Sharks hope 90-minute epic saps Cowboys
While a well-rested Cronulla outfit will be quietly hopeful a stunning 90-minute semi-final between the Broncos and Cowboys saps the energy of the latter in this Friday's preliminary final, senior Sharks reckon the Cowboys will be raring to go.
Friday night's game was the first NRL match to go to beyond 80 minutes since a new rule brought in allowed for 10 minutes of extra time before the game then reverts to golden point.
The frantic 90 minutes of high-intensity football played in sapping heat and humidity looked to take a toll on the players but the Sharks expect the premiers to back up strongly on Friday night.
"Hopefully it took a bit of energy out of the Cowboys and they're a bit flat come Friday!" fullback Ben Barba joked.
"It must have been an unbelievably fast game because some of the body language of some of the players the other night, they looked stuffed."
Back-rower Wade Graham was still in awe of the quality of the contest days later, having watched it with interest to find out which team Cronulla would be hosting this Friday.
"It was brilliant; they always have the best contests," Graham said.
"When they play, I feel myself just loving the game again and becoming a fan again and really enjoying watching it. Their contests are absolutely brilliant. It's honestly unbelievable how they go.
"I was like everyone else, by the end of it I was just watching it, didn't know what was going on, didn't know who was going to win, couldn't believe how good the contest had been again and by the end of the game I was like everyone else, just speechless at how good the game was.
"I think they were out on their feet by the end of it; it looked tough, it looked really hard and they were all out on their feet."
Despite all that, the seven-day turnaround would be enough to have the Cowboys firing again, according to Graham.
"It's not as if they've got a five-day turnaround," Graham said.
"The five days are hard sometimes to back up but they've got a full seven days, they would have got into their recover pretty quick then build through the week.
"On their side is the experience in their team, they know what they've got to do to prepare.
"I have no doubt they'll be all over that and they're into a prelim final so they'll be up for it no doubt."
The real advantage for Graham and captain Paul Gallen is the chance to recover from health concerns ahead of Friday night, with Graham having suffered a concussion suffered early against Canberra in week one of the finals and Gallen recovering from a back injury that caused him to be a late withdrawal from that game.
"I'm all good mate, I passed my cognitive test so it's play on," Graham told NRL.com.
"I'm in full time training. So I trained last Thursday then we had Friday Saturday off. Full training now and I'm fine."
Graham was adamant Gallen was coming along well and would be fit enough to play regardless of whether he was 100 per cent or not.
"The week off was good for him being able to rest and probably just take that pressure off the clock rather than trying to race the clock," Graham said.
"When you're trying to battle an injury you always feel like you're running out of time. I suppose the week off just gave him a little bit of extra time mentally and just allowed him to get to where he is today. He's coming along nicely. I don't know whether he'll be 100 per cent but he'll be playing."
Hooker Michael Ennis said having the week off had its pros and cons, as did the continuity of playing each week as is the case for the Cowboys.
"I've been lucky, I've experienced both before where I've had the week off but also played the full series," Ennis said.
"It's what you do in that week, if you use it right… It's been a really good time, especially with guys like Gal and Wade copping that head knock and those guys to give them a bit of extra opportunity to be raring to go Friday."
Ennis enjoyed the extra-time aspect of last week's 26-20 Cowboys win as opposed to golden point.
"It was great to see a try come out of extra-time rather than just a drop goal-a-thon and seven tackles, because seven tackles kills you," he said.
"It's so hard because you basically guarantee the opposition a shot at field goal in that next set so it was good that it eliminated all that.
"I think for the fans it's value for money. A final 10 minutes of just open football where sides are just trying to create chances and living on the edge a little bit. It's pretty entertaining."
Game on. Data off.
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