Cronulla are expecting a battle-hardened North Queensland in Friday’s preliminary final, rather than a fatigued Cowboys side ripe for the picking.
The Sharks have this week been keen to point out how fresh they are leading into the Allianz Stadium match after earning a week off courtesy of their qualifying final win over Canberra two weeks ago.
The Cowboys have again taken the long road through the playoffs after a first week loss to Melbourne.
But that extra week last year didn’t affect the premiers when they claimed their maiden title in a golden point win over Brisbane in the grand final.
The Cowboys come into the preliminary final on the back of another extra time win over the Broncos.
And Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is of wary of the hard edge the Cowboys have gained.
“They are a hardened footy team, they will have been timing their run to the semi-finals,” Flanagan said on Thursday.
“Last year they showed what they could, do, they lost their first final and then had two wins and went into extra time in the grand final.
“Last week was very similar going into extra time. It is a battle-hardened semi-final football team you will see tomorrow night.”
Flangan said it was up to the Sharks to put the Cowboys under pressure early in the game to ensure they were tiring at the back end.
“We need to put the Cowboys under pressure, starve them of possession and control where we give them the football,” Flanagan said.
“We need to do all those types of things for the Cowboys to feel fatigued at the back end of the game.
“We need to make sure we put them under pressure for the first 70 minutes of the game.
“Rugby league players find energy off the back of possession and we have to make sure we don’t give them that.”