ASADA to begin NRL player interviews

It is believed 10 current Sharks players will be interviewed by ASADA. Photo / Getty Images
It is believed 10 current Sharks players will be interviewed by ASADA. Photo / Getty Images

On the eve of the first of his players finally being interviewed by ASADA over the alleged use of banned drugs at the NRL club in 2011, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan cracked on Sunday night.

Emotional after watching his side slump to a fourth straight loss with a 24-8 defeat to Canterbury at Gosford, Flanagan had clearly had enough when the topic turned to the drugs crisis which has engulfed his club all season.

"We're here to talk about the footy - I'm not here to talk about ASADA," Flanagan said.

"I'm sick of talking about it."

Pressed further as to how the interviews, which are believed to involve 10 current Sharks players, would affect his side's build-up to Sunday's game against Newcastle, a clearly testy Flanagan said:

"We'll prepare exactly the same as we do.

"I'm not talking about ASADA, neither is Paul (captain Paul Gallen), neither is anyone in our organisation.

"It's been spoken about for six months - it seems like it."

While it hasn't been six months, it's clear the stress of what has so far been an almost three-month scandal is starting to take effect.

Mired near the foot of the ladder, the saga is clearly impacting the team's ability to win games, but general manager football operations Steve Noyce was hopeful that the start of the interview process would at least take the investigation to the next step.

The Sharks players involved in the investigation thought they would be interviewed from last Monday before the process was again delayed.

"Tuesday, it got called off," Noyce said.

"Wednesday, it was going to be three weeks till it started.

"We keep changing our plans every time something happens and then Thursday it was back on.

"If Shane had a bit of frustration today (it would be understandable). Every time you make a plan, it gets changed."

Noyce refused to discuss how the interview process would play out, or how many players would be spoken to on Monday.

Noyce said the anti-doping agency had shown some respect for the fact the club was still attempting to prepare for NRL games, adding he didn't expect players would be forced to miss matches to attend interviews.

"I think it's in everyone's best interests to get the process going," Noyce said.

"We need to be mindful of training timetables.

"We play the Knights next week up in Newcastle.

"They've been pretty good in the last couple of days trying to understand how you balance the demands of being a football player in the hardest competition in the world and also the responsibility we have to complete these interviews."

Noyce said he did not know how long the interview process would take or how quickly ASADA would move in completing its investigations and deliver a report to the NRL.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said on March 20 that the league had been told the investigation would be complete in four-six weeks, a timeframe which expires next week.

Smith said at the time that 31 current players were to be interviewed by ASADA.

- AAP

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