Sharks wary of Warriors after NZ Test win
While the jury is still out on the fate of the Kangaroos moving forward, the flow-on effect of Australia's shock loss to the Kiwis last weekend has Sharks coach Shane Flanagan concerned that the Warriors Test stars have been played into form before the two clubs collide on Saturday afternoon.
Warriors quintet Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Ben Matulino, Simon Mannering and Thomas Leuluai all played their part in the Kiwis' 26-12 victory and are important cogs in Andrew McFadden's team.
Johnson's return to form especially earned the attention of Flanagan, with the Sharks mentor putting the onus on his forwards to shutdown the livewire halfback.
"We expect a tough game, they have a really good forward pack and if you let them get forward then their outside backs will capitalise. I just hope the Australian team didn't play a lot of those players into form, because they did play well for New Zealand," Flanagan said after the Sharks' captain's run on Friday.
"They're a typical Warriors team - big and strong as well as having a lot of skill there - we just need to make sure we can do everything right.
"[Johnson has been playing] on the back of a forward pack which can dominate, you talk to most halfbacks and they can play off the back of that so Shaun - given time and space - he loves that. We just need to make sure we can't allow the Warriors pack to do that."
One such player who will be handed the role of shutting down the Warriors' forwards, and Johnson's form resurgence, by Flanagan is prop Andrew Fifita, who returns for the Sharks from suspension.
The two-match ban Fifita copped in Round 6 against Newcastle allowed him to play for City Origin last weekend, and Flanagan was hopeful the star prop could quickly re-establish his recent good form at club level especially with New South Wales coach Laurie Daley sure to be watching on.
"I spoke to Laurie just before actually and he said he's monitoring players, and Andrew's in the mix like a lot of others so he just needs to keep performing and get Laurie's attention," Flanagan said.
"Laurie will be interested to see how Andrew goes against the Matulinos and the Mannerings, Jacob Lillyman has been going great too, so it's a real good test for not just Andrew but our whole forward pack.
"[Rep round] was good for Andrew because he had two weeks off prior with his suspension so to get him some time [last week means] he's ready to go for us. He was hitting some good form before he was suspended and hopefully he bounces straight back into that."
With the Sharks currently on a two-game winning streak at home, following a 10-game losing run which spanned just 16 days short of a year, Flanagan also drew on the importance of keeping the victories at Remondis Stadium coming.
"If we want to get good crowds at home then we need to perform well so it's a really important point," he said.
"The Warriors aren't the biggest drawing team to bring people to Remondis Stadium, but if we're playing well and winning footy games then we'll fill it."