Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan admits it’s difficult to monitor what NRL players are writing on their strapping, but it can be used in a positive manner.
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita is expected to be hauled in front of the NRL integrity unit over an alleged public show of support for one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
The revelations come after Fifita was warned by NSW police for consorting with criminals after he made several visits to Loveridge in Cessnock jail.
He was spotted displaying the initials FKL on his wristband in at least seven NRL matches this year, according to images highlighted by News Corp Australia.
Ahead of Saturday’s minor premiership showdown with Melbourne, Flanagan refused to answer questions on what FKL stood for, however conceded it was tough to keep track of what appears on players’ strapping.
“Players usually got crosses for their religious beliefs, or halves have got their special plays that they want to have on there,” he said at Sharks Leagues Club on Friday.
“I know (Sharks captain Paul Gallen) had a sick kid who actually passed away recently written on his arm. We see the (Newcastle halfback Trent) Hodkinson writing some kids’ names on kicking tees.
“I think, done in the right way, it’s great for some kids sitting at home that’s been sick in hospital and he sees one of his idols, Johnathan Thurston or someone with his name on his arm.”
Flanagan confirmed Fifita would play against the Storm, but dodged any more questions on the drama.
“He trained this morning, I spoke to him yesterday. I just know the limited information that I have, he’s been given a warning and the NRL will speak to him. I’m not quite sure when,” he said.
He admitted the drama had disrupted preparations for Saturday’s crunch match.
“I’m terribly disappointed in the whole situation. But my job as coach is I’ve got to get this team ready to play a game on Saturday night,” he said.
Loveridge was responsible for the high-profile manslaughter of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly in 2012 during a night out in Kings Cross, and is serving a minimum 10-year sentence.
Reports suggested Fifita could have once coached Kelly’s killer, and that FKL stands for either “For Kieran Loveridge” or “Free Kieran Loveridge”.
“If that is the case, it’s inappropriate to use any football clothing or accessories to promote an association with criminal activity,” an NRL spokesman said.
Fifita is believed to have attracted the interest of police for the warning after his name came up while they looked into the Lone Wolf bikie gang, which Loveridge is alleged to have links to.
Reformed rugby league bad boy Mark Geyer hit out at Fifita on Friday, accusing him of sticking his support of Loveridge in the Kelly family’s face.
“It’s not good,” Geyer told Triple M’s Grill Team.
“I had a couple of mates who went to jail, I went and visited them. I didn’t stick it in the family’s faces. Every week going FKL – c’mon man. A young bloke has passed away.”