Sharks daring to dream of NRL finals

For much of the last two seasons Cronulla teetered on the edge of crisis but now they are daring to dream about the NRL finals again.

Last week the Sharks slipped back into the top eight for the first time since round 26, 2013.

The club is a very different place now compared to then.

At the time, the Sharks were in the crosshairs of an ASADA investigation into their 2011 supplements program and facing an uncertain future.

In the wash up, coach Shane Flanagan was suspended for a year, 10 past and present players including captain Paul Gallen accepted backdated bans and the club was hit with a $600,000 fine.

With the club showing positive signs for the future – snaring the signatures of playmakers James Maloney and Chad Townsend for next season – the uncertainty and anguish of the 18-month ASADA saga seems a distant memory.

“They see it and they taste it but it is still seven weeks away to semi-finals,” Flanagan said of his side’s final aspirations.

Everything seems headed in the right direction.

They have no injuries to senior players to speak of with skipper Paul Gallen fit and firing and Anthony Tupou a chance to return from a broken jaw against Canterbury at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.

They have form having won five of their last six and searching for their third win in a row.

Importantly, Flanagan says, they feel like they deserve to be playing in September.

“Bar the (round-17 loss to) Manly hiccup, we’ve been fairly consistent, we need to continue to do that,” Flanagan said.

“A bit of belief in the team, injuries aren’t really a factor at the moment, we’re pretty healthy and a bloke like Gal coming out of Origin in pretty good shape and we’re certainly mentally pretty good.

“No excuses, we need to go out and put back-to-back wins in.”

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Bulldogs have won 16 of the past 20 matches against Cronulla, including eight of their past nine.

* Des Hasler’s side has won all eight matches this season scoring over 18 points, but just one of nine games when scoring 18 points or fewer.

* Brett Morris has scored 15 tries in 15 matches against the Sharks.

* If Andrew Fifita scores he will become the first forward since Dave Taylor in 2010 to score in five straight games.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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