Darren Mooney defamation case progresses

A Cronulla Sharks manager who lost his job in the early days of a sports supplements scandal has taken a step forward in his defamation case against two News Corp Australia-owned publications.

Darren Mooney was one of four club staffers dismissed in March 2013 as allegations of doping engulfed the rugby league community.

Days later, Damian Irvine quit as Cronulla chairman after claiming in an interview with Sydney's Sunday Telegraph players had been injected with horse drugs in 2011.

Mr Mooney was reinstated as Sharks football manager this year and is pursuing publisher Nationwide News over two articles in each of the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph.

On Thursday, NSW Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum said the articles were capable of leading readers to believe Mr Mooney was negligent or grossly incompetent.

One article ran on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph days after Mr Mooney lost his job, under "the newspaper's familiar two-inch headline: `Players given horse drugs'", Justice McCallum said.

Justice McCallum told the court the article suggested highly paid staff made "poor decisions" and "should know better".

"In my view, those passages are plainly capable of conveying to the ordinary reasonable reader that (Mr Mooney) acted negligently in his role as manager of the football club," she said.

Lawyers for the publisher argued a July 2013 article in the Daily Telegraph, headlined "The Mooney minutes", suggested Cronulla owed a duty of care to its players. But that it could not reasonably give rise to the imputation that Mr Mooney had failed in his duty of care.

"In my view, the article is plainly capable of conveying the meaning that the plaintiff was one of those who owed a duty," Justice McCallum said.

The case returns to court in September.