Shane Flanagan could be a head coach as early as this season after the NRL indicated it would consider allowing him to return from suspension midway through the year if a job becomes available.
Sources with knowledge of NRL discussions regarding Flanagan’s future confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald that the premiership-winning coach has been in dialogue with head office about the prospect of taking on a head coaching role before his suspension expires at the end of this season.
Shane Flanagan is in discussions with the NRL about returning as a head coach as early as this season.Credit:Wolter Peeters
Flanagan was deregistered by the NRL in December 2018 after an investigation into salary cap irregularities at the Sharks found he had communicated with the club while serving a previous ban related to the side’s peptide scandal.
In September 2019, Flanagan was told by former NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg he would not be eligible to take on a top job at a club before November 1 this year, ruling him out until the preseason before the 2022 campaign.
He recently approached NRL boss Andrew Abdo and ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys to inquire whether he would be able to take a job if one came up, with the game’s powerbrokers indicating they would consider bringing forward his return date by a few months.
The final decision will rest with the ARLC, but the game is aware that denying Flanagan this season may limit his chances for a number of years.
Shane Flanagan worked with Dean Young as an assistant to Paul McGregor at the Dragons in 2020.
The NRL has shown a willingness to be flexible with the rules under V’landys and base decisions around criteria and circumstances, as is the case with the Sydney Roosters’ application to allow 17-year-old Joseph Suaalii to play in round one. The code’s rules state a player must be at least 18 to make his first-grade debut.
News of Flanagan’s potential early return will add to the heat on a number of under-pressure coaches heading into the 2021 season, which kicks off on March 11.
Cronulla coach John Morris, who took over from Flanagan at the Sharks, is among those in the spotlight.
The Sharks have refused to extend Morris’ tenure, leaving the young coach without a job for next season. Flanagan’s return would amplify speculation that Morris will be replaced by his former mentor, although not everyone is convinced he is the right option.
Flanagan has plenty of support on the board, but the Herald understands chief executive Dino Mezzatesta is opposed to bringing him back to the club he led to premiership glory in 2016.
Flanagan still has strong ties with key players at the club, including captain Wade Graham, as well as recruit Cam McInnes from his time with the hooker at the Dragons. Flanagan declined to comment when contacted.
Flanagan, who served as an assistant to Paul McGregor at the Dragons last year, is without a job after new St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin opted against retaining him.
The other name being discussed internally is Penrith Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo, who has a close bond with the players at the foot of the mountains.
And while there is pressure on Eels coach Brad Arthur, Parramatta have no interest in Flanagan’s services should they decide to change direction.
At the time of Flanagan’s ban, Greenberg said: “I have spoken to Shane at length and he has expressed significant remorse and accepted responsibility for his past actions and the detrimental impact they have had on the game”.
"We have created a pathway for Shane to return to the coaching ranks. Today's decision gives Shane an opportunity to be registered in the NRL. This is not a set and forget approach. Shane and any future club who employs him has numerous conditions which they must comply with and the Integrity Unit will continue to monitor his conduct over the next two seasons."
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