Besieged Sharks overcome adversity to earn week off
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has praised his side's never-say-die attitude following their stirring 16-14 come-from-behind win over the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday night.
The Sharks had every right to throw in the towel when they found themselves down by 12 points late in the first half and reeling after having to make over 200 tackles in the first 40 minutes alone.
To make matters worse they were without inspirational skipper Paul Gallen who was ruled out on the morning of the match with a back injury, while his deputy, Wade Graham, was forced from the field after just seven minutes with concussion.
Instead of giving up, the Sharks lifted. Matt Prior scored on the stroke of half-time, Valentine Holmes touched down after the break, and five-eighth James Maloney stepped up to slot two clutch penalties to win the game.
"I couldn't be prouder of how tough and resilient the boys were after all the hurdles we had to go through during the week. It's a tough footy team, real tough," Flanagan said after the two-point win.
"I thought I killed a Chinaman [when Graham came off]. I thought our bad luck had come at the wrong time of the year with 'Gal' going down during the week.
"I was just really proud with how the boys reacted when Gal was out. They didn't drop their bottom lip or react too much, they just got on with it. When Wade went off it was the same thing."
The Sharks had struggled at the backend of the season with Gallen missing with a calf injury making Saturday night's win all the more special.
Flanagan said the Sharks skipper would benefit from the week off before their preliminary final in a fortnight's time, and was confident he'd make a return for the grand final qualifier.
"It's one of those disc problems which just came on during the week," he said.
"He felt it at lunch after a gym session and it progressively got worse through the week. We tried to push him and push him and push him but it just needs time to settle. Once it settles it'll be OK."
Sharks dummy-half Michael Ennis said the players knew they were given next to no chance by the general public and used their underdog status as motivation in the nation's capital.
He also paid tribute to the Cronulla fans who made the three-hour trip south to cheer their side to victory.
"'Flanno' bunkered us in last night and we had a really good chat," he said.
"Wade got the boys together today and that was exactly it. No one thought we could win when Gallen got ruled out this morning. Everyone just thought we were just making up the numbers.
"The boys were looking forward to coming down here because it's a great place to play football.
"The support Canberra turned on provided a great atmosphere, but that south-eastern corner was great. We warmed up in front of them and we were really surprised. They travelled well and we certainly heard them in the second half."
Game on. Data off.
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