Sharks coach Peter Sharp refuses to blame the horror injury toll that has cruelled the club for his side’s 42-4 capitulation to the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
Missing five State of Origin representatives including skipper Paul Gallen, attacking linchpin Todd Carney, Luke Lewis, Anthony Tupou and the suspended Andrew Fifita, as well as the experienced duo of Beau Ryan and halfback Jeff Robson, the Sharks proved no match for a Bulldogs side that scored seven tries in registering their biggest ever win over Cronulla.
“We’re not making any excuses here, we had 17 out there and they had 17 out there and they beat us to the punch on everything,” said Sharp, who has assumed head coach duties at the club after suspended mentor Shane Flanagan last week confirmed he would not fight the one-year ban handed to him by the NRL for governance issues at the club.
“It was a tough night, they played particularly well and the weight of possession in the first half I thought told on us and I thought we were brave in patches but [we] lack a bit of personnel I think.”
Sharp was philosophical about the debuts of five-eighth Penani Manumalealii, prop David Fifita and livewire hooker Michael Liccha, who each showed varying degrees of promise in what was a trying night for the visitors.
“It was a tough night for them, they probably didn’t get an opportunity to show their wares did they?
“I just said to them they’ll look back on it fondly in about 10 years' time. But certainly as a debutant... it’s not the ideal way to start your career.”
Adding to the Sharks' woes, experienced forwards Bryce Gibbs and Matt Prior were both placed on report for high tackles, though thankfully for the Sharks stand-in skipper Wade Graham brushed off concerns he would join his big-name teammates in the casualty ward after he left the field late in the match with a hip injury.
Sharp said the side had steeled themselves for a difficult start to the season in the wake of Flanagan’s suspension and injuries to high-profile players, and the embattled club would now turn its attention to Saturday’s local derby against the high-flying Dragons.
“It was always going to be a tough month and it was particularly tough tonight against a Dogs side that were out to prove a point from last week’s performance and they got on the front foot and we were just a bit outmuscled in certain areas.
“We’ve got the local derby in five days so we’ll be ok, we’ll treat our injuries, draw a breath and do our best,” said Sharp, who added he was hopeful five-eighth Todd Carney would return against St. George Illawarra.