Opening up: Suspended Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has cleared the air on a range of topics. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has opened up about his relationship with Stephen Dank, offered his views on Andrew Fifita and talked for the first time about allegations he set up a slush fund to pay for peptides for his players.
Flanagan is getting on with life – he’s just bought a new home – and is counting down to the end of his ban on September 17.
He has been communicating with the NRL in the hope of getting permission to be involved in player negotiations as he tries to build a team next year.
He has slammed suggestions that the Sharks should have waited until the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority delivered their verdict before contracting him.
“It’s fine for people to say that, but the NRL were aware of my negotiations and they didn’t have a problem with that at all, so I don’t know why anyone else would,” he said.
“I’ve been through the front door with the NRL on it and we are talking at the moment about how I can plan for 2015.”
Flanagan has not been in touch with Sharks coach Peter Sharp and has had no influence on the Andrew Fifita drama that has been going on.
“I’m not happy that his deal fell over at the Dogs ... I would have driven him out there myself to sign that deal, but there is a saying that sometimes if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.
‘‘Andrew needs to just concentrate on playing good football, he would be the first to say that he has not had the best start to the season.
''He needs to get back to his best so he can make it back into the Blues team and for the Sharks. Obviously I’d like him to be at the Sharks when I return.”
Flanagan has been reluctant to talk about his relationship with Dank.
“It was not a relationship ... I’d say hello or goodbye and that would have been it. I didn’t have many conversations with him. I was told he was doing tracking systems or GPS work and that was it.”
What disgusted Flanagan were reports that he raised funds through sponsors to create a slush fund to raise money to pay for peptides and the employment of Dank.
The first error there was that Dank got paid – the second was that Flanagan raised the money for the gym, not for the purchase of supplements. It was a gross insult to his character.
‘‘One of the reasons I have not talked about it is because it was ludicrous ... just crazy talk, we had no money, we were moved out of our gym, the club had no money to build a gym and we built a great gym that I’m proud of it.
''I just get the feeling that there are some people who are out to get the club – whether it be for relocation or whatever. It hurt a lot at the time, but people who know me know it's not true.”
IN DEFENCE OF FACTS
There have been few more emotive stories than that of Alex McKinnon – the way the people of Newcastle responded, the players and the campaign to ''Rise for Alex''. It reached a flashpoint when a colleague of mine, Nine News reporter Neil Breen, delivered the news no one wanted to hear.
“I felt sick in the stomach this week when I was introduced before radio interviews as the journalist who “broke the story that Alex McKinnon has been diagnosed with quadriplegia,” Breen said. “This wasn’t about ‘breaking’ a story. It wasn’t about competing with journalistic rivals.”
When Nine News aired the report on Monday night’s news, it carried no such tags as “exclusive’’ or “First On Nine’’.
Breen said: “It was about toning it down and reporting the facts, as we knew them, and still know them to be, one of the most heartbreaking of sporting stories. I knew from multiple sources about the diagnosis, but I will never say who they are. That is the journalist’s code.
‘‘No journalist with any shred of human decency wants to 'break' this story. You’d rather have nothing to do with it at all. But the situation is real, as confronting and hard and shocking and sad as it is.” Breen has challenged the Knights to re-watch the story.
“They heavily criticised Nine’s report as being ‘sensationalist’ journalism,” he said.
“I ask anybody to go back and watch the report. It was anything but [sensationalist]. It spoke about the diagnosis, as things stand right now, and spoke about the possibility of improvement through long-term care and treatment.
‘‘Notably, no one has said at any stage this past week the story was wrong, no matter how much we wish – myself included at the top of the list – that it was wrong.
‘‘As human beings, all of us are in the hope business. None of us will ever give up hope for Alex and his parents Scott and Kate. The Knights are promoting hope through the 'Rise For Alex' campaign. It helps make us, who are not inside that intensive care unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne where Alex McKinnon is undergoing rigorous physiotherapy to remove the mucus from his lungs, feel better.
"But spinal doctors are not in the hope business. They are in the ‘here and now’ business, dealing with a traumatic injury the best way they can, hour by hour.’’
Breen said the statements that came out of the Knights offices pointed strongly towards everything he reported.
“In their statements, the Knights confirmed repeatedly Alex suffered fractures and displacement of the C4 and C5 vertebrae, causing a ‘devastating spinal injury’ which has left him, almost two weeks later, with only the ability to slightly move his right arm.
‘‘Quadriplegia is diagnosed when vertebrae displacement at the C4 or C5 level of the spine damages the spinal cord, leaving a patient with between ‘total and partial’ paralysis of all four limbs.
‘‘A ‘complete’ quadriplegic has a severed spinal cord. An ‘incomplete’ quadriplegic has a damaged spinal cord, which is not severed. Alex McKinnon is in the latter category.
‘‘The Knights have described quadriplegia in its statements without saying the word because it is a word none of us ever want to hear, or be associated with. It has a stigma about it, but it is a medical diagnosis, that’s all, for exactly what the Knights say has occurred to Alex.’’
STEWART'S THE MAN
Glenn Stewart is at his wit's end with the Sea Eagles and so is his management. They want an offer to be put in place by next week – even if it’s an insulting level.
Here’s a thought – Souths forward Ben Te’o has a get-out clause in his contract in his favour.
If he does decide to take up that opportunity and head to Brisbane, the club will have well over a million dollars to sign a forward. They’ve said no to Andrew Fifita but Stewart would have to be an option.
Even a Stewart package to include his brother Brett could be an option. Souths need a player with subtle skills and experience. It is unclear if they have any genuine interest in Glenn or Brett Stewart. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart tried to get Glenn Stewart to the Eels when he was in charge there.
The Sea Eagles management is fuming that the Glenn Stewart re-signing story is getting so much air time. What is really irking them is that it is being billed as a Stewart v Daly Cherry–Evans battle for the remaining dollars.
Manly do not want Cherry–Evans to get into next year as a player who will be a free agent – they want to extend him this year. It would appear that Dave Perry would rather be the CEO who loses Glenn Stewart than Cherry–Evans.
THE HASLER TOUCH
Des Hasler was telling anyone who would ask him that he would handle Andrew Fifita and his big personality. He even said as much to Sharp when the pair ran into each other. “He’ll be right with me,” Hasler said when Sharp congratulated him on the signing and wished him luck.
STATE OF SHOCK
Trying to gauge just how hard the news of McKinnon’s injury has hit players in the NRL was illustrated to me when I listened to the news with Blues skipper Paul Gallen. He put his head in his hands and gripped his scalp tight. He repeated the word “no” several times. It has cut deep.
It appears Anthony Watmough’s campaign to have a new bubbler put in the Manly gym is going to work – but our item last week put a few noses out of joint at the Narabeen Academy.
So much so that a meeting was called between the Sea Eagles and those running the academy.They did not see the humour in the situation, but Manly trainer Don Singe did.
“I’ve worked at the Sydney Sports Academy for 10 years, six days a week, and no one has ever got sick from drinking out of the bubble. The only time someone could get sick is they drank straight after Choc.”
MUNDINE HITS OUT
Anthony Mundine might be focusing on Wednesday night's bout against Joshua Clottey, but that has not stopped him from taking a swipe at the NRL.
“The way they have treated the indigenous game is a disgrace, and confirms they are all about the dollars,” he said.
“They dump the game as soon as they get offered a few dollars to play in the Nines. Its just amazing and cheap.
‘‘The good work they did is undone in a big way. It should have been a game which stayed on the calendar no matter what and its been devalued from here on.”