Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is banking on the return of captain Paul Gallen to help restore lost momentum in the Sharks’ NRL premiership campaign.
After a club-record 15-game winning streak put Cronulla on top of he ladder mid-season, the Sharks are now in danger of slipping to third and losing a home semi-final.
A third-straight loss would open the door for the Canberra Raiders to pinch a qualifying final at home.
Flanagan doesn’t fear a match-up in the nation’s capital, but he is confident Cronulla will arrest their form slump, beginning with Saturday’s match against the Sydney Roosters.
“There’s two more weeks to go. We win those two games, we’re guaranteed a top two,” he said on Friday.
“Our destiny’s in our two hands.”
The Sharks haven’t won a game for a month, however their past two defeats have come without their inspirational leader in Gallen, who has overcome a calf injury to complete a full week of training.
Flanagan is relying on his captain’s return to give his team some spark.
“Gal being back now is going to give us that boost we need. He’s really looking forward to leading us into a semi-final series,” he said.
“He’s going to play again next year, but this is one of his last finals series – this year and next year, hopefully.
“He’ll be a big bonus for us and I’m really looking forward to his contribution.”
Winger Valentine Holmes is also certain starter despite spraining his ankle last week, while Sosaia Feki also returns from a groin injury.
Despite occupying 14th spot on the table, the Roosters come into the match in season-best form after claiming three victories in their past four matches.
They are unchanged from the team that racked up a season-high 42 points against St George Illawarra.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Cronulla have won eight of 12 matches against the Roosters since 2010 – their best record against any club, and easily the Roosters’ worst, over that time.
* The Sharks were a perfect 10 from 10 at home this year before losing their last match against Canberra. Another win would give them 11 for just the fourth time in the club’s 50-year history.
* If the Roosters don’t win this match and are beaten by Brisbane next week, it will be their fewest away wins in a season since winning none of 10 in 1966.