Premiers send a message with latest win
The Cronulla Sharks have put four consecutive wins on the board to send a friendly reminder to rivals of just who are the defending premiers.
In a remarkable statistic the defending premiers are yet to concede a four-pointer in over 160 minutes away from home against two attacking juggernauts in Melbourne and Penrith, and have now climbed to third position on the ladder after dropping two games in the opening three rounds.
It was a disruptive week in the Shire with news Jack Bird will depart the club at season's end, and the team could have been excused had the result gone differently on the back of a gruelling grand final rematch in Melbourne a week earlier.
"It's been an outstanding effort and attitude from the side after last week against Storm, to back it up today against more of an offensive team and we needed to make sure that we limited them to points," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said after the win over the Panthers.
"To keep that Penrith team with top quality outside backs to zero again was outstanding, especially after we turned the ball over a fair bit and made it hard for ourselves.
"They were most dangerous when they offloaded and did that a fair bit today but we kept turning them away and then in limited opportunities we scored easily.
"Our completion rates are still down so we need to fix that up and make it even easier for ourselves.
"I wasn't happy with the start of our season… we were too inconsistent.
"Today and last week against Melbourne were about what we want to achieve this year and we're finally getting it together."
Flanagan said the club remained disappointed by Jack BIrd's decision to leave for Brisbane next year but were confident in the centre's commitment for the remainder of the season.
"I just spoke [to the players] in the dressing room about how he (Bird) handled the whole week," Flanagan said.
"It was a tough decision for a young man to make and the reason as a club that we're so disappointed is because of what we saw there today, he's a quality player.
"I've got to be really grateful and happy he was with us last year to win a competition and that he's here for the rest of the year."
Flanagan also threw his support behind Sharks back-rower Wade Graham for a Blues jersey after the 26-year-old tore the Panthers to shreds on the left-edge.
"I thought he (Graham) was outstanding and terrorised everyone," Flanagan said.
"He come up with some really big tackles one-on-one with some of their quality outside backs and he came up with some big plays.
"I know he knows Origin is around the corner and if he keeps playing like that he will be hard to keep out.
"If he gets squeezed out then New South Wales must have a decent side because he's been the form back-rower in the last few weeks.
"I know Boyd Cordner plays on the same edge but if I was picking the team then I would be playing both of them."
After a fortnight on the road, the Sharks now turn their attention to hosting a Gold Coast Titans outfit desperate to snap a four-game losing streak.