Sharks go into NRL finals battling history

Cronulla are battling on the wrong side of history as they head into Saturday’s NRL qualifying final against Canberra treading water.

After 15 straight wins, Shane Flanagan’s Sharks were shaping as the fairytale story of the 2016 season, however their form has fallen away sharply since.

After just one draw and one win from their last six, they head into the finals well and truly in a slump.

According to Fox Sports Stats, no team has ever won just one of their final five matches and gone on to win the grand final.

The 1982 Manly, 1966 Balmain and 1949 St George sides went close, making the grand final, but fell short.

Retiring Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis insists the special qualities that saw the side register the equal-fifth-longest winning streak in competition history has not left them, but they need to regain that hunger.

“I think the side when we won the 15 games straight was a hungry footy side that really worked hard for one another and did the simple things really well and controlled the game on the back of that,” Ennis said.

“I thought the last 60 minutes of the Roosters and the second half against Souths, we were that side again.

“But I just think we were treading water a bit waiting for the finals and you don’t have to take the foot off the pedal much to get beaten or to have a scrappy game.”

After being one of the league’s best attacking outfits this year, the Sharks’ attack has fallen away dramatically in the last four weeks – which has included losses to Melbourne, South Sydney and St George Illawarra and a win over Sydney Roosters.

In that period they have scored the third least points (16.8 per game), made the sixth least line breaks (4.8 per game) and missed the fourth most tackles (31.3).

Ennis said while it was “boring as anything”, it all stemmed from their failure to do the fundamentals such as hold onto the ball.

“We just didn’t do things hard enough. We just didn’t compete hard enough, we didn’t have intent in those areas that were really working for us to get down the other end of the field and let blokes have opportunities,” Ennis said.

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