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Sharks in crisis: Club great voices fears for future

Former Sharks cult hero Luke Covell isn’t hitting the panic stations, but he fears the unfolding financial crisis at Cronulla could jeopardise the club’s future.

The club posted a $3 million loss on this year’s season. That follows a loss of $4 million in 2017 and comes despite receiving a $13 million grant from the NRL.

“It’s nothing new to the Sharks. We went years and years and years of going through financial issues,” Covell told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

“I thought everything was going really well… to hear what we’ve been hearing is a bit mind-blowing,” Covell said.

In recent weeks, the club has been forced to cut staff to find savings and have struggled to find sponsors for the 2019 season. The NRL has reportedly asked Cronulla to explain its plan to fund the club well into the future.

Despite winning an elusive maiden Premiership in 2016, the revenue has not grown by enough. Funds coming in from development projects around Shark Park are going predominantly to paying off existing debts.

During his 131-game career in the Shire, Covell said Cronulla’s financial viability was “always in the back of our heads”.

He is not worried about an imminent collapse of the club, but urged the NRL to reconsider its position on bailing out clubs in financial strife.

League boss Todd Greenberg has categorically ruled out “bailing out” any club in danger of sinking.

“I think [the NRL] do have a responsibility [to help struggling clubs out],” Covell said.

“But then, you don’t want the clubs to get into a mentality to think ‘we’ll just spend the money this year even though we can’t afford it, we don’t have to worry about it because the NRL will just bail us out’,” he said.

Covell also supported Paul Gallen’s call for the NRL to consider punishing players like Valentine Holmes that elect to leave the game with years left on their contract to chase a career in another code.

“If you break your contract, I for sure think there should be some kind of punishment. What that is, I don’t know,” Covell said.

“You commit yourself for however long you sign. The principle of the loyalty, you can’t just change your mind”.

Click below to hear the full interview and listen to the Weekend Warm-Up with Cam Reddin, 4.00am-7.00am Saturday and Sunday mornings