Cronulla’s State of Origin stars have to accept a heavy workload as the price of NRL success, coach Shane Flanagan says.
Flanagan has resisted the temptation to rest his representative stars for Saturday’s round 16 NRL clash with the Warriors.
As the competition leaders chase a record-equalling 11th successive win, Paul Gallen, James Maloney, Jack Bird and Andrew Fifita will all take the field at Southern Cross Group Stadium just three days after Origin II.
Wade Graham will play his first game since missing Origin II due to suspension.
“They are all fine, some of them are a bit sore as you would expect but they will all play,” Flanagan said on Friday.
“I’m not too worried about how they will back up. But it is a new thing for us as to how we deal with that, particularly without Jimmy, not having our halves to train all week it does make it hard.
“Usually we have only had Gal out and we could train without having him here for the week. So it has made it different for us, but there will be no excuses.”
Only Brisbane have more Origin representatives and Flanagan said he was happy with the situation.
“It has been a disruptive week in a sense, but I want Origin players in our club and if I want Origin players in our club I have to be able to suck it up,” he said.
Flanagan has predicted a special performance in particular from Graham.
“I am expecting a really big one from Wade tomorrow, he was elated to be in the (NSW) team but probably always knew it was going to be tough to get off that charge and it was,” Flanagan said.
“But he is over that now, he enjoyed the week in camp and realised how close he is.”
The Warriors are on something of a streak of their own, having won three in a row and they sit outside the top eight on percentages.
But those wins have come over a depleted Brisbane post-Origin in Auckland and easybeats Newcastle and Sydney Roosters. Saturday’s clash with top-of-the-table Cronulla shapes as a much tougher test.
Queensland prop Jacob Lillyman returns for the Warriors.
* The Sharks have the overall edge against the Warriors, winning 19 of the 35 meetings and have dominated in recent seasons, winning six of eight meetings since 2012.
* In the Shire the Sharks have dominated this clash, winning 11 of 16 games, including three of the past four. However, they lost the most recent match in round nine last season when the Warriors were able to grind out a hard-fought 20-16 road win.
* A win this week will equal Cronulla’s club record winning streak of 11 matches, something which has been achieved twice before; in 2002 and 1977/78.
* The Sharks attack has been firing this season. On a per game basis they rank second in points (25.7), tries (4.2), tackle busts (26.6) and offloads (12.7) and fourth in metres gained (1479).
* The Warriors current winning streak has continued their excellent record during Origin in recent years. Over the past five seasons (2012-16) the Warriors have won 20 of 27 matches (74 per cent) from the round before Origin I to the round after Origin III, the best record of any team.
Source: Fox Sports Stats