SHARKS veteran Ben Ross has spoken for the first time about the Cronulla drugs scandal - revealing the hurt involved while praising his teammates' character.
The relationship between Cronulla's players and its board may be irreversibly damaged, but the Nambour product says the bond between the players is stronger than ever.
"It's been tough on everyone involved in the club (but) the boys have looked past it - we're there to play football," Ross said.
"Hopefully that's what we do best and keep doing it."
Last week was certainly tough for Cronulla - perhaps the toughest in its history.
With 14 players facing lengthy suspensions over 2011 doping practices at Cronulla (Ross rejoined the club last season) and coach Shane Flanagan stood down and four other staff sacked on Friday, the Sharks went into Sunday's opening round clash against the Titans in turmoil.
A strong performer in Cronulla's 12-10 win, Ross said the result had proved a morale adhesive.
While the respected prop can't say too much given the ongoing Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation into the club, he could not be happier with the way his teammates have responded.
"That's the good thing. It (the win over Titans) is so good for the boys and team morale," the ex-Maroon said.
"I know we're a close-knit bunch. This win has brought us back together ever closer.
"It's just exciting to have a good win over the Titans."
Flanagan and the sacked staff - football manager Darren Mooney, head trainer Mark Noakes, physiotherapist Konrad Schultz and team doctor Dave Givney - were punished for failing to inform the board about the doping.
A consultant for the Sharks, sports lawyer and ex-ASADA senior counsel Richard Redman, has advised the 14 targeted players to plead guilty and accept six-month suspensions.
Coast-based former Cronulla star Dan Stains last week said the Sharks' problems were the result of poor administration - describing the club's culture as toxic. The Sharks' next match is against Souths on Monday.
Ross admitted to being disappointed over champion Rabbitohs prop Sam Burgess being suspended for a match. Burgess yesterday pleaded guilty to a high-tackle charge arising from Souths' win over the Roosters and was suspended for a match.
"You always want to compare yourself against the great players and he's one of those," Ross said.
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