Far from disrespecting the Storm, Shane Flanagan has modelled his Sharks on being Melbourne-like so they can play in each and every NRL finals series.
As Flanagan and Craig Bellamy gave their last words before kick-off in Friday night's preliminary final at AAMI Park, the Melbourne mentor took offence at accusations his players used dirty tactics and were "grubs".
"The Sharks are telling us we're the grubs, that they're holier than thou, the 'squeaky clean Sharks'. Please, give me a break. We all know better than that," Bellamy said.
But Flanagan said something had been lost in translation on its way south from the Sutherland Shire to the Victorian capital.
"I'm not sure where that all came from. The message must have got translated on the plane a bit different to when it got down there because it definitely didn't come from us," he said.
"We respect Melbourne more than any other team in the competition. We didn't call him the words that they used in the paper … they weren't my comments.
"My comments were that we'd stand up to Storm. If they wanted to push, we'd push back. He understands that."
Bellamy: Squeaky clean Sharks... please
Flanagan and Bellamy go way back. The Sharks mentor was Bellamy's assistant coach for the NSW Blues team from 2008-10.
This latest stoush – and there have been others in recent years like the "referee Smith" jibe in an 18-13 win by Storm early in 2017 – would not affect his friendship with Bellamy.
"We respect them and have tried to model ourselves on how consistent they have been over the last couple of years," Flanagan said.
"Since 2015 we've based ourselves on wanting to be like Melbourne Storm – a top-four team and playing semi-finals and grand finals. We've been able to do that so we definitely wouldn't disrespect them like that."
Flanagan is also paying huge respect to his 37-year-old, 326-game captain Paul Gallen, who is struggling with a left shoulder injury.
"We're giving him until tomorrow," Flanagan said.
"He's making improvements every day. I don't want to speculate any further until we wake up and see how he is tomorrow.
Sharks ready to reignite Storm rivalry
"He didn't get through the whole captain's run so I can't confirm that' he's in or he's out. He is improving and if he continues to improve he's a chance. It's still too much of a guess."
Gallen travelled with the team when they jetted out of on Thursday so he can continued to work with Sharks medicos right up until an hour before kick-off, when Flanagan must make the call.
"If it was a weekly game I'd rule him out. But it's a grand final qualifier so I've got to give him every chance to play."
Josh Dugan is also battling a shoulder injury but did complete the captain's run.
Flanagan said Gallen would have a large say in whether he took the field or not.
"A hundred per cent. He's played 300 odd games for his club and played for his country and in Origin, so he knows if he's right to play. He wouldn't play if he's under-done."
If Gallen is ruled out, then Joseph Paulo goes into lock and Luke Lewis becomes captain, in what could be his final NRL game if the Sharks lose.
"Andrew [Fifita] has a leadership role within the team too. Andrew was made captain earlier in the year but those three boys – Lewis, Wade [Graham] and Gal – were all out at the time," Flanagan said explaining why he would choose Lewis.
"Andrew has got an important role for us as leader. I hope Lewie goes the 80 [minutes] but if he doesn't Andrew will take over."
Storm v Sharks - Preliminary Final