Sharks haunted by Cowboys finals thrashing

Star playmaker James Maloney admits his Cronulla teammates would still likely be haunted by last year’s playoffs thumping to North Queensland ahead of Friday’s NRL preliminary final between the sides.

And Sharks coach Shane Flanagan concurs that the heavy defeat will be on his players’ minds this week.

The Sharks were beaten 39-0 in last season’s semi-final in Townsville as another finals campaign ended in abject disappointment.

Maloney wasn’t part of the Sharks set-up last year but the NSW playmaker knows plenty about the psychological impact losing big games can have.

After winning the 2013 premiership with Sydney Roosters, Maloney has tasted defeat in the last two preliminary finals.

Maloney said such crucial losses are hard to get over.

“It is probably in the back of their minds. It is not easy to forget things like that,” Maloney said of his teammates at Sharks training on Sunday.

“I know some defeats we had (at the Roosters) that knocked us out still hurt.

“It will be there but that will only last so much. You can only carry emotion for so long.

“Once the game starts we have to put in a really good 80 minutes because we didn’t do that against Canberra.”

The Sharks showed finals grit in last week’s qualifying win over Canberra, when they were without captain Paul Gallen due to a back injury and fellow NSW representative Wade Graham went off with concussion early and didn’t return.

Coach Shane Flanagan said the Sharks were a better side for the brutal finals lesson North Queensland handed out last year.

“We learnt a lot going up there last year. We thought the form we carried up there from the South Sydney game was going to continue into that week but it didn’t,” he said.

“It is in the back of the mind of the players and we learned from it but I am not sure that it is driving us.

“We have more motivation and reasons for our drive. To get to that grand final is the first point and if we are good enough to get there, then to win the first one (for Cronulla), that is our drive.”

North Queensland’s epic defeat of Brisbane on Friday night showed the premiers were not going to give up their title with out a fight, Flanagan said.

“It was typical of a side that has won the competition,” Flanagan said.

“You are going to have to find that courage, spirit and determination at some stage during a finals series and they showed that the other night.”

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