Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has put the onus on his outside backs to prove why he once rated them the best backline in the NRL competition.
As anticipation builds ahead of Sunday’s qualifying final against Canberra, Gallen conceded the Raiders’ speed men have recently overtaken his own teammates as the most in-form backline in the league.
And he left them no choice but to respond to the challenge in the nation’s capital.
“This is the time of year where you don’t have a choice, you’ve got to do it and we need our blokes who were on top of the league six or eight weeks ago,” Gallen said.
“We need them to be back there again. Our back five were the best in the comp a month or so ago and probably Canberra have overtaken that and we need our outside backs to find their form quickly.”
Gallen also laid down the law on his team’s discipline, saying poor handling has been the common theme over their late-season form slump that has garnered just one win in six weeks.
The run coincides with the Raiders’ round 22 upset of the Sharks that ended Cronulla’s historic 16-game unbeaten run.
They were also beaten soundly by Melbourne 26-6 last start.
“Our completion rate was really low, I think it was 70 per cent. We’ve got to fix that up in a hurry. Our ball control has been an issue over the past month and we need to fix that up,” he said.
“Rugby league’s really simple – you’ve just got to hold the ball. The last four or five weeks we’ve just turned it over too easily. Our errors with the ball have just been too much.”
The Sharks have a strong record in Canberra where they’ve won their past three and nine of their past 12, including a 40-16 win in April.
“We don’t mind going down there so we’re looking forward to going down there and hopefully getting a win,” he said.
“Then obviously because we did finish top four we’d get the week off and all of a sudden we’re playing to be in a grand final, so really looking forward to it.”