Townsend and Moylan still warming up for Sharks
Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend says the club needs to quickly rid itself of the Jekyll-and-Hyde style of game showcased against St George Illawarra in round two.
If not, the Sharks' winless start to the 2018 Telstra Premiership will continue and the club will quickly spiral out of finals contention.
All is not lost yet though. Firstly, the Sharks were 0-4 at the start the 2015 season yet managed 15 wins for the year to finish sixth.
Secondly, the Townsend-Matt Moylan relationship is coming along nicely. Through all the angst of the capitulation to the Dragons in the second half, Townsend fondly remembers the connection he felt with Moylan.
"Apart from the ill-discipline of our team last weekend, I truly think that in the first half we took a step in the right direction," Townsend said of his combination with the new No.6.
"I wasn't expecting fireworks straight off. These things take time, but we don't have time.
"We now really have to put our foot to the floor. We need to do more of what we did that first half – we were controlled; we combined well; we scored points; we had possession.
"In the second half, the ill-discipline meant Matt and myself didn't have a chance to control our games and show what we could do with the ball."
Townsend is the sole survivor from the 2016 premiership-winning spine at Cronulla. Ben Barba is playing in the Super League, James Maloney went to Penrith and Michael Ennis has retired.
Now in his ninth NRL season – his seventh with the Sharks - the 27-year-old knows the team is looking to him to resurrect 2018 before it's too late, starting with Parramatta Eels on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.
"More of the set calls come from me and organising the team comes from me, purely as I've spent a few more years here than Matty," he said.
"If he sees something outside the structure we encourage him to take that, as long as it's the right option for the team.
"But in saying that, I take more of a leadership and talking role in getting our attack on.
"I really enjoy playing with Matty. Our strengths are very different but we want to play to those strengths."
So much so that Townsend said coach Shane Flanagan had told Moylan to be himself.
"Flanno has definitely accommodated him and how he likes to play. That's how we get the best out of him," Townsend said, adding he wasn't misty-eyed about Maloney's departure.
"There are a lot of similarities [with Maloney] but Matt in my opinion, is a bit more of a free spirit. He likes to roam across every part of the field, from sideline to sideline, and I love that about him.
"I've always said to him he looks the most dangerous when he's aggressive with the ball, when he's taking on the line, and when he's playing what he sees in front of him.
"And that's not being stuck to a side. So, in our game plan, he has that licence to roam."
The first 40 minutes of football against the Dragons, which shot the Sharks out to a 14-4 lead, was in stark contrast to the second.
"The first half last week was how the Cronulla Sharks like to play football," Townsend said.
"We were pretty clinical; pretty precise in what we were doing; everyone was on the same page; we were able to score points; dictate terms with our defence.''
Now the Sharks have to make sure they stretch that blueprint to 80 minutes.
"It all got flipped on its head to be honest [in second half]. Ill-discipline, errors, just killed us to be honest," Townsend added.
"At half-time, we were a good enough side to win that game. In the second, we beat ourselves.
"When you lack discipline, you lack possession. We weren't able build any pressure with the ball.
"We can't afford to keep doing that. It's individual accountability. We've got to start to realise the time and scenarios of the game of when to go for an off-load, or when to go for a 50-50 [or] riskier play, or when to tuck it under your arm and hold on to it.
"We have probably given away more back-to-back penalties this year than I've ever been a part of the last few years.
"Errors are a part of the game. But it's when you compound them that's the problem. In round one we didn't complete three sets in a row against the Cowboys.
"On the weekend against Dragons we did the same thing and didn't give ourselves a chance. We've got to make sure that when we make an error, we complete the next set and get back into the grind."