Flanagan focuses on crunch time for Sharks

Every week it’s about playing for the entire 80 minutes.

But this week, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan wants at least 73.

The Sharks, top four contenders, have just one win to show from the opening three rounds of the NRL season, having faltered at the death against North Queensland and Manly at exactly the same minute.

And it’s been a sore point for Flanagan for the past week.

“If you look at it, we were in both games. Cowboys up there to the 72nd minute, we were in that 14-all and then six points down against Manly at the 72nd minute,” he told AAP.

“We’ve been in games until then, and the two that we’ve lost we’ve been in right to the end.

“Whilst we haven’t played near our best, we haven’t been far off getting the points.”

Rumours of a rift between key pair Michael Ennis and James Maloney has done the rounds across rugby league land this week, with the latter understood to be upset with the lack of supply out of dummy half.

Flanagan was coy on the alleged power struggle, instead saying that the combinations were “building”.

“Their relationship’s building and their understanding is building,” he said.

“We want the ball in those players’ hands. We’ve got people that want the football and demand the football – it’s a good position to be in.”

After just two losses in the clutch, he doesn’t care who wins it for him.

He just wants it done.

“Those crucial plays and points you need to execute really well, we haven’t come up with them,” he said.

“Those parts of the game, that’s how close we’ve been. We need to make sure that we’re on the positive side of them in the next couple of weeks.”

Flanagan confirmed Jack Bird is a certain starter for Monday’s clash against Melbourne after suffering concussion from a Martin Taupau swinging arm in last week’s loss to Manly.

The Sharks mentor also had good news on forward David Fifita, who has rejoined his teammates after spending the past week in hospital with an infection in his knee.

However he is unlikely to make the cut to take on the Storm.

“Had a cut in his knee that got infected so he’s been in hospital for over a week and on a drip. He’s out now and back training but has been laying on his back for a week,” Flanagan said.

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