Cullen predicts Cronulla will survive long term

Cronulla chairman Damian Irvine has stepped down in the midst of the ASADA investigation into the NRL club. Photo: John Veage
Cronulla chairman Damian Irvine has stepped down in the midst of the ASADA investigation into the NRL club. Photo: John Veage

Bruno Cullen, who was appointed by the NRL to steer Cronulla through their maze of dramas which have eventuated from the ASADA investigation into alleged drug use, was adamant the besieged Sharks had a future.

Cullen made a brief appearance at Cronulla's leagues club on the day controversial chairman Damian Irvine fell on his sword to get a better understanding of what he was dealing with, just two days after it was revealed the NRL is investigating a possible salary cap breach at the club and Irvine publicly expressed his concern about the alleged use of equine steroids by players in 2011.

The former Brisbane Broncos chief executive made a brief comment as he made his way to the airport. “It's been a good and productive day, meeting just everybody . . . I'll be back on Friday” Cullen said.

When asked whether the besieged Sharks had a future Cullen answered in the affirmative.

“Yes, certainly . . . it's all good,” he said.

His appearance followed Irvine's accepting his public comments about alleged equine steroids use in 2011 was an error of judgment and ultimately compromised his ability to lead the club.

However, Irvine stood firm on the issue of the dismissal of four senior staff members and standing down coach Shane Flanagan last Friday, although he was concerned about the inference surrounding their treatment.

“We've got staff there that are no longer at the club who are victims of this entire circumstance that, whilst I stand by it being the right decision, it doesn't take away from the fact that they're very good people,” he said.

“One regret that I do have is that my comments that were reported on Sunday probably could be inferred that they that had in some way deliberately acted against the players' best interests and that would never be the case with those gents and I apologise for that.”

After announcing he would walk away from his post Irvine conceded his initial belief that exposing the use of the horse steroids during a newspaper interview was because he had his player's welfare at heart, was misguided and the comments were made under duress.

“I don't think it did, to be honest,” said Irvine when asked how it helped the Sharks playing roster. “And I'm honest; it's been a period of time in extreme pressure and strain for a lot of people.

“That conversation that I had, I won't back away from it, but it wasn't an interview in a calm situation, it was a middle-of-the-night conversation after quite a bit of badgering and it was made under what I thought was . . . it wasn't sensible to make those comments and I take responsibility."

Irvine insisted he jumped and wasn't pushed but admitted the weekend's comments proved was at the end of his tether.

“It probably indicated to me the strain of pressure was something I should take a step back from because it's out of character for me,” he said.

“It's not been easy . . . I'd like to think the four years that I've been here as chairman of the club have been a very good four years in a lot of ways and I wouldn't like to think that the board and different directors that have come through over that time would be tarnished by this period.”

While Irvine admitted that as the club's figurehead, he should've known about the alleged drug culture that has up to 14 players in a position where they could be banned for two years by ASADA, he was adamant he left the club in a much better state than when he took office,

“There's been some dark days at this club and people in organisations and financial institutions have had a lot of control over this club at times,” he said. “I don't mean to downplay at all what's happened here at the moment other than to say the club has gone through some very tough times and to continue. I'm 100 per cent sure that the hard work that has been done over the last four years sees this club able, now, to get through these sort of issues.”

This story Cullen predicts Cronulla will survive long term first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.