A month ago it seemed a matter of not if, but by how many points the Sharks would win the minor premiership.
Now, on the back of three straight defeats, they are staring down the barrel of not only missing out on the J.J .Giltinan Shield, but also the prospect of falling out of the Telstra Premiership top two entirely.
While they appear to be in a late-season slump, Sharks firebrand Andrew Fifita said it was unfair to suggest his side was 'choking' with the finals series in sight.
"We've only lost what, three or four games now? To be honest, I don't feel we're choking. We're the team to beat this year," a defiant Fifita proclaimed.
Having won 15-straight games earlier in the season, the Sharks have now gone a month without singing the team song, and there are signs that confidence might be waning at the worst possible time.
According to Fifita, there's only one solution to their current predicament.
"I think there's just one word, 'win'," he said.
"I think we just need to bunker down and just control what we can control. There's a lot of outside noise at the moment, but I think the boys are fairly happy with where we're at.
"If you'd told us at the start of the season that we'd be in second place at this time of the season then I'd take it and say 'sweet as'. We're in a good space at the moment and as long as we can get this win on the weekend, that's our main focus."
If the Sharks lose one of their next two matches, they will likely drop to third on the Telstra Premiership ladder on for and against should the Canberra Raiders manage to win their remaining fixtures.
The draw suggests the Sharks have the tougher run home, with matches against the Roosters (at home) and the Storm (in Melbourne) still to come, while the Green Machine travel to Sydney to take on the Sea Eagles and Wests Tigers.
Fifita revealed the thought of playing a home semi-final had crossed his mind lately, and although that would mean a likely trip to Allianz Stadium as opposed to their spiritual home in the Shire, he said he would be happy to settle for a top four finish.
"It's one of the questions I've been thinking about lately. To be honest, as long as I'm in the top four then I'm happy," he said.
"My main priority was to have a home semi so my family and that could come out [to watch me play] but in saying that, if you're in the top four then you're in the top four and you've got the chance to go through to a grand final qualifier."
The Sharks have a terrific recent record in the nation's capital, winning four of their past five matches against the Raiders. Their one loss, however, was in Week One of the 2012 finals series; a fact not lost on Fifita.
"We're in the top four for a reason and we're not afraid of going anywhere," he said.
"We're pretty good in Canberra, to be honest. I don't remember the last time we lost there – I think we might have lost down there in 2012 in a semi-final.
"I normally block out the atmosphere and it doesn't really matter [where we play] but the home advantage would be a good advantage for us if we can get a home semi."
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