Buck stops with coach ... and Flanagan may take fall

Not until Shane Flanagan's head is sliced off and served up on a platter will many critics be satisfied with where this drugs malady is headed – and even then there's still so much more to go for Cronulla.

Should the Sharks coach pay the ultimate price for the alleged use of banned peptides under discredited sports scientist Stephen Dank in 2011, or be allowed to lead his side into next season?

On the day the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation was revealed, in early February, one of the game's leading coaches told this column: "The buck stops with the coach. These young guys trust us. We have their lives in our hands."

Flanagan told Fairfax Media on Sunday that he had fulfilled his "duty of care". At the very least, though, the coach has surely failed in not having total control over the supplements program that now seriously threatens his club's future – despite how much he cares for the joint.

In the future, the buck won't stop with the coach as much as those above him. One of the main points of discussion coming out of the chief executives conference a fortnight ago was the directive that club bosses must front their own supplements committee and disclose exactly what is being put into each of their players.

Club doctors must also front the board four times a year.

For far too long, NRL clubs have been ruled by coaches and sports scientists, with boards and chief executives handing over absolute control in the pursuit of a premiership.

Would a substantial fine and the potential sacking of Flanagan and captain Paul Gallen spell the end for the Sharks?

Club powerbrokers will tell anyone who will listen that they are in a stronger financial position than many believe. We'll see when the excrement finally hits the fan.

The NRL, meanwhile, will continue to take its time, like it has from the start. NRL chief executive Dave Smith seemingly has the patience of the Dalai Lama, yet there has been an eye cast south at the ugly way Essendon coach James Hird and his coaching staff were rubbed out.

The NRL is trying to avoid the same legal entanglement. The AFL managed and massaged the result of its drugs scandal, which is still not over. Should the NRL jump into those murky waters just so it can have it all wrapped up before Santa arrives?

The quick and the dread 

England batsmen will step out on to the WACA Ground pitch in the next five, or three, days like they are Bambi on ice. Yet long before Mitchell Johnson was striking the fear of God into English batsmen, there was barely a more formidable sight than one D.K.Lillee storming in at one end at the Perth ground, with Freddie Mercury-like moustache and gold chains dancing off hairy chest, steaming in.

At the other, J.R. Thomson ready to slingshot your head off.It is interesting to hear commentators still referring to Thommo as the quickest of all time. Still. After all these years.As for Lillee, the great Geoff Boycott has said this of him: ‘‘He could knock your block off, and he could think you out, too.’’ In this picture, he literally knocked Boycott’s block off.

Then again, some might say Lillee’s greatest moment at the WACA Ground was the day he famously introduced an aluminium bat to Ashes cricket. We’re stunned it didn’t catch on.

Bill back, Richie doubt

Channel Nine is hoping the doyen of commentators, Richie Benaud, will be well enough to join Bill Lawry at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test.

The 83-year-old is recovering from a broken sternum following a car accident in his beloved Sunbeam in October, but we hear his return to health has been slower than expected. Yet Nine is hopeful Benaud will be in Melbourne for the fourth Ashes Test to take his place alongside Lawry.

Either way, the coverage is rating off its head – about 2.5 million viewers a day have tuned in to watch the slow roasting of the hapless Poms.

In other Ashes news, a cursory glance of the new stand at the SCG earlier this week revealed no fewer than five cranes still in place just three weeks away from the Sydney Test.

But we're assured all four levels will be in operation and every seat in position come January 3.

Cloud over Packer

The future of James Packer and Miranda Kerr is nowhere near as murky as that of prop-in-limbo Russell Packer, who we understand is no relation whatsoever to the billionaire casino operator.

Not the coldest can in the fridge, Packer demanded a release from the New Zealand Warriors because he made it clear just how fiery things could get if he stayed under the control of coach Matt Elliott.

We're told Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah signed the release straight away when he saw the steam coming from the big fella's ears.

Newcastle picked up Packer but took weeks to register the contract, and in the meantime he went and spoilt it all by doing something allegedly stupid by getting charged by police for assault.

As for Blake Ferguson, anyone who knows the backstory of his childhood knows how tough his life has been and why he makes so many mistakes off the field.

The immediate reaction to his being found guilty of indecent assault was about what it meant for his playing career.

What about the girl he assaulted?

A whole Lote love

Lote Tuqiri has been labelled a "football love rat" for an alleged "steamy affair" with an Irish reality-TV star called Danielle "Dr Botox" Meagher.

You could not make this stuff up. Sadly, it doesn't sound like anyone had to. Worse than that, the former Wests Tigers star has a wife and kids.

Tuqiri has been the source of plenty of speculation about his off-field relationships throughout his career, not least after ARU boss John O'Neill tore up his $5 million contract in 2009 when he took a 20-year-old woman back to his hotel room during a Wallabies camp in Canberra.

Private matters are private matters, but sometimes when you are a sporting icon mixing it with reality-TV stars, well . . . do the maths.

Interestingly, the dual international posted a link on Twitter on Wednesday to a story from American motivational speaker Bob Burg about the danger of gossip. "Gossip is like a fired bullet," the article points out. "Once you hear the sound, you can't take it back."

That's why you should always keep your head down, Bobby.

Question & Answer: Billy Birmingham

We speak - and basically laugh for 20 minutes - with the 12th Man about the release of his best-of album, Willy Nilly - The 12th Man's Biggest Hits.

How are sales going?

I'm nipping at the heels of some sub-20-year-olds on the charts: One Direction and Taylor Henderson, who apparently is an Idol winner. They should respect their elders and get out of the way. I'd like to be No.1 but would settle for number choo.

Billy, I first listened to you in my teens and now I'm nudging 40 and still laughing at the same bloody lines.

Because sport is a great leveller, my audience goes from eight to 80, and from streetsweeper to brain surgeon. For young guys, the first swearing they could listen to was on my albums. Those kids from 1984 onwards are the ones who have grown up with me. Or not grown up with me.

Warnie keeps kicking the ''willy nilly'' reference on, doesn't he?

He did it the other day, and he did it when James Faulkner missed and poked Brad Haddin in the eye in India. It reminded me of the Pakistani player ''I-feel-sick-darl''. I was going to call this ''The 12th Man's Greatest Hits''. Then he said the ''willy nilly'' phrase and that was it.

My favourite 12th Man line is, in Richie's voice, ''Now if you don't mind I've got a very important column to read''.

Again! You need to put the ''again'' in.

What line do the fans on the street want from you the most?

The favourite name is ''I-keep-my-teeth-in-a-jar-beside-the-bed''.

Not ''She-wrote-upon-a-pretend-a-sender''?

''Ba-bup-a-ba address unknown.'' The thing I love is the randomness. It is so bizarre. For one bloke, it was the Marshall battery ad I did. ''I'm in the glovebox.''

Gold. What about Rabs? The great Ray Warren?

I've said for years that I've made Richie the most impersonated man in the country. If Ray was more of a national figure, he'd be [puts on Ray Warren voice] dead-set in the fair dinkum department, clipping Richie's heels, in the old racing parlance.

It's all become part of the Australian vernacular.

Cricket coaches at schoolboys level come up to me and say, ''You've ruined my team. All they do is take the piss out of each other doing your voices every training session.''

Twitter @awebstar1

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