Depth drives Sharks to go back-to-back
Getting up for a victory over the Warriors in Auckland is never easy, but it's a whole lot harder when you are missing two State of Origin players from your squad, one of whom is also your chief playmaker.
That is what makes the Cronulla Sharks' 26-12 victory over the Kiwi club on Friday night that bit more impressive, with their quality depth and ability to play through key injuries shaping as a key part of their quest for back-to-back premierships.
With James Maloney already out due to a hand injury, the Sharks chose not to risk centre Jack Bird (sternum) as well, with their respective replacements stepping up to play starring roles in the win at Mt Smart Stadium
At five-eighth Fa'amanu Brown had a number of classy touches, scoring and running for over 80 metres in his hour on the park, before a head knock forced him from the field, while in the centres Kurt Capewell bagged the opening four-pointer and carried 13 times for over 100 metres.
Post-match coach Shane Flanagan said he was always confident his fill-in players would get the job done.
"That [depth] is one thing I think we have got plenty of. We get an injury, we bring a player in that's got plenty of experience," he said.
"I've got a State of Origin player (Bird) that we didn't use today.
"I thought they did a good job... we did what we had to do and showed how professional we were."
To date Cronulla have used the second fewest players at NRL level this year, with only 24 being required through their first 19 games.
But despite chances to play in the top flight being scarce for most outside of the first-choice 21, Capewell told NRL.com the club's fringe players have taken it upon themselves to drive higher standards while playing at reserve-grade level for the Newtown Jets.
"We have been training with a lot of intensity and pushing each other, so the guys that are just on the edge of the NRL are more than capable to slip straight in," Capewell said.
"Everyone knows that, and we have all the confidence in the world in anyone coming straight into our team. We know they will buy into our culture and get the win with us.
"We just do our job… we just knew if everyone did their job that we would come away with the win tonight."
Meanwhile Flanagan gave an update on the injury to Brown, who connected heavily with Sam Lisone' knee while attempting a low tackle, and had to be assisted from the field.
But the Cronulla mentor wouldn't be drawn on his thoughts about the incident, which saw Lisone placed on report.
"He is pretty heavily concussed, he is off in hospital [tonight]," Flanagan said.
"But we got a good report that he will be OK.
"I didn't see it again, I don't think they showed it again on the screen, so I will leave that to the judiciary or whoever is going to look at it."