Shane Flanagan has lit the fuse ahead of Cronulla’s NRL clash with Manly, saying his charges are disappointed after being robbed of a chance for a square-up with Martin Taupau.
While happy to see Taupau sitting on the sidelines serving the first of a three-game ban for a dangerous throw, Sharks coach Flanagan admitted many of his charges wanted revenge for the Manly hitman’s ugly swinging arm earlier in the year on Jack Bird.
Taupau escaped with just a one-week suspension for a high shot which left Bird concussed in the Sea Eagles’ 22-12 win at Brookvale Oval in round three, a sentence which was roundly criticised as being too lenient and led to scrutiny by the match review committee.
Flanagan said Bird and some of his fired-up teammates were looking forward to targeting the Manly back-rower in Saturday’s return clash at Shark Park before Taupau was suspended again.
“Birdy told me he was going to fold him in half for what he did to him in round three,” Flanagan said on Friday.
“From a coach’s perspective, I’m glad he’s not there but the boys wanted to see him out there.”
Flanagan suggested while Bird might have said it tongue in cheek, there was genuine feeling between the two packs.
“Jack definitely remembers it,” Flanagan said.
“But that’s footy. He was only mucking around when he was talking about it but he’s a funny kid.”
While the Sharks are ruing their chance for a get-square with Taupau, his aggression and intimidation factor will be sorely missed against a fierce Cronulla pack.
The Sharks are on a seven-game winning streak and go into the game boasting the best attacking record of any team in the competition, having this year reversed their reputation as being a defensive-based side.
The Shire boys, however, will have to overcome their hoodoo against Manly, in which they have lost their past seven encounters and 13 of their past 14.
Their poor record against the Sea Eagles stretches back to Manly coach Trent Barrett’s playing days at the Sharks in 2009-10.
“It runs through the competition. When I was playing, we had certain clubs we didn’t have a lot of success against,” Barrett said.
“But they’ll put a really good side on the field, the Sharks – we’ve just got to make sure our backyard is in order.
“There are some things we need to fix. A lot of it revolves around our attitude at the start of games.”
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The Sharks’ seven-game winning streak is their best since 11 straight in 2002
* The Sharks have won all five games at home this season. Their most-recent loss at Shark Park was in round 26 last season against Manly
* Twelve of Manly’s 28 tries this season (43 per cent) have come through the centre, the highest percentage of any team
Source: Fox Sports Stats