Try telling Cronulla captain Paul Gallen it’s all doom and gloom for the club around finals time and he’ll likely take issue which such a negative summary of the Sharks’ achievements in 2016.
Preferring to look on the bright side following the club’s rocky finish to its regular-season campaign, the NSW Origin veteran hinted to the media at the official launch of the NRL’s Finals at Allianz Stadium that his finals-bound Sharks would’ve easily impressed their pre-season selves.
“We have to take the positives out of the year,” the 277 NRL club game veteran said. “If you had’ve told us before the season started that we’d be playing for the minor premiership in Round 26, we probably would’ve taken it. To finish top-four was our goal and that’s what we’ve done. As we all know it’s a new competition now and we’re looking forward to it.”
The high-flying Sharks, following an outrageously successful early and mid-season, enter the finals with just one win from their last six starts. Recognising that their 26-6 loss in the unofficial minor premiership play-off against the Storm in Melbourne wasn’t pretty, Gallen said a fast turnaround in form was needed in time for week one of the finals.
“We weren’t happy with the way we played; we just turned over too much ball,” he said. “I think the scoreline didn’t quite reflect how hard the game was the other night. It was a pretty tough game. We had our opportunities; just that final pass didn’t stick. A couple of times we could’ve given the Storm more of a scare. Our completion rate was really low, about 70 percent. You can’t compete in the NRL with that. We probably would’ve given a team like Newcastle some opportunities the other day, let alone the Melbourne Storm. We’ve got to fix it all up in a hurry.”
The resurgent Canberra Raiders have been rewarded with a home semi-final for finishing in second spot. Their opponents this Saturday night, Gallen’s Sharks, know all about them … in particular the momentum their forwards carry into the post-season, and their dangerous spine.
“We’ll weigh them up in the coming days, but they’re a really big, physical side,” Gallen said. “They have some good halves playing some good footy, and a really good hooker, which is obviously key. It’s going to be a tough game.”