Eels keep door open for Trent Elkin

Parramatta officials are continuing to stand by high-performance director Trent Elkin as the former Cronulla head trainer fights to avoid becoming the scapegoat in the Sharks' 2011 supplements scandal.

Elkin, who is contesting a minimum two-year ban announced in December by NRL chief executive Dave Smith, knows he has little chance of avoiding any suspension, and so must the Eels, as they are understood to already be considering a replacement.

Former Brisbane performance coach Tony Guilfoyle is one name linked to the job but officials say they will not make any appointment until Elkin's fate is finally decided, and the players are currently training under Ciriaco Mescia.

Among the Eels' concerns is the welfare of Elkin, who has received the heaviest penalty meted out since the so-called ''darkest day in Australian sport'' was declared almost 12 months ago.

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan received a one-year ban from the NRL, effectively for blindly trusting Elkin to run the club's supplements program, while the Sharks are fighting a $1 million fine.

It is widely believed in league circles that part of Flanagan's case, outlined in a 37-page submission from his QC, Stuart Littlemore, is to lay blame for what occurred at the start of the 2011 season with Elkin.

Flanagan, the Sharks and Elkin are all understood to be arguing that the NRL, who had been praised for their patience in comparison to the AFL, acted too hastily in deciding to take action against them a week before Christmas.

To date, no one who was at Cronulla in 2011 has accepted responsibility for the supplements program that has up to 11 current players and others now at rival clubs facing drugs bans, and the only real evidence appears to be Elkin's testimony to ASADA.

Rather than receiving any benefit for coming forward soon after the ASADA investigation was announced, Elkin's testimony has been used against him and questions have been raised about how he received a significantly heavier penalty than Flanagan - the only other individual to face sanctions from the NRL so far.

There is no doubt Elkin is guilty of naivety and recklessness but those who know him say he would not have deliberately organised an illegal doping regime for Cronulla players - and could not have, given the club's resources.

In comparison to what took place at Essendon a year later, it was amateur hour at the Sharks, and Flanagan had to raise money just to pay for renovations to the club's gym.

When Stephen Dank - the sports scientist who had worked at Manly for five years - offered his services for free, Elkin no doubt thought he would help the Sharks by inviting him into the club. But the consequences of those actions are set to be felt for a long time in league circles, with Smith told to take as long as needed to respond to the submissions from Cronulla, Flanagan and Elkin.

The Sharks, Flanagan and Elkin can then take their cases to an NRL appeals committee hearing and legal action remains a possibility if they are still not happy with the outcome.

In the meantime, Parramatta will be without a performance director as they keep the position open for Elkin.

This story Eels keep door open for Trent Elkin first appeared on Parramatta Sun.


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