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Sharks prop Andrew Fifita.

It wasn't just Andrew Fifita's well-publicised hamstring that was worrying John Morris through the week, with the Sharks coach revealing a total of three senior players close to being ruled out in the warm up while two more key men were hurt during the game.

Morris praised his team's resilience in coming from 14-0 down to storm home 24-20 on the back of a huge second half effort, with Fifita, Paul Gallen (ribs) and Josh Dugan (gastro) all in doubt up until kick-off, while Briton Nikora (back) was moments away from being interchanged in the first half and Sosaia Feki also struggling at times.

All that came on top of ongoing absences for Wade Graham (knee), Matt Moylan (hamstring) and Aaron Woods (foot).

"I said to them all week it's about our character this week," Morris said.

"That's what it was won on really. We've got Woods and Moylan and Graham still on the sideline, we've got Gallen and Fifita who probably shouldn't have played. I was just talking to Andrew then and even in warm up he felt like he's not sure how he's going to be able to contribute.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Panthers

"Briton Nikora in the first half probably should have come off the field, Josh Dugan was spewing up all day with gastro, he was going to be ruled out before the game, Sosaia Feki down with another injury. It was massive."

Nikora ended up playing the full 80 minutes in the second row for two line breaks, seven tackle breaks and 10 runs for 114 metres.

Despite the huge injury toll, Morris said he was always confident the team could press for a win if they got an even share of the ball after cruelling themselves with errors early on as the Panthers took a 14-0 lead to the break.

"I was confident we could put some points on them in the second half," Morris said.

"It wasn't ideal to go in at 14-0 down but like we've shown all year we can be pretty hot in patches and I was pretty confident if we got some momentum there we could put some tries on. What a finish, and a crucial two points for us."

His halftime message was simply to go back to what they had practised through the week.

"We had another poor start, our first 20 was horrible, we were three from six," he said.

"They were smothering us, they were 10 from 12. That was kind of the game really, we were bringing them down our end, tackle one errors, tackle two errors, a couple of outside backs made a couple of unforced errors and put the pressure on.

"We couldn't build any pressure with our kicking game. Just a bit out of sorts, not sure why. I just challenged them to go back to the way we practised, move the ball around a bit to their edges.

"We showed that early, young Will Kennedy gets a ball away to Dugan and Bronson [Xerri] down that right hand touch line and we all sort of thought we can do this if we work hard for each other, lucky enough the points came and the rest is history."

Xerri shows explosive pace

On the decision to promote Kennedy for his NRL debut, shifting Dugan to the wing and dropping Sione Katoa, Morris admitted it had been a big call to make.

"I just felt that losing Matty Moylan, we lose that creativity and natural fullback play," he said.

"It was more about I wanted Josh to go there on that right side and stiffen us up defensively and put Josh outside Bronson.

"It started a bit shaky for our back three with a couple of errors there but I was really happy for Will Kennedy.

"He's come through our club here from SG Ball, had two years under me (under 20s), he's gone really well over the last couple of months in Canterbury Cup playing for Newtown. So he's bided his time and I'm really happy he got his debut and got to celebrate with a win at Shark Park."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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