Flanagan denies Sharks are cheats after salary cap claims
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said he has nothing to hide in his first public comment since it was revealed Cronulla were under investigation by the NRL Integrity Unit over their salary cap.
Flanagan faced the media on Friday afternoon, continuing a tumultuous week for the Sharks in the wake of salary cap breach claims made against the club.
He said they had done the right thing by self-reporting the third-party deal at the centre of the probe.
"I've nothing to hide, in fact, I worked closely with the NRL for many years ... different parts of the NRL with integrity, salary cap and football ops. So I look forward to that meeting," he said.
"Our salary cap is well under - has been for many years. And is very well managed.
"As for third party agreements, there's been one clear message in this club for a long period of time – from top to bottom – that all third parties must be registered with the NRL. And to my knowledge with all my time at the club, that has been the case."
Flanagan said he was angry about the club's name being dragged through the mud over the claims after they were transparent in reporting the issue to the NRL.
He said three weeks ago all players and staff had an education seminar with the NRL's former salary cap auditor, Jamie L'Oste Brown, so everyone was on board with the rules.
"We are doing some education within our club."
He said the club was right to report a discrepancy it found from 2015, although it was "a minimal" amount of money.
"It [2015 incident] was a third-party agreement but they don't come across the desk. I knew of the third party with Chris Heighington at the time but as I said it was all registered and I didn't know until Barry [Russell] told me three months ago there was an issue. The club will deal with it.
"I'm disappointed it's happened obviously, but my job is to get the footy team ready. We've got an important finals series coming up. It's a bad time but some times you can't help these things – they are out of your control.
"The club has reported it but where it's got to at the moment has been blown out of proportion a bit."
The 2016 premiership-winning coach denied it would be a distraction to his fourth-placed team on the eve of the finals.
"I've got a strong group of players. The external noise has been a lot the last couple of days but there's not much we can do about it – we just need to bunker down.
"The club is leaving no stone unturned to give it a good crack in the semi-finals.
"The club made a decision to report the incident – whether how minor or major – I believe they've done the right thing. It is what it is – you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. The club has governance to do and they've done that."
Flanagan said he didn't know who was blame.
"That's not my job as a coach. I'm sure the NRL will sort it out in time. There's no cheating of the cap – don't even use the word.
"There's been a discrepancy and the club has dealt with it and done the right thing. And now you want to say the club is cheating? We've self-reported and it's a minimal dollar amount and we've done the right thing.
"You can't kick us saying 'They should have reported it' and then kick us when we do report it."
Flanagan also shot suggestions his relationship with Russell was shaky.
"Barry gave Kyle [Flanagan] his jersey on debut last Sunday. Do you think if there was someone I was having a stink with I'd ask him to present my son his debut jersey? Come on."