Dan Walsh, NRL.com
The Sharks have confirmed interim coach James Shepherd will remain in charge of the club for the rest of the 2014 season.
Shepherd will continue in the role he took on following Peter Sharp's resignation three weeks ago, with suspended coach Shane Flanagan expected to again take the reins once his nine-month ban for his role in the ASADA supplements scandal lapses in September.
Despite speculation linking the likes of representative coaches Tim Sheens and Laurie Daley, former Dragons mentor Steve Price and up-and comer Brett Kimmorley to the role, the Cronulla board have resisted the urge to install the club's fourth coach in 10 months, and backed Shepherd to steer the club through the final seven games of the season and clear of its first wooden spoon since 1969.
Shepherd, who was elevated to the role of Sharp's assistant from his previous position as Under 20's coach at the start of the year, said he was grateful to the club for the chance to continue his first stint coaching in the top grade.
“I’m privileged to have been given this opportunity,” Shepherd said.
“Having been at the club a number of years now I’m happy here and comfortable with the playing group.
“Over the past few weeks the senior players have been excellent and with their continued support we will come together to try to win as many games as possible over the next seven weeks to finish our season on a positive note.”
Sharks chairman Damian Keogh backed Shepherd to help the club finish what has been a horror season – one plagued by an extensive injury toll, the sacking of star five-eighth Todd Carney and the impending ASADA case – on a positive note.
“James has expressed a willingness to step into the role and is familiar with the players, staff and the systems here at the club so his appointment will result in minimal disruption,” Keogh said.
“He is an accomplished coach who we have every confidence in and he has the backing of the senior playing group.
“It has been a challenging season for all concerned, with James now our third NRL coach, added to the fact that we have been without key players such as Gallen, Lewis and Fifita for much of the year and have battled a massive injury toll.
“Through it all James has gone about his business very competently and with a minimum of fuss and we have no doubt he will continue to be able to do that for our remaining games this year.”