Cronulla legend Andrew Ettingshausen has backed the management shake-up that saw the struggling club part ways with chief executive Steve Noyce late on Wednesday night.
Noyce was sacked as part of a restructuring of the Sharks front-office in which they are aiming to appoint a group CEO tasked with both the day-to-day operations of the club as well as its $300 million dollar property development at Woolooware Bay.
The decision to remove Noyce from his post after 15 months leaves the embattled Sharks without a chief executive or a coach, as Shane Flanagan is still yet to be given clearance from the NRL to return from suspension for his role in the ASADA scandal.
2014 has proved to be the year from hell for Cronulla, in which star playmaker Todd Carney was sacked, interim coach Peter Sharp resigned, players were embroiled in a Mad Monday incident after finishing last in the competition and suspensions relating to the use of banned supplements in 2011 were finally handed down.
But Ettingshausen, the Sharks’ most decorated former player with 165 tries in a club record 328 games, believes the tide is set to turn on Cronulla's woes with the changes being made to their administration and the joint property development with construction company Bluestone Solutions that is set to make the Cronulla outfit one of the most financially viable clubs in the NRL.
Asked if he thought the worst was now behind the Sharks, Ettingshausen told NRL.com: "It is. I think (Cronulla chairman) Damian Keogh is doing a good job.
"They have to look to the future. They're sitting in a great position at the moment with this enormous multi-million dollar development all about to happen. It's going to inject much needed funds back into the Cronulla club and just in the whole environment – I think everything starts from the top and works its way all the way down.
"So I think if they have good management at the top it will filter all the way through and we'll have a successful club. This year was obviously very poor results-wise on the field and with all the ASADA stuff, hopefully that's all left behind now and the boys can all focus and concentrate."
As the Sharks begin their search for a new group CEO, current Sharks Leagues Club boss Marcelo Veloz will fill Noyce's role in the interim. The club has already been linked to one of Australian sport's most successful administrators in Lyall Gorman, the former executive chairman of the Western Sydney Wanders and head of the A-League.
On the field the Sharks have recruited Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis for the next two seasons, as well as wingers Mitch Brown and Sami Sauiluma and highly rated Dragons junior Jack Bird, while also being linked to livewire Broncos playmaker Ben Barba. Hopes are also high that rep stars Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita remain fit and available after all three spent lengthy stints on the sidelines due to injury and suspension last season.
With the financial boon expected from the Woolooware Bay residential and retail project next door to the Sharks home base of Remondis Stadium, Cronulla are reportedly projecting an initial profit of between $40 and $50 million from the properties. The development of the 10-hectare site recorded sales of over $100 million on its first day on the market at the start of the year, and will ultimately house 600 apartments. The venture has Ettingshausen in high spirits when it comes to the long-term future of club, a scenario that hasn't always been the case over the past decade.
"There have been plenty of times over the past 10 years where I have been very concerned but in the end it comes down to dollars and cents and the financials, and if you're short of money you're going to struggle as a club," Ettingshausen said.
"There's just no doubt – you can't compete with the other clubs. I've been through a couple of receiverships over my career and I thought at that stage it would've been wound up but these days I think with the backing of this development they're looking in pretty good shape."