Cronulla star James Maloney says the end of their 16-game unbeaten run gives them a chance to refocus in their quest to claim a maiden NRL premiership.
Saturday’s defeat to Canberra was the Sharks’ first since a round-three loss to Manly, creating an unfamiliar atmosphere when the team returned to training.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve felt that feeling. It’s not a nice feeling,” halfback Chad Townsend said after the team’s field session on Tuesday.
Maloney, who won the past three minor premierships with the Sydney Roosters before moving to the Shire last summer, said the loss presented an opportunity to refocus their title tilt.
“A lot of people spoke about us needing a loss. Whether that was the case I don’t know, but it’s a tough competition and it’s hard to keep winning,” he said.
“In that streak we haven’t been at our best every week, but we’ve managed to get it done.
“We come up against a good outfit on the weekend and they did things better than us. We’ll refocus on some things we need to work on from that and move forward.”
The NSW State of Origin playmaker, who also won a premiership with the Sydney Roosters in 2013, said he’d be more concerned with the loss if the Sharks were playing their best footy now.
Four games remain until the finals.
“Every year coming into the semis, there’s a side that comes from lower and starts playing good footy this time of the year,” Maloney said.
“Everyone talks about them as being smokies. (But) it all dies off. It’s just human nature. You can’t be at your best week in, week out over an extended period of time.
“It’s hard enough to be at your best for four weeks of semi-finals, let alone six weeks leading into them.”
Cronulla’s forward stocks have taken a blow after prop Sam Tagataese ruled out of this week’s clash with St George Illawarra with a shoulder injury.
Tagataese left the field clutching his shoulder in the second half against the Sharks, and while he is certain to miss the Dragons fixture, he could be out until the finals.
Hooker Michael Ennis, who missed the loss to the Raiders with a virus, was a limited participant on Tuesday but is expected to be back to take on the Dragons.