Captain Paul Gallen says Cronulla is desperately missing the steadying influence of banned coach Shane Flanagan and it is evident in their winless start to the NRL season.
Sunday's 30-0 defeat to Newcastle was the Sharks' fourth straight loss to begin the season and the injured Gallen said on Tuesday his side needs to turn their form around quickly.
Cronulla have been hit hard by injuries to key players including Gallen, Luke Lewis, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson and Beau Ryan to start the year and a suspension to Andrew Fifita.
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Flanagan's assistant Peter Sharp has taken over in an interim role for 2014.
"Before the season started, before Flano was gone I thought we could go two ways," Gallen said on Tuesday.
"I thought we could be the team I know we can be and finish in the top four or go the other way and I think we have gone the other way at the moment.
"I think a few players have taken their foot off the gas because Flano is not here jumping down people's throats.
"I said to someone yesterday, when there is a relief teacher at school no matter how much you tell the kids to be good they are going to relax and muck up a little bit.
"Unfortunately I think that has happened and as a senior player, we have got a couple of other senior players together and said we need to start ripping in at training and hopefully that has started this morning."
Gallen said he was on track for a round eight return from an ankle injury suffered in Round 1.
"Obviously none from four is not the way you want to start the season," he said.
"We have plenty of excuses in the injuries we have got but our performance on the weekend from guys that are supposed to be first graders wasn't up to standard and there has been a bit of soul searching to do.
"We need to turn it around quickly."
But Gallen said it was the absence of Flanagan, who has been suspended over governance issues at the club during the 2011 season, who was hurting the club the most.