Ruthless, win-at-all-costs coach, or disrespectful coach who played high and loose with the rules?
How will Shane Flanagan be remembered by fans of the Cronulla Sharks, and the NRL wider community?
The NRL have given notice that they intend to strip the Sharks 2016 Premiership winning coach of his registration for the game. Flanagan has until January 31st to lay his case for avoiding said punishment.
If Flanagan decides not to appeal, or his appeals fall on deaf ears, it’s essentially an NRL-wide life-ban for arguably the game’s most divisive figure.
Flanagan, if the de-registration goes forward, will be banned from any activities within the code in Australia and would need to rely on a Super League opportunity to arise to continue his coaching career.
Technically he could coach again in the NRL should he be able to prove he is fit and proper for the role, but given this would be his second long-term suspension, it would be very difficult.
Although the process still has a long way to run, regardless of the eventual outcome, the question really remains, how will this affect Flanagan’s standing within the Sharks’ fan base.
My inbox was flooded with Sharks fans saying they felt hard done by and that they would support their title-winning coach until the end.
Just as many fans of the club also reached out to say Flanagan has brought this upon himself and that Greenberg and co. had no choice but to strip Flanagan of his credentials.
For the purpose of this I’m going to largely avoid the rights and wrongs of Flanagan’s conduct and focus on the way he will be remembered. Those details have been hotly debated and probably will so many further times.
As a Sharks fan, Shane Flanagan will always be remembered as the man who broke the 49-year title drought.
On October 2nd, 2016, all the jokes ended. All the porch light, show us your premiership, how many premiership jokes became redundant.
That side he built was one that edged out one of the most dominant Storm outfits in recent memory.
No matter what happened before or would happen after, for that night, Flanagan was a hero, and a life member of the Sharks’ fan base.
I always said in the lead up that I would give almost anything for a premiership and that if the club folded the day after, then so be it.
I still stand by that.
Unfortunately though the prospect of such an unlikely thought has been brought closer to a reality through the actions of Flanagan.
Today’s $800,000 fine, plus whatever fine is laid down on the club in the new year for any potential salary cap breaches will push the limits of an already struggling shire club.
There’s a very real chance that the same man who delivered the much sought after Premiership may have ended the club’s serge for another.
The Sharks have a stacked roster and until this all came to light were about fourth to fifth on the betting list for the title. Shaun Johnson’s arrival completely reinvigorated fans who had struggled to come to terms with the self reported cap struggles of the past.
Just when you thought the most painful time in the club’s history was, again, behind us, it reared it’s ugly head, unfortunately again.
So where does Flanagan sit in the minds of Sharks fans?
That’s a tough one.
Where does he sit in the minds of non-Sharks fans?
That’s an easy one.
No matter what success he brought to the club, he will always be remembered for this.
He’ll always be the coach who was “suspended for the peptides” as social media seems to love putting it. He’ll always be remembered as the coach who was (likely) de-registered due to not abiding by the no contact rules while serving his suspension.
For all the great things Flanno has done at the club, fans who don’t have the premiership in their memories won’t give a second thought to rubbishing Flanagan’s name.
Sharks fans though, we seem to be split.
Shane Flanagan: Worth the off-field chaos to win the title? @zerotackle
— 🍍 2016 🍍 (@suthodan) December 19, 2018
Some fans are saying Flanagan did what he needed to in order to win the title and they’d go through it all again if they had to if it meant another trophy was added to the case.
Others are saying he’s done more damage than what he’s worth and that he should never be allowed to associate with the club again.
I’m somewhere in the middle.
If it is proven that Flanagan was in contact with the club during his suspension, then he has no one to blame but himself if he is de-registered.
That said, regardless of what happens in this on-going case, or the salary cap case, Flanagan will always be the man with his arms raised as Up Up Cronulla was played over the loud speakers at ANZ Stadium in 2016.
This will likely end a very successful, yet extremely turbulent time in charge of the team.
Flanagan, purely based on results on-field, is arguably a top three coach. Certainly top five.
Off-field, he leaves a lot to be desired.
Let us know below which will remain in your mind long-term.
Was the 2016 title win worth the on-going troubles and the risk of further sanctions?