Cronulla prop Luke Douglas is adamant the Sharks are much closer to cracking their first win of the year than many believe, but admits doing so against premiership heavyweights Parramatta could prove a tall order.
His comments come after TAB Sportsbet took the extraordinary step of opening a market on when – and if – Cronulla would win a game this season with the club quoted at just $21 to go through the year winless.
The Sharks have now lost 13 games in a row and will equal the premiership record for most consecutive losses (set by Western Suburbs in 1998-99) if they go down again on Saturday night.
But, buoyed by the arrival of former Eels halfback Tim Smith midweek, Douglas said the players were more determined than ever to prove their critics wrong.
"There is no doubt we’ve struggled a little bit for confidence but I think that’s changing," he said.
"Tim Smith has already brought a bit more enthusiasm to the place and it’s actually been pretty good – we can’t wait to get out there this week.
"Tim has shown in the past how good he can be and how much influence he can have on a game.
"The important thing for us, though, is to recognise that he can’t do everything.
"We’ve got to go out there and do our job first and if we can do that he’ll be able to play off the back of that."
Asked the players’ thoughts on TAB Sportsbet’s winless betting market, Douglas said: "That won’t happen.
"The main problem we’ve had is that we haven’t been hanging onto the ball.
"I thought we played really well in Round 1 (when they were unlucky to go down 14-10 to Melbourne) so if we can defend like we did in that game and hold onto the ball we’re always going to be a chance.
"Obviously we’ve got our work cut out for us against Parramatta this week but we’re in a position where we need to win so it’s up to us to do something."
The Sharks can take solace in the fact that they broke a nine-game losing streak against Parramatta last season when they upset the Eels 13-10 in miserable conditions at Parramatta Stadium in Round 12.
Ironically, that result sparked a four-match winning streak, but Douglas said Cronulla couldn’t afford to worry about either history or their highly rated opposition.
"To tell you the truth we’re really just worried about ourselves," he said.
"That’s what we need to fix first.
"Other than that, we’re going to do a bit of video on Parramatta today and have a look at where we need to shut them down but the key for us will be holding on to the football."
While life has been difficult for the Sharks, it’s been quite a ride for Douglas who will play his 102nd consecutive NRL game this weekend since making his debut in 2006.
The giant Shark said he was still feeling good despite such a heavy workload but was sick and tired of losing.
"It’s been pretty good and it’s something I’m proud of, but I said to someone the other day that I’d swap a few of those games for a few wins," he said.
"Hopefully we can start this weekend."
Late NRL news:
- Parramatta five-eight Daniel Mortimer is expected to play against the Sharks despite losing weight during the week after contracting a virus.
- North Queensland recruit Shannon Gallant is on standby for fullback Ty Williams, who has a bicep injury and is racing the clock to take on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
- Penrith’s strike centre Michael Jennings will play against Newcastle on Monday despite revealing this week that he is suffering from a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee that has limited his impact during the opening rounds.