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Sharks captain Paul Gallen was a late withdrawal for his side's qualifying final win over the Raiders.

Both the Sharks and Cowboys are expecting to be as per the program when they run onto Allianz Stadium on Friday night in the first of the Telstra Premiership preliminary finals.

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said skipper Paul Gallen would be a certain starter for the grand final qualifier despite missing their last-start win over the Raiders with a back injury.

"Gal's been fine since last Friday," Flanagan confirmed. 

"He would have been pushing to play if we had to play last week. He had a really good session on Friday and then another good one on Sunday. There's no problem there at all."

The news isn't as good for teammates Joseph Paulo (knee) and Sam Tagataese (shoulder) with Flanagan revealing they would most likely miss out on selection for the Cowboys clash. 


Paulo missed the qualifying final against Canberra with a knee injury while Tagataese is on the comeback trail after injuring his shoulder in the Round 22 loss to the Raiders. 

"Him (Tagataese) and Joseph Paulo both trained together back at Shark Park and got through that pretty well," Flanagan said on Thursday morning. 

"Both are borderline selections, but will probably both miss out unfortunately. If we're good enough to get through this week then they'll both be available next week. Sam is probably a couple of days short but he'll definitely be available next week."

The Cowboys are hopeful Kane Linnett will be fit to take his place at left centre after missing last week's extra-time win over the Broncos with a hamstring injury he picked up in week one of the finals. 

Cowboys coach Paul Green said the 27-year-old would have to pass a fitness test at the team's final training session on Thursday before he could be cleared to play. 

"He's had a number of different boxes he's had to tick along the way," Green said.

"The last one will be this afternoon with full training with the team this afternoon. Hopefully we expect him to get through that and he'll be right.

"Our medical staff have got a pretty good handle on where they're at. They're not too wrong too often so I'm confident he'll be there."

Green's other concern this week has been managing his players following their brutal win over Brisbane in sapping conditions in the tropical north. 

"Mentally the boys are good," he said. 

"They're excited about playing footy at this time of the year, but no doubt last Friday night's game took a fair bit out of them. We won't really know how they've responded until we get to the game. 

"At this point of time, we've managed the week really well in terms of training and the boys are feeling pretty good at this stage."


Flanagan said his side would look to target North Queensland if they showed signs of fatigue, but stressed the onus was on Cronulla to tire them out first. 

"They're only going to be jaded and fatigued if we put them under pressure, and that's the challenge. I don't see any of the effects from the last couple of weeks coming into play tomorrow night," Flanagan said.

"The game needs to unfold for that to happen. We need to put the Cowboys under pressure and starve them of possession, [control] where we give them the football and all those types of things for that to happen. 

"For the Cowboys to feel fatigued at the backend of the game, we need to make sure that we put them under pressure for the first 70 minutes of that game. 

"That might happen, but if they're coming off the back fence, or if we're turning possession over in our end, they'll find energy."

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