New tactic inspires Sharks to victory
A change to Cronulla's pre-game routine proved a wonder stroke as the defending premiers bounced back from a poor showing last week to thrash the Roosters 44-12 at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Most teams tend to warm up on the field until only a few minutes before kick-off, but the Sharks were notably absent in the 10 minutes leading up to the game with coach Shane Flanagan keen to address them in the sheds instead.
"I spoke to the players after our pre-match warm-up which is a little bit of a change," Flanagan revealed.
"It's not a lot, but I usually speak to them before they go out to warm-up, but today I spoke to them after. I don't know if that had anything to do with the result."
Whatever he said must have worked as the Sharks obliterated their opponents thanks to a faultless first half that saw them jump out to a commanding 20-12 lead at the break.
Last year's premiers completed 19/19 sets in the first 40 minutes; a far cry from the side that fumbled and bumbled its way for most of last week's loss to Manly.
Slow starts have been a common theme for the Sharks in 2017, with most of their recent wins requiring second-half comebacks. Given their hot start on Saturday, there was no need for late heroics on the Central Coast.
"It's amazing what happens when you hold onto the football," Flanagan said.
"We've been guilty in the past couple of weeks of poor completion rates and poor starts, and we got both of those right tonight and it showed on the scoreboard. When we compete and get a good start, we're hard to handle.
"We've been poor in the last couple of weeks. We gave the Storm 12 points (head start) and we gave Manly 18 last week so we needed to start well because if we gave the Roosters a start today then I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been the end result we needed.
"It was definitely a point that we needed to start well today and we did."
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen echoed his coach's sentiments.
"I think the simple thing today as 'Flanno' already said was that we held onto the ball," Gallen added.
"It's been an issue for us all year; we've made more errors than any other team up until this point, and it's something that we want to focus on getting away from that.
"We've shown that we can compete with anyone as it is, but if we can eliminate those errors and do what we do well for 80 minutes, we can win most games."