Sharks sign first major sponsor since 2011

Cronulla has secured its first major long-term naming rights sponsor in almost four years, with Southern Radiology signing on with the NRL club until the end of 2017.

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Sharks skipper Paul Gallen is also a confirmed starter for Sunday afternoon’s clash against the Roosters, while Sosaia Feki has officially been recalled for an injured Ben Barba.

But today’s sponsorship announcement is a major step in Cronulla’s rebuild and comes after years of off-field dramas, including the infamous supplements scandal of 2011 that almost brought the club to its knees.

CEO Lyall Gorman said it was a deal they would never have been able to negotiate two seasons ago.

“There’s no doubt the last couple of years have brought those challenges off the field and certainly last year with the wooden spoon on the field as well,” Gorman said.

“We had to come from the back and re-establish a little bit of credibility and brand equity and belief in the external market, both within with our members and external with our corporate partners.”

The move means for the first time since the club’s partnership with Hisense, all properties on the jersey have been sold for the short-term future.

“And that has a roll on effect, because we haven’t been able to sell home jerseys because they haven’t had a major sponsor on it,” coach Shane Flanagan said.

“That’s another massive income to the club long-term. If we can sell that jersey, sell them over Christmas, that’s all income and it all helps.”

Flanagan confirmed Michael Gordon will step in at fullback after Barba succumbed to a rib injury late this week. Feki will fill the vacant wing slot.

“Benny’s been struggling for two weeks with his rib, he had to get some painkillers last week and it didn’t work real well with a rib injury,” he said.

“With a bye coming up it was one of those calls that I just had to make as a coach, to give him the rest so he’d be right for our game after the bye.”

Flanagan also hinted at the possibility of keeping Gordon when his contract finishes at the end of the season.

The 31-year-old was slated for a mid-season move to Parramatta a month ago but was sensationally blocked by the Sharks and will now play out the rest of the year in the shire.

“He could still be here next year. No decision’s been made there yet. Michael could earn himself a contract here next year. Form’s indicative of all that,” Flanagan said.

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