As Cronulla shoot for club history, Shane Flanagan has rubbished claims his side have peaked too early and destined to fall short of a hallowed NRL premiership.
The top-of-the-table Sharks can re-write the club’s record books with a 12th straight win against strife-riddled Parramatta at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night.
And while their three-month winning run has emboldened The Shire faithful and prompted bookies to slash their odds, history shows it doesn’t matter a jot when it comes to predicting premiers.
Four teams since the beginning of the NRL era in 1998 have won 12 straight matches – Sydney Roosters in 2015, Canterbury in 2012, Melbourne in 2011 and Canterbury in 2002 – however none lifted the Provan-Summons Trophy in the same season.
While mindful of not getting caught up in the hype, Flanagan dismissed suggestions their campaign was destined to crash and burn.
“We’ve got heaps of improvement in us,” Flanagan said.
“The playing group are really mature in their approach to the game and assessing how we perform.
“They weren’t happy with last week’s game, there were some defensive errors, on tackle five twice on (Shaun) Johnson.
“We spoke about it during the week and they still scored tries. So we’ve got a lot of improvement in us.”
And he said there was no reason they couldn’t win their remaining 10 regular-season games.
“Michael Ennis addressed it during the week – we don’t need a loss before the semi-finals, that’s just speculation and a little bit of media talk,” Flanagan said.
“You learn a bit when you lose but you learn a lot when you win.”
Parramatta winger Semi Radradra is expected to take on the Sharks, despite being charged with domestic violence offences upon his return from Fiji on Thursday night.
After one of the most tumultuous weeks in the club’s history, the Eels have an enormous task in front of them.
“It hasn’t been easy sailing for us but to the players’ credit, I’m proud of them… the way they’ve fronted up every week and put their distractions aside and really played with plenty of pride and passion,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.
The Eels on Friday signed former Sharks playmaker Jeff Robson from the Warriors, however he is unlikely to take on his former club.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The last team to win 12 straight in a single season and win the competition was Manly in 1987.
* Ten of the Sharks’ 14 matches this season have been decided by eight points or less, including the past four.
* Cronulla have won their first eight home matches for the first time since 1999.
Source: Fox Sports Stats