Two weeks ago the Sharks were struggling as they lurched from one off field drama to another and to make matters worse the team turned in their least inspiring performance of a season which was flatlining, against their biggest rivals, the Dragons.
Then several things happened. Paul Gallen stood down from the captaincy after a less than savoury incident with Dragons’ forward Mickey Paea, Trent Barrett received the ‘C’ next to his name and the Sharks won a tight one against Parramatta. They then played their best footy of the season in the first half against the Warriors.
Suddenly their was a slim silver lining.
“That win against Parramatta was relief more than anything then to back it up at home last week against the Warriors was terrific,” Barrett told NRL.com.
“That first half against the Warriors was our best half of footy. As a team everything went right on the back of our kick chase. We need to build our game around that again this week and in the coming weeks and I’m confident we can win more games.”
According to Barrett the team are doing very little different to when they lost nine on the trot, with seven of those being by two converted tries or less, and it was a matter of mental strength and self belief that got them over the line.
“It’s a good feeling to know what we were doing we weren’t too far away. We haven’t lost a lot of games by many points. We’ve been in most games that we have played but just couldn’t crack it. So knowing what we were doing wasn’t a waste of time or that we didn’t have to change anything drastically was a good sign.”
Barrett also refused to blame the club’s off-field dramas [which continued yesterday with CEO Tony Zappia resigning] for their inability to get a win for nine weeks and praised coach Ricky Stuart for being able to keep the squad focused through a very tough period.
“It can be a distraction, thankfully we have a good coach who is very loyal to his players who has a very strong personality who keeps the group together. Had we not had that we could have been in a bit of trouble, but it is hard when it’s back page of the papers every day running and on the news but hopefully we will come out the other side of it stronger.
“It’s been a pretty turbulent ten weeks, or even six months but as players all we can do is get the wins and produce the goods on the field which eases the burden. We have to let our footy do the talking.”
What they did change against the Eels was their halves combination, for the fifth time this season. Ricky Stuart debuted Scott Porter at halfback and Barrett finally looked comfortable with his halves partner, who lines up with him for the third time this weekend.
Barrett is rapt with Porter’s form so far.
“I’m happy for Scott, he is a good bloke and has brought a lot of maturity with his kicking game, he’s finding the grass a lot more than we were previously with our kicking and it’s certainly helped me with my kicking.
“When you have a halfback inside you that can kick the ball as well as he does it’s one less thing I have to burden myself with. It’s good having him there as long as we look after him and realise it is only his third game in first grade this week.”
Porter’s third game will be against a Raiders side who are also hungry for points, but it is the battle between Barrett and NSW incumbent Terry Campese which is likely to have the fans and Blues’ selectors interested.
Barrett, who has been in good form for the majority of the year admitted he would love to pull the sky blue back on for the first time since 2005.
“It would be great but we’re going to have to play well. If we win the game it will help my chances and vice versa for Terry, but they (NSW selectors) will probably pick the same side and that’s fair enough, however if anything was to happen I’d certainly like to play.”
As for his team Barrett wants to see them continue to climb up the NRL ladder and whilst he is realistic regarding their finals chances, he also knows they can put pressure on teams in the run home to the finals.
“We’re a long way away, we need to win a lot of games. I think if each week we can peg someone back, if we’re putting pressure on teams in eight or nine weeks then it would be a really good effort and something the club could be proud of.”
At the moment, pride is one thing the Sharks certainly need and as Barrett said, ‘letting their footy do the talking’ may be the best way.