Sharks fullback Ben Barba believes his side aren't premiership favourites despite their 11-game winning run, betting odds and their position atop the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder suggesting the contrary.
Barba said the way that reigning premiers the North Queensland Cowboys have handled themselves with class this year are looking the most likely to be the first team to win back-to-back premierships for the first time in a unified competition since 1993.
The former Dally M Medallist said the Storm – who sit just behind the Sharks on the table – are also tracking well towards the first premiership since 2012.
The Sharks have beaten both the Cowboys and the Storm this year and on Saturday night will shoot for an unprecedented club record of 12-consecutive victories when they take on Parramatta.
"I'd have to say the Cowboys are still [premiership favourites]. The way they're going after the year they had last season I guess is pretty remarkable," Barba said.
"Then you have the Storm who are missing a few key players and even though Billy [Slater] hasn't played and they're still missing Willie Chambers they're still killing it."
Barba said their lengthy winning run hasn't played on the club's mind and that the Sharks don't necessarily think of themselves as one of the NRL's elite clubs.
"We don’t really think about the wins on the trot. We have just worried about each week as it goes by – before you realise it we've notched up 11 wins in a row," Barba said.
"I think just winning five, six, seven is pretty great but to put 11 together is pretty special especially for a side like Cronulla that have had some trouble over the last few years."
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita didn't even realise his side had won as many games as they have straight but said the streak has helped dull the pain of New South Wales' State of Origin loss for him and his fellow Sharks state representatives.
Fifita said the Sharks are currently blessed but warned the semi-finals won't come easy for his side.
"It's two different things but it's good to come back into a winning environment and I'm still in disbelief it's 11 in a row," Fifita said.
"You don't very often see semi-final football and that's the main thing I've been telling our younger players. I've been lucky enough to only miss two semi-finals series' but in saying that it's a very good opportunity we have here."