Canterbury coach Dean Pay and skipper Josh Jackson believe Cronulla are the favourites for the 2018 Telstra Premiership after getting a first-hand look at the Sharks in a 30-18 loss on Sunday.
The Bulldogs took it to the Sharks on the scoreboard but the Shire outfit were in cruise control, with fullback Valentine Holmes turning in another blockbuster performance.
Cronulla will meet the Roosters on Saturday for a chance to progress to the preliminary final.
"The Sharks are tough to handle in the ruck, they get you. It's hard to get continuity in attack because they're good in the ruck, their line-speed is good," Pay said.
"It's going to be a great contest; the Roosters are playing some good footy."
Jackson agreed the Sharks were the side to watch and he was the second player in 24 hours to suggest the finals series will be officiated differently.
Penrith forward Isaah Yeo made similar comments on Saturday after his side were heavily penalised in their 22-16 win over Melbourne.
"I think Cronulla will go close, they're a tough team and are a semi-finals team," Jackson said.
"With lower penalty counts and their ability to grind out games I think they'll go very close."
The Bulldogs farewelled Brett and Josh Morris, along with Greg Eastwood and Matt Frawley at the club's final game of the season.
Canterbury avoided the wooden spoon with a strong finish to the year after a punishing six months of off-field turmoil, winning four of their last six games.
Pay was able to unearth a host of rookies in a shining light for the Belmore club.
"I'm proud of the boys with the way they've finished the season," Pay said.
"I thought there was a real positive there. Some of our guys that have come through have played some good footy.
"I thought we had some good periods. They come out and were firing early, got some calls their way which helped. We had good periods but just didn't sustain it for long enough.
"I think that sums us up with where we're at. We've got to get some improvement in what we're doing.
"I know the boys here next year are excited about getting into the pre-season and are looking forward to it."
Pay paid particular tribute to the Morris brothers, who have together given a combined 15 years of service to the club.
"They've been quality players for a long time," Pay said.
"Someone is going to have to take their position. It's another opportunity for a younger player to stamp their position."