They haven’t won a game in a month but Cronulla are still the team to beat for the NRL premiership this year, according to star Andrew Fifita.
Thrust into title favouritism on the back of a record 15-game winning streak, serious questions are being asked of the Sharks after losing three in a row to fall out of the minor premiership race.
However, Fifita scoffed at suggestions the team were choking, instead claiming the Sharks remained the frontrunners to lift the trophy on the first Sunday in October.
“We’ve only lost 3-4 games now. To be honest, I don’t think we’re choking. We’re the team to beat this year,” Fifita said on Wednesday before training.
“Chokers? It’s a long time. We’ve still got a chance in the semi-finals.”
Their past two losses have come without skipper Paul Gallen, who has recovered from a calf injury and has been named to return for Saturday’s match against the Sydney Roosters.
The Sharks need to win to stay in the top two and host a semi-final in week one of the finals, but Fifita simply wants to remain in the top four.
“It’s one of the questions I’ve been thinking about lately. My pain priority was to have a home semi so my family can come out,” he said.
“But in saying that, if you’re in the top four, you’re in the top four. You’ve got a chance to get into a grand-final qualifier wherever you play. I normally block out the atmosphere and it doesn’t really matter.”
Winger Valentine Holmes declared himself a certain starter against the Roosters despite picking up what he feared was a season-ending ankle injury on the last play of Monday’s defeat to South Sydney.
“I was definitely real worried. I’ve never really done an ankle, anything like that before. It definitely did hurt a lot and, luckily enough, it’s nothing too serious,” Holmes said.