Salary cap probe centred on former Shark: Russell

Salary cap probe centred on former Shark: Russell

Cronulla CEO Barry Russell says the salary cap issues he reported to the NRL related to third-party agreements from 2015 involving a player no longer at the Sharks.

Russell's self-reporting three months ago triggered an NRL Integrity Unit investigation that has cast a cloud over Cronulla's finals charge and the club's maiden 2016 title.

Russell and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg have stressed the Sharks' cap probe is not on the same scale as dramas that have previously engulfed Melbourne, Parramatta and Manly, but neither could guarantee the 2016 season was fully cleared with the investigation still ongoing.

"The discrepancies I found were in relation to third-party agreements and they actually related back to the 2015 season," Russell said when he addressed the media at Cronulla's leagues club on Wednesday afternoon.

"The issues or discrepancies that I disclosed do not relate to the current playing squad. It relates to issues some years ago.

"I'm working with the NRL very closely I have been for months, I've provided full disclosure. I've allowed the integrity unit to come in and download information from our server and any other information from our server. We have nothing to hide.

"I want to get to the bottom of any issues or discrepancies, which I believe we're doing. The investigation is ongoing and we will continue to co-operate with the NRL."

With the NRL clearing Cronulla's 2018 campaign as salary cap compliant, Russell expects the investigation to continue into the off-season.

He reiterated Greenberg's claim the Sharks are operating more than $500,000 below the $9.4 million cap this year.

Current and former employees will be interviewed by the NRL Integrity Unit across the course of its investigation, including coach Shane Flanagan, ex-chairman Damian Keogh and Russell's predecessor, current Manly chief executive Lyall Gorman.

Russell would not "speculate" on the involvement of any individual player or official when quizzed on who had final say over the club's salary cap before his arrival in the front office, though he did rule out  Flanagan to "my knowledge".

Cronulla's players came together on Wednesday morning and were briefed on the NRL's investigation by Russell before training.

Running fourth and regarded as a premiership dark horse, Russell said the cap drama would not distract Flanagan's side before Sunday's clash with Canterbury or their upcoming finals tilt.

"What I said to the players, how they can help me, how they can help the club: stay focused," Russell said.

"We've got an unbelievable group of players. They really care about where we're going, we want to win this weekend we want to win a second premiership and that's our goal."