It’s the game that decides the minor premiership, but according to Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan it’s not the major prize.
The Sharks set up a final-round blockbuster with Melbourne next week after snapping their month-long winless run with a 37-12 victory Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.
And while the winner will raise the JJ Giltinan shield and pocket a $100,000, Flanagan insists there’s a bigger reason to claim victory in a potential grand final preview.
A loss next Saturday would not only cost Cronulla winning momentum heading into the finals series, but possibly result in a daunting qualifying final road trip to Canberra.
The Sharks currently sit one point behind the ladder-leading Storm, but two points ahead of the Raiders with only a six-point advantage in points differential.
“If there’s a trophy on offer, we’ll take it if we can get it,” Flanagan said.
“But it’s not our main focus. Our main focus is to go down there and play well and get a win hopefully, so our destiny’s in our own hands about getting a home semi-final.”
The sixth-year NRL coach said it was imperative his team lock up a home final at Allianz Stadium.
“It’d be massive. Obviously all our fans can just travel half an hour up the road,” he said.
“We’ve got to win to make sure that we guarantee ourselves second place. But then we don’t get second place if we win, we get first place. So it’s a little bit different.”
Sharks captain Paul Gallen, who ran a game-high 205 metres over 60 minutes against the Roosters in what was his first game back from a calf injury, said he didn’t really care about the minor premiership.
“I’d rather be there the last week of the grand final obviously,” he said.
“But I realised pretty quickly; if we go down there and don’t win, we could possibly finish third. So it is a big game. We’re going down there to win. If the minor premiership comes with it, so be it.”
Gallen also said he isn’t afraid of facing the Raiders on their home turf in week one of the finals.
“If it doesn’t come to fruition that we don’t play in Sydney, well we’ll go to Canberra and play there. We’ll play wherever we have to,” he said.