Cronulla’s NRL finals equation is simple: Win, and a qualifying final with the Sydney Roosters awaits. Lose, and an elimination final is upon them.
If the Sharks defeat visiting Manly on Sunday afternoon, they will sew up the all-important second chance as well as a date with the 2015 minor premiers next week.
Coach Shane Flanagan says he simply wants to maintain his side’s current winning form and says the Sharks have the motivation to do so.
“Father’s Day, capacity crowd, top four on the line… I don’t know what else we need to play for,” Flanagan said.
A top four spot would be a remarkable achievement for a side that finished last season with the wooden spoon.
But Flanagan revealed that, based on the roster at his disposal, it was a goal well within their reach from the pre-season.
“Ninety per cent of the population would’ve thought I was crazy, but the playing group and my staff believed that if we worked really hard, we could get to where we are,” he said.
Winners in 10 of their past 12 matches, the Sharks will need to turn around a porous record against the Sea Eagles, who have won 11 of their past 12 encounters, including the past five.
Flanagan blames their recent struggles against Manly on a scheduling quirk, with just one of the past five played in the Shire.
“Even this year we played them without Michael Ennis and Paul Gallen, and they were pretty much at full strength,” he said.
Flanagan won’t write the Sea Eagles off, noting they are trying to send coach Geoff Toovey out on a winning note and that for Cronulla it’s about fundamentals.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we play well,” Flanagan said.