Bird wary of Canberra finals trip
Sharks centre Jack Bird admits he was surprised to learn that his side would have to travel to Canberra for the first week of the Telstra Premiership finals should the Raiders leapfrog them into second spot on the ladder.
It's a scenario that would only play out if Cronulla were beaten by the Storm this weekend and the Green Machine defeated the Wests Tigers, with Canberra also needing to make up six points on for and against.
The Sharks have won their past three matches in the nation's capital, but their last loss just happened to be in Week One of the 2012 finals series.
GIO Stadium has been a fortress this season, with the Raiders winning 10 of their 12 matches at the venue, although one of those losses was a 40-16 hiding at the hands of the Sharks.
While Canberra would earn the right to host a semi-final at their spiritual home, the Sharks would have to play their matches at Allianz Stadium instead of Southern Cross Group Stadium where they have lost just once in 2016.
"To be honest, I didn't even know they were allowed to have a home semi down there because we're not allowed to have a home semi here. I thought they had to come to Sydney but we have to go down there if we lose and they win," Bird said.
"I understand that they're the only club down in Canberra and obviously that's their home territory, whereas here in Sydney we've got a lot of clubs. But a home semi is a major key in the semi-finals where a lot of fans come to watch.
"I think if we had a home semi here at Shark Park then there'd be people on the roof probably. Down there I can just picture the same thing.
"They're going to get a full stadium full of their fans. You know what it's like going to a different territory with the majority of fans there; it's hard to win and hard to get the outcome."
Should the Sharks earn a top-two finish, they will play the Raiders at Allianz Stadium; a venue where they have enjoyed success in the post-season with wins over the Cowboys and Rabbitohs in recent years.
Back-rower Wade Graham said that while the Sharks have received strong support at the ground, it simply doesn't compare to the atmosphere generated in the Shire.
"It's certainly important to play a home semi-final. For us, it's not a home semi regardless [of where we finish] because it's at Allianz," he said.
"We've had success at Allianz in the past. It certainly makes it easier for the Cronulla community to get there so it'd be a massive boost for the community and the supporter base.
"It was a great atmosphere there [against Souths]. The last two years when we've played semi-finals there, we've got a lot of supporters there.
"It's not that far – I think it's half-an-hour – and it's a really strong supporter group here and they love getting out to watch us play."