Sharks to reap Origin benefits
Away from the State of Origin cauldron, Sharks back-rower Wade Graham believes the presence of captain Paul Gallen will boost the club's fortunes as they gear up for a huge second half of the year.
Handed their final bye weekend of the season in Round 14, the Sharks are preparing for the long haul with 12 consecutive games to come before the finals.
Currently sitting at 12th on the Telstra Premiership ladder, amongst a logjam of teams on 14 competition points, Graham said NSW captain Gallen's experience will work in their favour as the Sharks continue their search for consistency.
Having missed two months of the season because of a gluteus maximus tear before making his return in the Sharks' win over the Roosters a fortnight ago, Gallen's teammates remain hopeful he'll get through Wednesday's Origin II unscathed.
"You know exactly what you're going to get out of Gal in the middle. You're going to get your carries and tackles and just the experience and quality in the middle so it definitely helps out the rest of the team," Graham said.
"A part of getting consistency is having experience in your team, knowing how to get up each week and knowing what you have to do to prepare.
"If there is chopping and changing in the team, it's always going to disturb momentum and consistency so hopefully with the big guy back now we can gauge where we are and keep moving forward as a club and get a few more wins."
Cronulla's season has been comparative to a rollercoaster of late. After being dismantled by the Dragons 42-6 three weeks ago, they went on to beat the Roosters 10-4 just a week later.
Now with a desperate Newcastle team to come and the finals still in reach, Graham said it was a matter of the team becoming more committed to the cause.
"We played a better type of football and we were a bit tougher against the Roosters I think, we believed in our system a lot more and it just goes to show how close the competition really is," Graham said.
"If you're off by a little bit one week and then back on the next it just goes to show what can happen. Our challenge now is to find that consistency and put good performances together."
Meanwhile, Graham doesn't expect the departure of Knights centre Joey Leilua from the club to impact proceedings on Sunday.
With Newcastle looking to overturn their poor run of eight losses in their past nine games, Graham said there are more important matters for his opposition to deal with this weekend.
"I'm sure whatever the dramas 'BJ' had with the club, it wouldn't have been with any of the other players. Players are a tight-knit bunch, they stick together and they normally have each other's back," Graham said.
"I daresay looking from the outside in, the rest of the Knights players wouldn't have had a problem with 'BJ' going to sort his future out and looking somewhere else. The players will move forward, he'll move forward.
"Newcastle are a good team. Obviously things haven't been clicking quite the way they'd like to be lately. But they've got quality players all over the park we know it's going to be a tough one."