Shane Flanagan's brutal Cronulla Sharks premiership swipe ahead of bitter NRL showdown

Flanagan was the last coach to lead the Sharks to an NRL premiership.

Shane Flanagan says the date of his Shark Park return has long been 'circled on his calendar' as he prepares his Dragons side to take on the team he led to the 2016 NRL premiership. Ahead of his side's clash with Cronulla, Flanagan said the Sharks are a team he is "really interested in beating" as he counts down the days until next Sunday's clash.

While some coaches may move to quietly regroup after being pumped by more than 40 points, Flanagan did what his team struggled to do against the Roosters and went on the offensive. On the back of the 60-18 defeat to the Tri Colours on Thursday, the Dragons coach took aim at the Sharks' failure to build on the platform he set at the club when he won the premiership in 2016.

Pictured Shane Flanagan
Shane Flanagan was the last man to lead the Sharks to an NRL premiership in 2016. Image: Getty

The 58-year-old was deregistered and moved on as Cronulla coach on the eve of the 2019 season after it emerged he had breached the terms of an NRL ban handed out in 2014. Following his departure John Morris took over before handing the reins to current coach Craig Fitzgibbon.

Since Flanagan's Sharks departure, the side hasn't gone beyond the second week of finals, something the 58-year-old isn't letting Sharks fans forget. And rather than downplay his return to Shark Park, Flanagan continues to take potshots at his former club and says it will be anything but and emotional reunion next week.

"It (the Sharks game) has been marked in the calendar for a while," Flanagan said. It won't be an emotional week, no, I won a comp there. I don't think they've won one since, have they?"

But Flanagan insists he has moved on from what happened at the end of his tenure at Cronulla and says his full attention is on recapturing the Dragons' form prior to their loss to the Roosters on Anzac Day. It was an afternoon to forget for the Red V, which got off to the worst possible start, losing Moses Suli to concussion off the opening kick-off.

"It was a terrible way to start the game because he's so powerful from the backfield,'' Flanagan said. "We couldn't win that battle and we were always kicking inside our 40m and they were marching back up to halfway on play one. We couldn't break that cycle and at halftime, we were gassed, but Moses's injury didn't help us."

Suli's concussion has again sparked the debate on whether kick-offs should still be part of the game after a spate of head injuries from them in recent years. The NRL introduced a new ruling around kick-offs and dropouts in 2024 to encourage shorter attempts so teams can regain the ball.

This was also in part to reduce the chances of a player being concussed from a big hit-up. On Thursday, Dragons centre Suli was ruled out of the game only 10 seconds into the contest after colliding heads with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves during the first hit-up of the game.

The kick-off debate took off a few weeks ago when an NFL-style start was suggested to avoid the heavy contact at the start of the game, which can often cause head knocks. But the conversation around rule changes to the kick-off has resurfaced following the Suli incident and both coaches believe it is something that needs to be looked at.


“We want to play this really tough gladiator sport, and we want to get down there – especially off kick-offs – and have really good contact with front-rowers," Flanagan said in the post-match press conference. "But we see it too often. I don’t know the answer, but we see it too often. When it happens to one of your players, it’s not nice to see. I don’t know how we stop it unless we start with a play the ball, and that's not something I’d like to see.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Dragons players look dejected during the round eight NRL match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium, on April 25, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
The Dragons were thumped 60-18 by the Roosters on Anzac Day.

“In the modern game, we can’t have these concussions. We need to look after the players. The short dropouts and all that have probably changed it a little bit, but I don’t know the answer.”

Roosters coach Trent Robinson also believes the kick-off needs to be looked at after a multitude of concussions. "It's a really hard one because I love kick-offs because they set a statement to how we wanted to play today,” Robinson added.

"But we don’t want to see that for Moses. I think we can see that we’re getting to the point where it needs to shift. I think they tried to do it through the short kick-offs, but it’s not enough. Field position is still a really big part of the game, so you need to get down there. I think we’re getting closer to a change soon."

with AAP