Flanagan fires first salvo ahead of Cronulla return

George Clarke |

Dragons coach Shane Flanagan is looking forward to playing his old club Cronulla.
Dragons coach Shane Flanagan is looking forward to playing his old club Cronulla.

Shane Flanagan has fanned the flames ahead of his reunion with Cronulla, declaring the Sharks are a side he is “really interested in beating”.

And Flanagan didn’t stop there, clipping the Sharks for their failure to win an NRL premiership since the club’s first and only title was delivered back when he was head coach in 2016. 

Flanagan had the perfect smokescreen after St George Illawarra were pumped 60-18 by the Sydney Roosters on Thursday as the focus quickly turned to his return to Shark Park on Sunday week.

The 58-year-old coach 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.

John Morris and current coach Craig Fitzgibbon have followed in his footsteps, with neither mentor able to move the Sharks beyond the second week of finals. 

But rather than downplay his return to Cronulla’s home ground, Flanagan leaned into the occasion as the Dragons were reeling from their Anzac Day annihilation at the hands of the Roosters.

“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?

Paul Gallen kisses coach Shane Flanagan
Paul Gallen gives coach Shane Flanagan a cheeky peck after the Sharks won the 2016 NRL grand final. (Craig Golding/AAP PHOTOS)

“My job is to get these boys up, whether we’re playing the Sharks, I need to get the boys up to where we were a few weeks ago.

“It’s not about me, I don’t care about me and I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about the team and the club.”

Flanagan insisted he had moved on with his life and he will need his Dragons side to regroup, too, after an encouraging run of form was brought to an abrupt end by the Roosters. 

It was an afternoon to forget for the Dragons, who lost 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.”