Flanagan feels for tarnished NRL clubs

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan hopes NRL clubs being linked to match-fixing allegations won’t have to endure the same traumatic wait they endured during the ASADA saga.

The NRL was thrown in turmoil on Thursday after NSW police revealed they had begun early investigations of possible match-fixing, with reports two Manly games from the 2015 season were under the spotlight.

Flanagan hoped the allegations were false, but admitted coaches whose teams were accused of cooking matches faced a tough time keeping their players focused on the field.

The Sharks spent the best part of two years waiting for an outcome after the club allegedly participated in a performance-enhancing program during their 2011 season.

It wasn’t until August 2014 that players accepted backdated bans.

“It’s definitely put up some huge challenges. The players involved in it personally obviously have their issues and to get them to focus on football is a really hard thing,” Flanagan said on Friday.

“What we’re talking about now is completely different to what we went through and I just hope it’s not what it is and we can move on because we don’t want that in our game.”

NRL boss Todd Greenberg on Thursday threatened life bans for any player or official found guilty of match-fixing, but was adamant no particular allegations had been made.

Flanagan applauded the NRL for not overreacting to reports, like it didn’t in 2013.

“I don’t think the NRL jumped the gun with the ASADA investigation. It was the state and federal government. They had that announcement – ‘darkest day’ in rugby league,” he said.

“I think exactly the same situation now – the NRL hasn’t jumped the gun. They reacted to the police making a statement, so the NRL are in a position that they’ve got to react to someone else’s investigation.

“I think they’ve done the right thing and Todd come out yesterday and was on the front foot. So our game, I think it’s in good hands and we’ll get to the bottom of it. I hope it’s wrong.”

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy was not surprised by the claims.

“This has been happening in overseas sport for a fair while and it’s happened in lower-grade soccer in Melbourne so I don’t think we should be surprised,” he said.

“Whatever happens in overseas sport, whether it’s performance-wise, betting wise whatever, it comes to our country at some stage.

“Don’t think we’re over here in isolation – we ain’t, so don’t be surprised, but it’s a horrible look for our game and, hopefully, it will get sorted really soon.”

Manly responded to the claims on Friday, assuring stakeholders it would cooperate with any police investigation but were angered by allegations involving their club.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the club’s hard-earned 70-year reputation for fair play has been unfairly tarnished by imputations raised by some media outlets involving two Sea Eagles matches last season, albeit there is presently no formal investigation,” the statement read.

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