Sharks forward Wade Graham against the Titans in Round 21.

Finishing first a minor issue for the Sharks

Victory against the Storm in Melbourne this weekend would be enough to secure Cronulla's first minor premiership in 17 years, but Sharks players say finishing on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder isn't their biggest focus. 

After snapping their month-long winless run with a dominant 37-12 victory over the Roosters, Sharks back-rower Wade Graham said the key now was to build on that momentum leading into the finals. 

"It hasn't been broached by the playing group," Graham said when asked about the importance of taking the J.J. Giltinan Shield back to Sydney.  

"For us, we just spoke about how important it was to get back in the winner's circle. It's important for us to go down to Melbourne – take the result out of it – and put together a real good performance. 

"You need to be playing your best football at this time of the year if you want to make a deep run into the finals so our focus is making sure we can back up the Roosters performance with another good performance down in Melbourne."

 

Should the Sharks stumble, the Storm would wrap up their first minor premiership since 2011, and Cronulla's cause won't be helped by their disastrous record at AAMI Park where they are winless from six attempts. 

They've lost the past three matches at the venue by a combined 92 points and have managed just two first-half tries from six games. 

"They're always hard down there. They've got a great record over the last 10 years," Graham continued. 

"We've got no doubt how hard it's going to be for us and that's why the group is more focussed on putting together a real good team performance and making sure we get through the game in good shape and not really worrying about next week."

Playing at AAMI Park will be a new experience for teammate Jack Bird who has only visited the ground as a Dragon in the Holden Cup.  

Bird said it would be a vastly different Melbourne compared to the side that went down to the Sharks 14-6 earlier in the season at Southern Cross Group Stadium. 

"When I was in the 20s it was pretty hard, but I haven't been down there in the NRL. I heard it's a bit colder down there so we've got to get used to the climate down there," the Sharks centre said. 

"We played them here at the start of the season and beat them but that was a long time ago. We're both completely different teams so it's going to be a big challenge going down there and trying to beat them, but it's not impossible."

 


The Storm will head into the minor premiership showdown on the back of a loss to the Broncos in Melbourne, and Graham said there were elements from Brisbane's performance that his side would look to replicate. 

The Broncos raced in two quick tries last weekend to take the Melbourne crowd out of it and then got in the faces of the Storm's key players to throw them off their game. 

Graham said it was imperative to hit the ground running like Brisbane did, but refused to buy into talk that players like Michael Ennis and Andrew Fifita would enter into any gamesmanship on Saturday night.   

"It's not something we speak about to tell you the truth," Graham said when asked about the niggle. 

"For us it's about putting together a team performance. We haven't been playing the best footy the last couple of weeks.

"On the weekend it took us 20 minutes to get into it [against the Roosters] and you can't really afford a slow start against Melbourne. 

"Brisbane showed they went down there and put some points on the board early against them and were able to put pressure on them that way."

Bird agreed that line-speed would be the key to stopping the Storm's champion playmakers.

"Brisbane just stuck to their game-plan and they played really well," he said. "They got up in their face and shut down their key players."

 

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