'Tradesman' Flanagan almost downed tools
As he sat exiled from the club and the game that he loved, Shane Flanagan considered resuming his former life as a plumber but knew there was some unfinished business with the Cronulla Sharks.
Forced to distance himself from the club and the players due to a suspension handed down by the NRL in the wake of the 2013 supplements scandal, Flanagan spent 2014 pondering whether he was the right person to lead the club forward or whether he even wanted the responsibility again.
The man Paul Gallen described in the post-match press conference as "tradesman-like" considered getting back on the tools but knew that there was a playing group and a culture that he helped to create that would make sure nights such as Sunday's Telstra Premiership triumph would be at least a possibility.
"Yeah I probably think there was," Flanagan said when asked whether there were times he thought he wouldn't coach Cronulla again after 2014.
"There were times where I said that 'this is not me' and 'why me' and felt sorry for myself and was probably going to walk away from the game and go and do some plumbing.
"I had a decent business there – didn't have to do much – so I did have those moments but I knew what sort of person I was and what I wanted to do in the game.
"I'd been in the game for 25 years as a player and a coach and I had some determination.
"I wasn't silly enough to think that I'd be sitting here today but I had faith in the club, faith in the board and faith in the playing group that I'd assembled that we could give it a crack and with a bit of luck we're sitting here today."
Even in the euphoria of a grand final celebration – or perhaps because of it – Gallen was still unwilling to rip the scabs off a wound that the Provan-Summons Trophy will in time help to heal.
With Flanagan banned from having any involvement Peter Sharp was appointed caretaker coach but quit his post just days after Todd Carney was sacked by the club for another off-field indiscretion.
Under-20s coach James Shepherd was tasked with the head coaching role until the end of the season in which Cronulla finished dead last with just five wins, but two years later Flanagan has finished what he started and written himself into Sharks folklore.
"Those days were hard. I don't really want to go back to that," Gallen said of the season without Flanagan.
"It's in the past. We copped what we copped, thankfully he came back and we're here today, which is what we all wanted.
"We can't change what's happened, there's no point going back to it all the time."
Adamant that the club wouldn't be in the position it is today without the influence of Flanagan over the past seven seasons, Gallen said that the playing group had come to embody the values of a coach who, when the club was at its lowest ebb and had in fact relieved him from his duties, came in during the off-season to tile the floor of the gym room himself.
"I think of him as a tradesman because he is. He's a plumber, a former plumber, and that's just the way he goes about his business, real tradesman-like," said Gallen, now part of history as the first Cronulla captain to win a premiership.
"Unflashy, doesn't wear good clothes and he's not the best looking man but he just comes in and does his job.
"He still goes down to the local pub most nights and has a beer. Just real tradesman-like and I think that's the way how our team is.
"We go out there and do our job and if everyone plays to their potential we win most games, which is what we did."