Flanagan lauds marathon effort from Fifita
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has praised a mammoth 80-minute effort from captain Andrew Fifita as the inspiration behind his side's 24-16 victory over the Canberra Raiders.
With the side gutted by injuries to Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Jayson Bukuya, Scott Sorensen and Josh Dugan, Fifita ran for 175 metres and pulled off 50 tackles to keep his side clinging onto a spot in the top eight.
"I was sending him some messages down in the last five or 10 minutes, 'don't carry the ball, just tackle', he didn't seem to get it," Flanagan said of Fifita.
"It was a huge effort. I don't want him to play 80 minutes, it's not part of our plan but we're a bit low on troops at the moment and I need one of those front-rowers to play big minutes.
"For a front-rower to play 80 in the modern game, is a fantastic effort."
Flanagan revealed Fifita was also struggling to train this week, with prop still hampered by the bone-bruising in his knee suffered against St-George Illawarra in round six.
The victory is the Sharks' fourth straight, with the side's never-say-die attitude exemplified by the combined winning margin of those games being just 15 points.
"To be in the final eight at the end of the year it starts with these wins early on in the year," Fifita said.
"We've been down on troops and whoever stepped up has done a really good job for us.
"Jack Williams got over the line and I thought he was rock solid in the middle, he's been grinding away for two years now and he deserved every minute of that game time tonight."
Valentine Holmes was at his brilliant best for much of the clash, running for 329 metres. However, he was forced to atone for a horrible mistake in the in-goal area that gifted the first try of the game to the Raiders.
"He let the first one in, I wasn't really happy with him at that stage but then next kick he runs the length of the field," Flanagan said.
"I thought he was really solid today, Val, he got back into the game and those things happen, he made the wrong call but that's the game.
"But he bounced back so that's a credit to him."
With Canterbury, Newcastle and South Sydney in coming weeks, the Sharks are expected to be bolstered by reinforcements.
Flanagan said Gallen is expected to play next week after ruling himself out after their captain's run on Saturday.
"He got through the whole session but I could tell he wasn't really confident," Flanagan said of Gallen's injured knee.
"His lateral movement wasn't where he wanted it to be.
"But getting the win makes it easier he can have the weeks rest and be right for next week."