Sharks lacked passion in season opener: Flanagan
Whether it was over-eagerness or nervousness, Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan believes the side's lack of passion cost them in their loss to the Raiders last weekend.
Flanagan said his side's lack of commitment was disappointing as they approach their showdown with the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night.
Thankful for the five-day turnaround, Flanagan said the Sharks ability to channel their passion was a matter of maintaining a good standing with what they can control.
"Our unforced errors definitely put us in trouble so we need to concentrate on things like not dropping the ball, not kicking it out on the full and not failing to find touch on penalties," Flanagan said.
"I'm not quite sure if it was nerves or anticipation that got to them when it came to our lack of passion, but I think the game got a little bit away from them when they didn't settle into the rhythm early on in the game.
"It's good we have a short turnaround because all the boys are really excited to get back out there to quickly fix everything up."
Ben Barba was one such player who Flanagan believed was a victim of nervousness which led to an indifferent performance.
While the five-eighth contributed with two try assists, Barba in his Sharks debut struggled at times with direction and costly errors.
Seen as the Sharks long-term number six with youngster Fa'amanu Brown ruled out for the season with an ACL tear, Flanagan said he can't wait to see how Barba performs especially when it comes to playing his former Broncos team.
"Ben had a few good touches and some not so good touches as well – he was a classic example of being a little bit nervous and wasn't focused when we ran out there. He'll be better for the run that's for sure," Flanagan said.
"He was fine post-game. He was just disappointed like everyone else. For me, Ben is one of those big match players and it's a big match this week against his former club so it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back."
With Barba still remembered for his 2012 breakout season where he won the Dally M Medal and guided the Bulldogs to the grand final, Sharks captain Paul Gallen said he can't help but feel sorry for his teammate because of the huge expectations constantly placed on him.
Gallen will just be happy to see the under-pressure Barba thrive in his allocated role at the Sharks – away from the glitz and glamour of the style he showcased four seasons ago.
"There is way too much expectation and a lot of pressure on him and it's probably a little bit unwarranted," Gallen said.
"He isn't going to have a year like he did in 2012. It won't happen again for him and I'm sick of people talking about it.
"I don't want to make it an issue for us. We don't expect him to play like he did back then. It would be great but it isn't going to happen. He surprised a lot of people that year and I guarantee no-one would have been doing video on him.
"But that was a long time ago now. We just need him to play his role in the team and if he does that to the best of his ability then he'll be a quality player for us."
Speaking of under-pressure players, Gallen expects a huge performance from Australian teammate Sam Thaiday – who was benched by Broncos coach Wayne Bennett following their huge loss to the Rabbitohs in Round 1.
With Bennett particularly unhappy with Thaiday's ill-discipline, Gallen said the veteran back-rower will be "breathing fire" when the two teams face off.
"I'm expecting Sammy to have a big game. He's a quality player, still an Australian player, and I think it's a tactic," Gallen said.
"Wayne wants to fire him up and to basically say you need to lead this team. I'd like to see it backfire but it probably won't because Sammy will be keen to show his worth that's for sure."