A passport bungle could cost Cronulla’s Nathan Gardner a spot in the elimination final against Canberra and rob the Sharks of a potent backline weapon in their do-or-die clash on Sunday.
Captain Paul Gallen admitted that Gardner would have been in the running to earn a call-up at fullback if he had played in the NSW Cup at the weekend against the Aukland Vulcans in New Zealand.
But Gardner was unable to play in the match because his passport had expired and he was unable to travel with the team.
The custodian is now seen as too much of a risk to throw into an elimination final without match fitness.
“I think his name has been thrown up, he did play 40 minutes a couple of weeks ago,” Gallen acknowledged.
“Unfortunately he missed out on playing at the weekend because his passport has expired. So that was a real shame.
“If he had of gotten a game under his belt at the weekend, you would put him straight in, but it is probably a shame that has happened, he hasn’t had a lot of footy, so it would be a pretty big risk.
“We still have Isaac Gordon who can come back in, I thought he played really well against Melbourne, so we will see what Flanno (Shane Flanagan) comes up with over the weekend.”
It is a blow to the Sharks who would have liked to have tested Gardner to see whether or not he was ready for their knock-out clash.
Cronulla has a good record at Canberra Stadium including a dominant 44-22 victory the last time the two sides played at the venue in round nine, but Gallen knows the Raiders boast a potent backline capable of troubling the Sharks.
“Our outside backs is probably something we have struggled with all year,” Gallen said.
“We’ve swapped them around a bit with injuries and (they have been) in and out of form. It is an area of concern for us, but if we just have those players play to their potential and the rest of us just do our job, we are going to be a really good chance.
“It has been a problem for us defensively, but we will address that during the week and hopefully fix that up and the boys will be right come Sunday.”
The Sharks also have a few concerns with Todd Carney suffering an Achilles injury during the round 26 loss to the Cowboys. He will be monitored during the week, but is in no real doubt for the must-win clash.
Centre Ben Pomeroy is also under a cloud after he was referred straight to the NRL judiciary for a tackle on Johnathan Thurston.
“I’m pretty sure Todd will be fine,” Gallen said.
“He looked fine at the presentation night afterwards, I’m sure he’ll be ok.
“The Ben Pomeroy one is an interesting one, personally I think it is pretty tough to be changing the rules in round 26 of the competition, but that is not for me to judge I suppose.
“Just hopefully he doesn’t get made an example of, because it has been an issue a few times throughout the year. Not a lot, but it has come under scrutiny a fair bit. It would be a shame if he made an example of because he was the first person charged with it, but we’ll have to wait and see what comes from it on Wednesday night.”
It is not all bad news though for the Sharks with Wade Graham set to make a return.
“He is a big chance, we have missed him,” Gallen said.
“He probably came back a week too early, because we probably struggled a bit and we wanted him back.
“It goes to show a week in rugby league is a long time, if he had had another week off he probably would been okay, he has been really good for us especially off the bench when we have had a full side.
“He will probably go through a fitness test a bit earlier in the week to see if he is okay.”