NRL and "will contemplate backing" Flanagan in any bid to clear his name as "he faces a one-year ban from the code." The Sharks "are even considering extending Flanagan's contract and have not ruled out paying him during the suspension" that was announced by NRL CEO Dave Smith at a press conference at league headquarters on Tuesday. Keogh was due to meet with fellow directors and Cronulla CEO Steve Noyce "ahead of Christmas drinks with club sponsors on Tuesday night and said they would stand by Flanagan" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/18).
JUDGMENT DAY: In Sydney, Andrew Webster opined "So was this rugby league's judgment day? Not really." There is still an Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation into the alleged use of banned peptides in rugby league that "must run its course." The timing of the announcement "was curious, and spin doctors and cynical reporters could not help but think it was timed to coincide with Australia closing in on an Ashes series victory to take off some of the heat" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/18). In Brisbane, Robert Craddock reported rugby league officials "may consider it a tactical master stroke airing its dirty laundry on the day Australia wins the Ashes." It is "great to get your bad news out of the way on a day when other big news is brewing." The "public relations men love it but, seriously, did they really think Cronulla's plight would be smaller news just because of the Ashes win?" It was "much like putting a pair of dark glasses on an elephant and expecting people not to notice it" (COURIER-MAIL, 12/18).
MORE TROUBLE: In Sydney, Josh Massoud reported ex-Cronulla Chair Damian Irvine "fears a flood of lawsuits from past and present Sharks players could sink the club, labelling its legal risk as 'unquantifiable' in the wake of the NRL's damning assessment of management failures" in '11. Cronulla is now "hurtling toward a litigation abyss." Irvine said, "I don't see the $1 million fine as being an issue for the club. From the very start, this situation opened the potential for legal claims and that's always been the biggest risk to the club. It's almost an unquantifiable risk if multiple players decide to sue" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/18). In Sydney, Roy Masters reported information produced by the NRL's new high-tech integrity unit "led to the historic sanctions" against Flanagan and trainer Trent Elkin. However, "old-fashioned rugby league mercy may ultimately lead to some reduction in the penalties." Smith has allowed Flanagan, suspended for a year, and Elkin, provisionally banned for life, to "respond to the charges against them." If they make submissions, he will eventually decide if the NRL Appeals Tribunal, headed by a former High Court judge, Ian Callinan, "can hear the case and potentially reduce the bans" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/18).