The unsung heroes of Sharks' winning run
While they may not be known for their game-breaking moments or clutch plays the importance of Matt Prior and Sam Tagataese to the Sharks won't be any clearer than in this weekend's match as Cronulla look to make it 11-straight wins.
With a slice of history on the line against the Warriors on Saturday night, the understated solidity of Tagataese and Prior will stand tall with fellow forwards Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita backing up from the Blues' Origin II defeat.
They won't break open the game for the NRL Telstra Premiership competition leaders but their roles aren't designed for them to do that either.
Rather it's about holding firm in the middle and laying the platform that halves James Maloney and Chad Townsend have worked so well off this year.
Prior in particular has chipped away with little fuss for the Sharks in 2016 and has become one of the most improved front-rowers competition-wide for his efforts.
Compared to when he first arrived in the Shire – for the Sharks' year from hell three seasons ago – the 29-year-old Prior has, much like the club in general, come along in leaps and bounds under the watchful eye of Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.
The former Dragon will be the first to admit his time as a Shark was less than ideal, with only the club's heavy injury toll affording him the opportunity to play 10 games that season.
"When I came here from the Dragons – things were a lot different. The Sharks weren't as professional as what I was used to. Since 2014 though everything has turned around," Prior said.
"From the boardroom to the sheds. We didn't really have too many on the coaching staff but now we're brimming with resources. It's up there now in terms of professionalism.
"I started my time off here at the Sharks really poorly too. I came here three seasons ago and thought everything was just going to happen for me. They didn't and I ended up playing a fair chunk of reserve grade.
"But since then, I've been pushing myself to play good football for the club and do myself and the club proud."
Prior has started in all 11 of his games this season yet has not been named once in the starting line up on Tuesdays prior to games.
The expected role reversal one hour before kick-off between Prior and Tagataese leaves the latter to think it's a superstitious ploy from their coach.
"I just do my best for the team no matter where Flanno puts me. It's been working well for us so I think Flanno's a bit superstitious – he doesn't want to change no-one's number I reckon," Tagataese told NRL.com.
"It's got us this far so I'm not really fazed by it. As long as I get on the field and do my best for the team I think that's the main point."
Just under two-thirds of Tagataese's 97 games for the Sharks have come from the bench, and he'll remain content with that fact just as long as he's getting involved as soon he enters a game.
"It's just about getting that first touch for me. As soon as you get it, you find your rhythm," Tagataese said.
"If you don't find that touch straight away well then your impact goes out the window. You find you're behind the eight ball and you're chasing your tail."
Off-contract at season's end, Tagataese said he is not letting conjecture over his future impact what he believes is one of the biggest purple patches of his career.
"For me personally, it's been a consistent period for me especially when you look back at last year as well. I found last year that I was hitting form as our combinations here grew so the thing for me now is continuing that run," he said.
"I've been working hard in terms of fitness and minutes played, and because of the eight interchanges this year I had no other choice. It was important as well to maintain my explosiveness that I hope I provide to the team."