Shane Flanagan has been forced to remind Cronulla firebrand Andrew Fifita to keep his cool for fear a brain snap could derail their NRL season.
Flanagan admits he pulled the NSW prop aside this week and reminded him not to let his emotions get the better of him during their crunch clash with third-placed Canberra at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday.
The 27-year-old has a history of losing his cool and that was evident as Gold Coast got under his skin during Monday’s thrilling 18-all draw.
He missed last month’s win over Sydney Roosters due to suspension after grabbing Gavin Cooper by the neck in State of Origin III and Flanagan stressed he didn’t want a repeat with his side holding onto top spot with five rounds remaining.
“I spoke to him today about it,” Flanagan said.
“He plays with passion and wears his heart on his sleeve but sometimes that bubbles over.
“But Andrew understands that people are going to be out there to bait him.
“I think he’ll be a lot better prepared this week.”
Flanagan was breathing a sigh of relief after five-eighth James Maloney was exonerated by the judiciary over a dangerous contact charge that could have quelled their momentum had the result swung the other way.
Games between Canberra and the Sharks have also been heated over the past few years, stemming from Josh Papalii’s targeting of Paul Gallen in a match in 2012, following which the Sharks skipper accused his arch-rival of a “dog shot”.
Fifita has been cleared to play and ran with the team during Friday’s captain’s run despite spending a night in a Gold Coast hospital with a badly corked leg following their draw against the Titans.
“He had a massive cork to his leg and it bled pretty bad and ran down into his ankle and there was a bit of concern there for a while,” Flanagan said.
“He stayed in hospital all night on medication and he came out and he’s okay.”
Sharks winger Ricky Leutele has been cleared of a calf complaint and is expected to come onto the bench.
For the Raiders, Luke Bateman has been cleared of a concussion and Ricky Stuart’s side are expected to be 1-17.
STATS THAT MATTER
* This match sees the two best attacking teams in the competition come against each other, with the Raiders ranked first in points and tackle busts and the Sharks ranked second in these categories.
* The Sharks are on the cusp of winning 11 straight home games for just the third time in their history.
* Canberra have lost just one of nine matches since round 11 and are chasing six straight wins for the first time since 2012.