As sure as night follows day, you can almost guarantee controversy will engulf the Cronulla Sharks at some point during the year.
The NRL may be enjoying its off-season, but you still canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t keep the club out of the headlines.
The latest in a long line of incidents involving the Sharks has seen head coach Shane Flanagan deregistered by the NRL and the club fined $800,000 for breaching a suspension back in 2014.
The former Premiership champions and Flanagan himself have until the end of January to appeal the punishments, with the coach unable to have any contact with his staff and players as they prepare for the 2019 campaign which kicks off in March.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœEmailgateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Threatens FlanaganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Tenure
This latest controversy dates back to 2011.
That was the year that Flanagan administered illegal supplements to his players; a serious breach of NRL rules that was eventually brought to heel in 2013, at which point the 53-year-old was banned from football for 12 months.
As part of that suspension, he was prevented from having any official involvement with the club, which included communications of any kind.
But an NRL investigation compiled a dossier of more than 50 emails Ã¢â‚¬â€œ some of which were sent a matter of weeks following the guilty verdict Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in which Flanagan and club officials discussed player recruitment, amongst other things.
The former Western Suburbs hooker has this time been deregistered by NRL, one of the more serious punishments the NRL can dish out, although according to Fox Sports the club may appeal the ban Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and certainly the fine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as the National Rugby LeagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s integrity unit continues to pull together evidence.
Club captain Paul Gallen said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Obviously heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s afforded that right to appeal it, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll just have to wait and see. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of speculation at the moment.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The SharksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ chief executive, Barry Russell, has also pledged his support to the beleaguered boss. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Shane Flanagan is our coach, contracted in 2019 and has done a wonderful job,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We’ve been working with the NRL for six months now. To date, it is pure speculation until we sit down with the NRL and an outcome is determined.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Casting a Shadow
At this time of year preparations should be at an advanced stage ahead of the new season, but once again the Sharks find themselves embroiled in scandal.
Just a matter of weeks ago they had to sack ten administrative staff, which coupled with the loss of marquee player Valentine Holmes has left many questioning the financial security of the club; a situation that has been ongoing for the best part of a decade.
The current hoo-hah has dampened expectations ahead of the new campaign, with the latestÃ‚Â rugby league betting odds suggesting that the Sharks have more chance of missing out a top-eight finish than they do of reaching the Grand Final.
They have proven themselves to be a hardy bunch down the years, but this could be the biggest challenge the Cronulla outfit has faced in its long and illustrious history.