Damning email shows how Flanagan brought Sharks down

Shane Flanagan made one fatal mistake that plunged the Cronulla Sharks into a million-dollar salary cap scandal and cost him his job.

The now de-registered coach sent a confidential spreadsheet of undisclosed player payments from his own private Bigpond account to his Sharks email address on June 3, 2017.

It was a moment of self-destruction, and the smoking gun at the centre of the NRL's investigation.

The spreadsheet was originally in an email from another person connected to the club.

Former Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan was the man who brought the Sharks down with one single email.
Former Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan was the man who brought the Sharks down with one single email.

It reveals hundreds of thousands of dollars of unapproved third-party agreements, including cash payments, to seven of his star players who had won the premiership the previous season.

The Sunday Telegraph has obtained the secret document that left the 2016 premiers facing a crippling salary cap crisis and $1 million in fines.

It is the first evidence that Flanagan had knowledge of the additional payments to players.

Porn shop king Con Ange was found among the data base of around 20 third party providers.

Luke Lewis was illegally paid $200,000 outside the cap. There is no suggestion any players knew or were involved in the salary cap breaches.
Luke Lewis was illegally paid $200,000 outside the cap. There is no suggestion any players knew or were involved in the salary cap breaches.

The Sunday Telegraph can also today reveal the names of the players affected by the scandal - Luke Lewis, James Maloney, Wade Graham, Valentine Holmes, Josh Dugan, Jack Bird and Chris Heighington. Holmes, Maloney, Bird, Lewis and Heighington have since left the club.

The Sharks committed $200,000 to Lewis between 2013 and 2016 in payments not disclosed on his playing contract. Another $80,000 went to Bird.

Some of the money was paid to their managers in cash, in amounts of up to $25,000.

There is no suggestion that any of the players or their managers were aware that the payments contravened salary cap rules.

jack Bird was illegally paid $80,000 outside the cap. There is no suggestion any players knew or were involved in the salary cap breaches.
jack Bird was illegally paid $80,000 outside the cap. There is no suggestion any players knew or were involved in the salary cap breaches.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg reveals in a letter to the Sharks that the hidden payments were uncovered by integrity unit investigators from the Sharks' internet server, which contained the email Flanagan sent to himself while he was the team's coach.

Flanagan sent himself the email 12 months before the Sharks salary cap rorts were exposed. Otherwise it may not have been detected. Other copies were kept on private email accounts.

Until then the NRL knew only of $75,000 in undisclosed payments that had been self-reported by chief executive Barry Russell.

Cronulla Sharks salaries in 2017.
Cronulla Sharks salaries in 2017.

All up, the NRL investigation identified $993,000 of financial commitments by the club to the players that were not included in contracts registered with the NRL.

The spreadsheet on Flanagan's email was compiled by a company called Connection 2 Sport.

The managing director, Luke Edmonds, started the company when he resigned from his role at the Sharks as its sponsorship manager. Edmonds has denied any wrongdoing.

 

The document detailing the salary cap breaches.
The document detailing the salary cap breaches.

 

The NRL says Connection 2 Sport was established with the knowledge of the Sharks board and executive, yet no action has been taken against their CEO Lyall Gorman, who now works at Manly. Gorman has denied any wrong doing

"Edmonds and Connection 2 Sport were from its inception the primary drivers for the sourcing of third party agreements for the Sharks playing roster," Greenberg writes in his letter.

"Edmonds would provide hospitality and an 'inner sanctum' experience for actual and potential third party agreement providers."

Under NRL salary cap rules, it is illegal for club officials to facilitate or have any involvement in third-party deals.

The Sharks declined to comment.

Cronulla Sharks salaries in 2018.
Cronulla Sharks salaries in 2018.
Cronulla Sharks salaries in 2019.
Cronulla Sharks salaries in 2019.
Cronulla Sharks projected salaries in 2020 and 2021.
Cronulla Sharks projected salaries in 2020 and 2021.