Cronulla boss Lyall Gorman admits the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s acquittal of Essendon players could be weighing on the minds of some of his own NRL stars.
A dozen Sharks players accepted guilty pleas and back-dated suspensions last August after a lengthy two-year investigation into the club’s 2011 supplements program.
It was a very different outcome for the 34 past and present Bombers players, who on Tuesday were cleared by the AFL tribunal of using illegal substances.
“Every player, I’m sure, would’ve gone through a moment of reflection about where they’re at today,” Gorman said on Wednesday.
“I know everyone had been working hard to put it behind it us.
“And clearly we need to – we’ve got significant challenges on the park we’re trying to address, and we certainly don’t need distractions.”
ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt, who is considering an appeal against the AFL tribunal’s verdict, said the Essendon and Cronulla matters were “significantly different”.
“Different year, different substances, different administration regimes, different numbers, different levels of sophistication,” he told reporters.
McDevitt said each of the 17 players who were issued with infringement notices had their own independent legal advice and 12 made their own decision to make admissions to receiving banned substances.
Gorman said his appointment as chief executive on November 25 last year marked a line in the sand at the Sharks, with sweeping structural and procedural changes implemented across the club.
“We can’t change the past, we can learn from it,” Gorman said.
“But it has been a very tough and challenging time and people move on in funny ways.
“Some may deep down still carry some of the baggage of that.”
Michael Ennis, who only joined the Sharks from Canterbury this season, said the playing group appeared unaffected by Tuesday’s outcome.
“I wasn’t around in those times, but from the reaction at training and so forth this morning, everyone’s in good spirits and training well,” he said.
“We’ve got a huge task ahead of us on Sunday (against the Sydney Roosters) and that’s probably more so at the forefront.”
Cronulla are winless after four rounds this season, and face the NRL’s top three sides over the next three weeks.