Flanagan hits out over decisions
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has questioned up to 10 refereeing decisions that he believes hurt his team's chances in their 15-14 loss against the North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
While Cronulla's completion rate and overall attack left a lot to be desired, Flanagan entered the post-game press conference with a sheet of paper that identified crucial calls that he said led to the one-point defeat – and the end of the Sharks' premiership defence.
Flanagan also revealed he spoke with NRL head of football Brian Canavan after the match to speak of his overall concerns and intent to express them to the media.
"That was disgraceful," Flanagan said of the result.
"I've got a club that works really hard. Obviously we won our first premiership last year. We've got sponsors, supporters, not only the players who have to go through this.
"It's disappointing for the game we're talking about this right now, but I had to come and talk about it.
"I know how Trent Barrett feels. I just wanted to make sure we could talk about decisions and not talk about the integrity of the referees.
"I listened to Trent yesterday about his team out of the competition and clearly there were decisions at crucial times that should've been a penalty."
Flanagan went on to elaborate on several calls that began with Sharks five-eighth James Maloney being sent to the sin bin in the 39th minute for a professional foul.
Maloney stuck an arm out and impeded Cowboys back-rower Ethan Lowe as he attempted to chase down an attacking kick, and was sent for a 10-minute stint as a result.
"When is [the] James Maloney [incident] a professional foul? It's not, it's a penalty at that," Flanagan said.
"The touch judge is calling Lachlan Coote offside to the referee, so what should be first? A penalty to us. [Instead] our player to the sin bin.
"We talk about wanting to get the people here, we've got bigger issues.
"We talk about one of the biggest games of the year and we just want it right or close to right.
"Let the teams decide it."
Flanagan continued with examples of other crucial calls that went against the Shire outfit – Andrew Fifita's error that went through his legs, followed by a stripping penalty from Matt Prior and the last-minute error from Paul Gallen a metre out from the tryline.
An error from Luke Lewis also received a mention, with Flanagan indicating the decision didn't sit well with the Sharks veteran.
"If anyone on this planet thinks Andrew Fifita knocks that ball on, it went through his legs – tunnel ball – through his legs," Flanagan said.
"Taumalolo clearly punches the ball out of Luke Lewis's hands. Lewis is one of the honest players in this game and he's never seen anything like it.
"Paul Gallen trying to get up and play the ball, and a bloke pulls the ball out.
"But go down the other end of the field and Matt Prior effecting a tackle, they say he pulled it out and they kick a goal.
"Crucial decisions… all wrong. An 11-5 penalty count. We've got to fix this up. Those things impacted on the result.
"Imagine if that was a grand final."
When asked about the side's performance away from the refereeing decisions, Flanagan believed it was a game that slipped away against a tough Cowboys line-up.
"I thought we were brave, both teams played yardage and tough footy," he said.
"We were clunky when we turned the ball over, but it was a tough semi final and good game."