The Cronulla Sharks spent over the permitted salary cap in 2015 and 2017.

In between, they won the NRL premiership and the powers at be appear to have little concern over the convenient assertion that ‘all was sweet’ in 2016.

In my view, that is a farcical denial of reality. Each and every year affects the next and the Sharks should have had the premiership stripped from their grasp.

Instead, the NRL suits pandered to the insular peninsular and the Sharks' self-reporting of the book work gymnastics used by those masterminding the rort, and softened the eventual punishment.

The premiership would stand, $500,000 of a $1.25 million fine was suspended and Shane Flanagan took much of the professional fall for a systematic effort to rort the cap by those steering the ship.

In fact, discrepancies had emerged in the Sharks’ books as far back as 2013, however, the NRL insisted they had absolutely no impact on the 2016 premiership win. Right!

The punishments dished out to the club were less severe than those given to other clubs when caught in the act.

In 2002, the Bulldogs felt the full force of the NRL’s stance on salary cap rorting and had a winning season voided in the process. Melbourne Storm was rightfully stripped of three minor premierships and had two grand final successes obliterated from their history after the astonishing findings of 2010.

Parramatta also felt the wrath of the NRL when their underhanded behaviours were aired in 2016; with the club given a $1 million fine and stripped of its Auckland Nines title.

Each and every club deserved the proverbial throwing of the book, individuals to be held to accountable and the shame and associated embarrassment.

Whilst the Sharks have seen former Chairman Damien Keogh topple from power in 2017 due to drug possession and former coach Shane Flanagan de-registered for rather dopey use of an email account whilst annexed from the game, the key players behind the manipulation of the salary cap appear to have avoided the same scrutiny.

It is something of a joke to most of the rugby league community, a joke heightened by the immense depth and talent still assembled in the Sharks roster.

That joke has become somewhat less comical with Monday’s breaking news that Cronulla is already over the cap for 2020.

With the pending retirement of Paul Gallen and the departures of Jayden Brailey and Kyle Flanagan, it is somewhat astonishing that the Sharks could still be over budget heading into next season.

The rumours of their interest in young Knights star Jesse Ramien a few weeks back become somewhat mystifying considering the current state of the books and their obvious need to shed some talent to balance them up.

The reality appears to be that Shaun Johnson, Aaron Woods, Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham are eating up around half of the A$9.8 million that an NRL club is permitted to spend in 2020. The remaining 24 players also need to receive their piece of the pie; with many demanding far in excess of the $110,000 minimum wage.

The apparent incompetence of those currently holding the purse strings in the shire, a deliberate and systematic attempt to cheat the cap between 2013 and 2017 and the supplements saga of 2013/14 all bring the integrity of the game into question.

As yet, it appears the Sharks have not been formally asked to appear before the NRL Integrity Unit; a tool so oft used to manage and deal with the inappropriate behaviour of individual players.

When caught, convicted and punished, the expectation is that the guilty reform and do far better in the future. Cronulla-Sutherland appears to be heading back to the future as they once again drag the game through the mire.

Thankfully for the Sharks, the club will always receive relatively soft coverage from at least one journalist. Whilst viewing Fox Sports’ artificially combative and rather awkward program Controversy Corner on Monday night, a certain Cronulla apologist was in fine form.

Let’s call him Buzz Lightyear.

The facts around Cronulla’s financial numbers for 2020 were presented, the six top earners were visually displayed in an impressive graphic behind the desk that host Graeme Hughes commands and a discussion ensued about the general dos and don'ts of salary cap management.

Former Manly coach Geoff Toovey threw in his two cents worth and Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach spoke before Mr Lightyear verbalised the astonishing. Quickly shifting attention away from his beloved Sharks, their blatant cheating of the past and apparent mismanagement of the future, Buzz asked Hughes a question.

“Do you honestly agree that all 16 clubs are legit on the cap or do you think there is widespread rorting?”

It was a wonderful deflection, baseless really and designed to validate the 2016 premiership; something Mr Lightyear has been doing for some years now.

It spoke volumes about bias in the media and reminded us all that the Cronulla-Sharks have gotten off quite softly in the past, despite supplying many an unsavoury NRL headline.


  1. Why even post this dribble Zero Tackle.? It’s not even written by a journo – it’s by a Neville nobody who hasn’t even got his facts correct.
    What a load of crap!

  2. Great article.. While I admit to being a Souths supporter, for many years I always liked to see the Sharks win (except against my mob). However they have plummeted down to being my most hated team. That started with when Cronulla got virtualy no punishment for drug abuse. As someone who represented Australia in sport and once nearly took a cough medicine that would have resulted in six month suspension (I didn’t take it because I checked it on the list available to all athletes) I found it shocking that they got away with their drug abuse. And I have no doubt that they have been cheating the cap for years. How they have got away with that mystifies me.

  3. As far as I am concerned the porch light is still on.
    It disgusts me that a drugo cheat like Gallen has a premiership ring. Even a tainted one.

  4. I’m with you Kev. The greatest tragedy in modern sport was Will Chambers not throwing that inside pass to Cronk – right up there with Neville Glover’s dropped passppass

  5. You may all critisise this article all you want but it expresses a concern that many NRL fans have when it comes to Cronulla. The 2016 Premiership win is highly suspect with the statement that they were cap complaint on Grand Final day somewhat sticking in the craw of their opponents that day who had their premierships stripped without the indepth investigation that Cronulla had. Even if they were cap compliant in 2016 (which most people doubt) their performance was enhanced by employing an illegal coach, one who seems to deny the truth with consummate ease.

    Add to that the ridiculously soft penalties over the drug cheating with back dated bans so no one missed any game time and soft financial penalties that were discounted (because its Cronulla) to the extent that they were meaning less.

    Melbourne erred once, were hit with a sledge hammer and no one lets them forget it
    Cronulla errs repeatedly are hit with a feather duster and it is forgotton the week after.

    Storm fans en masse hate Cronulla for no other reason that this disparate treatment of the favourite sons.

  6. Just a quick reply to all the idiots.
    1) Who handed down the penalties for the drug scandal?
    ASADA and what you think they would come out and do the Sharks favours? You all do know Dank worked with Manly for 12 months previously and with the Panthers for 3 months and then came to the Sharks for 12 weeks and the Sharks are the only team caught in the peptide scandal!
    2) Salary cap Breaches
    The Sharks handed the NRL everything they needed do you honestly think the NRL did the Sharks a favour for salary cap breaches. You are as stupid as this Neville nobody of a Journo!
    3)This spastic Journo states the key players behind the manipulation of the salary cap appear to have avoided the same scrutiny.
    What is that? He just taints everyone involved at the Sharks and he gives no evidence to support that statement, he just states key players. What a gutless bit of journalism.

  7. Sharkytowin,
    Might I request and suggest that you cease referring to me or anyone else for that matter, as a spastic. It is a highly offensive term and says a lot more about the person using it that the intended target.
    Incidently, the article is fact checked and makes not a single claim that cannot be proven.

  8. The article is not fact checked at all, even the first sentence is incorrect – “The Cronulla Sharks spent over the permitted salary cap in 2015 and 2017”. The Sharks were never over the cap, they were fined for having undisclosed third party payments for small amounts that had they been included would still not have taken them over the cap. As for “the key players behind the manipulation of the salary cap”, well that guy (Lyall Gorman) has been working at Manly since 2017 so t’s not as if the NRL have done the Sharks any favours by not taking action against him. Finally, teams being over the cap for the following year is a regular occurrence. The Storm were over the cap this year only two weeks before the season started which is why they had to offload Sam Kasiano in a hurry.

  9. Sadly Sammy, you are wrong. See below NRL findings.

    “A separate company had been established and funded by a then-Cronulla board member in 2017, procured illegal third-party agreements and put them about $250,000 over the cap.”

    Illegal third parties aren’t third parties and become merely payments to players that then exceed the cap.

  10. So in other words they weren’t over the cap in 2015 as you stated in the first sentence and hence no effect on the 2016 premiership……..

  11. “As for “the key players behind the manipulation of the salary cap”, well that guy (Lyall Gorman) has been working at Manly since 2017 so t’s not as if the NRL have done the Sharks any favours by not taking action against him.”
    That sounds like the most severe punishment of all, being sentenced to Manly (sorry, but I couldn’t help myself).

  12. Well done Stuart Thomas for clearly articulating the embarrassment that is the Sharks.

    It must be a bit frosty in there at ZT HQ with Dan Nichols curled up in a corner sucking his thumb.

  13. No Sammy, they were not. The NRL statement quite clearly that the discrepancies were found in both 2015 and 2017. I quoted just a sentence from a larger section of text. I could include it here, however, I appear to be wasting my time. You are of the firm belief that despite the Sharks being found guilty of what the NRL termed ‘salary cap’ breaches and the words of the governing body stating categorically that they were over the cap, my opening sentence is incorrect. It isn’t the case.

  14. Great article Stuart and BACKED up by facts not tripe and selfish supporter deniability. Either of these offences is bad enough, but to have committed both is a joke. Sharks and Storm should be punted or at worst merged and forced to play out of Darwin. Just shows how pathetic the NRL is under the useless Greenberg.

  15. I stand by my comments as it’s not even written by a journo – it’s by a Neville nobody who hasn’t even got his facts correct.
    FACT- You are to gutless to state who the key board members are!
    FACT- You are neville nobody.

  16. More FACTS you Neville nobody
    1) Investigated starting in February 2013 by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over the legality of its supplements program during the 2011 NRL season and the preceding preseason.
    2) The Cronulla board member in 2017, procured illegal third-party agreements and put them about $250,000 over the cap
    Fact that was Llyall Gorman and he should be punished as well as the Sharks.
    3) Fact- The Cronulla players were introduced to Stephen Dank by Shane Flanagan, Mark Noakes and Trent Elkin and told to work with him and trust him. They were given false assurances by Dank, Flanagan and Elkin about the substances they were given and that they were permitted for use in sport.
    All these people are no longer with the club but FACT you come out and say key players are still involve but you can’t supply any evidence of it you GRUB!

  17. Okay Sharkytown, I’ll bite.

    Point 1) Okay, I agree
    Point 2) Yes Cronulla were over the cap (you might want to tell Sammy)
    Point 3) Show me the line where I said key players involved in the supplement saga are still involved at the club. Go on, show me!

  18. Daffy. I think the greatest embarrassment for any club would be to merge with another. We’ve seen what that does to the heart of those involved. Shrinks to pea size and we know who we’re talking about don’t we…..

  19. Hooray. If nothing else at least the article has sparked passionate debate about RL, which has been missing on this site for sometime.
    For the record, I thought the article itself was too aggressive/negative, and tried to turn assumptions into facts. I’m also surprised it got published, especially in light of ZT’s filtering. I’ve had posts, numerous posts, disappear (not appear at all to be more specific) because I’ve used a “banned” word or 2, even when said words could be used in front of the Queen, yet this article got through.
    Sharkytowin and Sammy in particular, well done guys, you turned it into an interested read, and I agree with your comments/perspective.

  20. The article was pretty blunt and had an aggressive tone. No comment should be made about the credentials of the writer as at very least he’s brave enough to get it off his chest. However the whole tone does elude to an individual that is a Cronulla hater and it all needs to be taken in that context. Fact is the 2016 Premiership will stand and nothing said or written by any individual will take that away from Sharks fans. Due process was followed in all matters written about and it is hardly the fault of the football club (or the fans) that any penalties metered out are seen as disproportionate by some who may possibly have an are to grind. For example, many are just waiting for the roosters to be found out based on assumptions or a dislike of the club. The game is full of inequities both on and off field and that’s the way it will be. Time to move on

  21. The drug cheating & the cap rorting at Cronulla , puts its Premiership Win right up there with Manly’s Wins under their best pal Hartley . Alongside Melbourne with Rort wins .St.George had at least one way back, when the referee refereeing the Grand Final said he placed a bet on St.George to win.
    The only club out of them truly punished were Melbourne.
    The others all go down as ‘ You didn’t really Win ‘! Not without cheating. So that’s how all supporters of the game will always view Cronulla’s win.

  22. And the beauty of all that my friend is that Cronulla fans don’t give a rodents rectum about what you or other “fans” think (nor do fans of other clubs you suggest are unworthy of premierships) The night of October 2nd 2016 was an absolute blinder. Best ever. Must be an ordinary life if all you are concerned about is the legitimacy of others wins apart from those of what ever miserable and unfortunate club it is that you support of course . I’m sure they’re squeaky clean and totally beyond reproach…..phhht….

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