Sharks untroubled by another slow start
One week into the 2017 Telstra Premiership season and people are already starting to write the Sharks off following their 26-18 loss to the Broncos on Thursday night.
It's true the defending premiers weren't at their best, but in what was their first NRL game without star duo Michael Ennis and Ben Barba they more than held their own against a Brisbane side that made the grand final only two seasons ago.
The Sharks found themselves 14 points in arrears early in the second stanza, but two tries in the space of 10 minutes had everyone thinking they were on track for a spirited comeback win.
Alas, Anthony Milford broke their spirits in the 69th minute with a wonderful solo try, and while they start Round 2 in 12th spot on the ladder, halfback Chad Townsend said there was no need to panic.
Townsend blamed uncharacteristic lapses in concentration and "silly little errors in early tackles" for Thursday's loss, pinpointing one specific second-half penalty for a flop on Sam Thaiday as the turning point in the contest.
"That wasn't a feature of our game last year and you can't be successful in the NRL if you make those errors," Townsend said.
"There was a time in the second half when we were trading sets and pinning them in the corners and really taking it to them, and then we left them off with a silly penalty that just halted all our momentum.
"I actually looked to Luke Lewis during the game and said 'that's a game changer right there', and it was. All of a sudden we were on the back foot defending our try line and they scored and we were out of the game."
Thursday's defeat was the fourth year in a row that the Sharks had started a season with a loss, but Townsend was quick to remind critics that they bounced back from a slow start in 2016 to win the competition.
"It's definitely not a concern. We lost our Round 1 game last year," he said.
"While every team wants to start on a winning note, for us there are some areas that are definitely fixable. We trained really well and for us it's about moving on to this week and putting in a good performance.
"We'll take plenty of positives out of the game. We looked at the video on Friday and we're ready to move on this week into Canberra."
Teammate Gerard Beale was equally unfazed by the opening round hiccup, and is confident the Sharks will bounce back.
"It was frustrating to lose; I'm sure any player would say that. But there are certainly things we can work on that we know we can get better," Beale said on Monday.
"I think last year we were in the same position – and the year before – but in saying that, it was a game that we had a chance to win, but we didn't. We just want to make sure that we're getting better and working on things in the areas that we need to.
"We always do review of the game and I think it was good. There were a lot of opportunities that we missed, but in saying that, they are easily fixable. As a team we sort of killed ourselves with the errors and penalties which didn't really help. It was a good hard footy game, and that's what you want."