Rugby League

Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan wants All Stars match scrapped

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has called for the "outdated" All Stars game to be scrapped after the fixture left him without almost $4 million of talent for his club's first trial of the season.

The annual debate about the All Stars' place in the rugby league calendar is on again amid reports last year's Gold Coast clash lost $500,000.

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There is also a cost for the clubs, with none affected more than Cronulla.

The Sharks originally fielded six players – Michael Ennis, Wade Graham, Ben Barba, Fifita twins Andrew and David and Paul Gallen, although the latter was a late withdrawal due to a calf injury.

No more All Stars matches: Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan wants an end to the annual clash.
No more All Stars matches: Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan wants an end to the annual clash. Photo: Getty Images

The commitment has left the Sharks struggling to name a team for Sunday's trial against Manly, a side also decimated after losing a raft of players to the casualty ward during the Auckland Nines.

Flanagan said it was important to celebrate the contribution of indigenous players to rugby league, but said the increasing demands of the pre-season meant there was a better way to do so than with the All Stars match.

"Originally we had six in and they were in my top five or six salary cap wise," Flanagan said.

"That's more than half of my cap at risk playing in that game.

"It's tough. We train these players, look after their diet, [monitor] every bit of their training and then we get nearly to the big time and they get dragged away from us for a week to play another game.

"I understand the original idea of the game, [celebrating] the massive Aboriginal influence on our game and the contribution they have made to our game. For me, it's outdated because of all the other commitments.

"I'm trying to get combinations right for this weekend and my three leaders – Wade Graham, Michael Ennis and Paul Gallen – are not available. I've got Benny Barba and the two Fifitas unavailable. Yet the NRL wants us to have two trials.

"We've got six players out and then we have other injuries, so we've got another four or five that aren't back from surgery or can't play. That's 11 out of 30 – as you can imagine, I'm lucky to field a side this weekend.

"I could put potentially put at risk other players that are not ready to play in an NRL trial that need to go out and play. There are all these things that affect you, not just the players not being available to play for your club.

"It's about getting combinations right, putting out a competitive team for a trial. You can't plan your pre-season because you don't know how many players you've got in it. If it's only three players, you can cop that. But when you have another three going in, it's hard.

"To have six of your top 25 taken away from you, it's nearly a quarter of your team."

Flanagan said one way to alleviate the stress on the clubs was for each to provide a set number of players for an Indigenous side that could participate in the Nines tournament.

"If we go out and train in Sharks jerseys we risk injury," he said.

"We understand that, but it's our training. We pay the bills, this affects our salary cap and it affects our season. If anything happens under the NRL's watch [at All Stars], it doesn't affect the NRL. It's back on their clubs and we have to deal with it.

"I just don't want it to happen again. When [All Stars] started there wasn't the Nines, we're adding to the pile of games you need to contribute to.

"Everyone talks about burnout come Origin time and City Country, but we're playing one of the fastest games you can play in Nines as our first game – and [Manly coach] Trent Barrett has some reason to blow up about it – and go from that to taking them away to have an All Stars game about [a week] later. It's on the club again."

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