Smith brings winning culture to Sharks
The Broncos and Panthers had it on Friday night, the Wests Tigers found it on Saturday night, the Sea Eagles displayed it on Sunday and the Sharks want it on Monday evening when they play the premiers St George Illawarra at Toyota Stadium.
It's a winning attitude - and it helped those first-round losers to post their first two premiership points for season 2011 in a topsy-turvy round two that proved to be a tipster's nightmare.
Heading into Monday night's final match, four sides are unbeaten: the Knights, Storm, Bulldogs and Dragons (still to play). Four are yet to have a win: the Rabbitohs, Titans, Warriors and Sharks (still to play), while the eight remaining teams have a 1-1 record.
On Friday night, Broncos captain Darren Lockyer said his side played with the "right attitude" to post their first win of the season, 20-4, over the Raiders and their first in Canberra since 2007, while the Panthers displayed attitude plus to turn around their 42-8 round one drubbing to beat the Eels 20-6 at Parramatta.
On Saturday, the Wests Tigers dug deep to find the right attitude to hold out the Warriors for a 20-12 win at Leichhardt, while the Sea Eagles found an aggressive attitude to overcome the Roosters 27-16 at Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday.
The Sharks will need to find something special against St George Illawarra after their 40-12 loss to the Raiders last weekend - and their prized recruit and former premiership-winning Dragon, Jeremy Smith, could be the key to helping them find the right attitude.
In the past four years Smith, 30, has become very familiar with a winning culture. He has played in three grand finals (2007, 08 and 10) for two premierships with the Storm (2007, since withdrawn) and Dragons (2010); played for the Kiwis to upset the Kangaroos twice to win the 2008 World Cup and 2010 Four Nations; and was named 2008 New Zealand Rugby League Player of the Year.
During that same period, the Sharks made the play-offs once in 2008 (3rd at end of season) and finished 11th (2007), 15th (2009) and 14th (2010) the other seasons.
Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen, 29, who made his first grade debut for the Sharks 10 years ago, during which time they have finished 11th or worse six times, said: "We were absolutely ordinary last week, we would've been lucky to beat a NSW Cup side to be honest, so we've got a lot of improvement in us."
Gallen said that performance did not reflect how they had trained, nor the culture that the team had committed to for season 2011.
"The tough thing about this place is we are still trying to find our culture," he said. "We were tough mentally in 2007 and 2008 - teams didn't like playing us. We have had a winning culture.
"But with the turnover of players and coaching staff, it got lost. We started this year with the idea of wanting a tough culture and a relentless attitude, but we've got a long way to go to build that.
"I think it starts off the field. If you get together and get to know each other better it makes you want to play for each other. Everyone gets motivated and you work together more. You train better and with more intensity.
"We've got the right things in place to make it happen."
Smith agreed and said the club was slowly building towards a change.
"We have to start believing in ourselves before anything is possible," he said. "We also have to be competitive and play well, and do the little things right on the field."
Smith said the winning culture at the Storm, Dragons and New Zealand extended beyond their on-field brilliance to their teamwork off the field.
"With the Storm, no one had family down there so everyone stuck together on and off the field," he said.
"At the Dragons, Wayne Bennett used to get everyone sticking around after training and mingling with one another. The more you get to know one another, the more respect and trust you have in them on the field.
"With the New Zealand team, it was like a big family. You can create [a winning culture]. It's whether the boys are ready to buy into it."
In other weekend matches, the Storm crushed the Titans 40-12 at Melbourne's AAMI Park on Saturday night, with fullback Billy Slater becoming the club's greatest try-scorer. His two-try haul meant his tally of 114 (from 180 games) eclipsed the record held by retired winger Matt Geyer 262 games).
The Knights ruined North Queensland's return to Dairy Farmers Stadium with a 34-22 win in Townsville on Saturday night, despite the absence of injured trio Isaac De Gois, Neville Costigan and skipper Kurt Gidley.
On Sunday, Tim Lafai scored a crucial try on his NRL debut to get the Bulldogs home 28-19 over South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.