Kennedy, Sharks, Dragons

Retiring Manly backrower Ben Kennedy has reportedly been stripped of the prestigious Rugby League Professionals Association player-of-the-year award because he did not pay his union fees.

News Limited newspapers say Kennedy polled the most votes in the award, which is decided by NRL players, ahead of Cronulla's Paul Gallen and Parramatta's Nathan Hindmarsh. But because the inspirational Sea Eagles captain, who retired after last week's semi-final loss to St George Illawarra, did not pay his $1600 union fees he was ineligible for the prize.

Gallen has also not paid his fees, leaving Hindmarsh the winner of the award to be presented next Friday week, News Limited reported.

Elsewhere, Cronulla coach Stuart Raper's fate could be known today when management consultancy company Mercury Group presents the Sharks board with its internal review.

The Sharks suffered a record 10 straight losses to end the season and Cronulla chief executive Greg Pierce called an independent review into the club's dramatic fall from grace. Raper's position is considered under most threat, but Sharks legend Gavin Miller says the club should honour the remaining year of the coach's contract.

Sacked Sydney Roosters coach Ricky Stuart is considered favourite to assume the role at Cronulla if RAPER'S contract is terminated.

Meanwhile, St George Illawarra players insist they have no ongoing issues with referee Steve Clark who will officiate the Dragons preliminary final against Melbourne on Saturday night.

The Dragons have won just one of four matches under Clark this season. The last loss to Parramatta in round 22 prompted an angry outburst from coach Nathan Brown, who suggested referees judged his club harsher than others.

Brown was fined $15,000 for his comments but Dragons captain Trent Barrett and centre MARK Gasnier say the players don't have an issue with Clark. Barrett says the Dragons have improved their on-field discipline in their five-week winning streak and Clark won't have a bearing on the final result.

Gasnier remains confident he will be playing on Saturday, giving himself until tomorrow to start running with his abdominal injury before a full contact fitness test on Friday.

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