Graham holds key to shutting down Cronk: Gallen
Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen believes teammate Wade Graham holds the key to shutting down Cooper Cronk if the Sharks are to overcome the Sydney Roosters in Saturday's qualifying final at Allianz Stadium.
Graham has struggled with niggling injuries this season but got through last Sunday's win over the Bulldogs to provide the Sharks with another option in attack.
But Gallen welcomed the return of Graham's defence, particularly against Cronk on the edges, with the Sharks holding a 3-2 winning record over the former Storm halfback.
"Wade's been a big reason why we have performed well against Cooper Cronk sides in the past, and hopefully he does that again on the weekend," Gallen said at Monday's captain's call.
"But it's a different team and different structure that the Roosters play with. We've just got to put everything into it. Win this, and you're 80 minutes away from a grand final.
"I think it will hold us in good stead for the semis having that consistency about us. But we still have to go to another level for semi-final football. We need to find that this week."
Cronulla have piled on the points against lower-ranked sides North Queensland, Newcastle and Canterbury in recent weeks to average a season-high 32 points per game.
In-form fullback Valentine Holmes has contributed to the side's recent findings in attack with nine tries in his last eight games.
"If we can score over 30 points in a semi-final game you'd like to back us to win I think with our defence," Gallen said.
"We've definitely got that about us. But at the end of the day it's about what happens in the 80 minutes."
The Sharks will have at least two chances to reach the preliminary final this year given their top-four finish and Gallen insists the team has the big-name players to shake the competition.
It was 12 months ago Shane Flanagan delivered a spray on the officiating following his side's 15-14 exit in the 2017 finals series against the Cowboys in week one. Flanagan was fined $30,000 for his comments but Gallen looked forward to the underdog tag this time around.
"We proved that last year, we should have beat the Cowboys in the semis but didn't," Gallen said.
"I think most other teams have a lot of X-factor in their sides whereas we're just a side who are very consistent across the park. We need 17 guys playing consistent for us to win.
"But when you throw that little bit of X-factor in like a Fifita or Val, it definitely helps."