Cronulla coach John Morris was so determined to rid his team of any complacency before their clash against the last-placed Bulldogs that he showed them an individual clip of each Canterbury player doing something good this season.
After a performance he described as “awful” and “one of the worst I have seen from this club”, Morris accused the Sharks of “cockiness” and launched a scathing attack on his senior players for failing to take control of the game as they crashed to a 14-12 defeat.
While Morris didn’t name any individuals, it appeared obvious the players he was most disappointed with were star fullback Matt Moylan and halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend.
Moylan finished the match with six errors and was caught in possession on the last tackle, as was Townsend and Johnson, who also kicked out on full and lost the ball as he was being driven towards the sideline in the dying minutes.
The loss, which featured 16 errors, mirrored their previous defeat before last week’s bye when they allowed Canberra to storm to a 20-0 lead before levelling the scores and were eventually beaten 22-20.
"When the game is in the balance, like it was against Canberra, I just felt the blokes who are touching the ball the most aren’t doing the things that we want to get done," Morris said.
"It is so far outside the standards that we set for ourselves and unfortunately for our leaders I think some of our experienced guys just aren’t stepping up at the moment. Our young boys are doing a tremendous job and they have been doing that all year but we are not getting it from our experienced men at the moment and we have got to fix that real quick.
"I think there is a bit of cockiness creeping into our performance, I think that we are listening to the press about the side that the Cronulla Sharks have got.
"That means nothing to me. I want to see it in our performance. I want to see blokes who rip in and take it to the opposition. It looks like we are just expecting it to happen for us and full credit to the Bulldogs today; they wanted it more and they ran harder, they hit harder, they competed on absolutely everything."
The Bulldogs managed their first win in four matches even after losing star five-eighth Kieran Foran in the 25th minute with a hamstring injury.
At the time Cronulla trailed 14-0 but Johnson helped get them back in the game by scoring a try and combining with Moylan to put winger Sosaia Feki over before half-time.
A further try to centre Josh Dugan meant the Sharks scored three tries to Canterbury’s two but Johnson missed all conversion attempts and Morris indicated he would be looking for a new goal kicker for next Sunday’s match against Brisbane.
"We are the worst first-half team in the competition as far as points conceded, if you keep going down that path expecting to win it in the second half then eventually – like today – things don’t go your way," Morris said.
"We were off the pace from the word go. It was the second week in a row this team has scored more tries than the opposition and got beat. We were coming off a weekend off, we should have been here with a spring in our step.
"Maybe we were looking at where they were on the ladder. The very first thing I showed this team on Monday morning was an individual clip of every single player in that Bulldogs team doing something good this year.
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"They haven’t had the results but they have been competing hard, they have been trying hard and they have got good individual players so I was trying to zap that complacency out of them early in the week.
"Clearly we just thought we had to turn up to get the job done today. That doesn’t work in the NRL, we have got an experienced team and that performance is not acceptable for the team we are putting out on the park.
"It was one of the worst performances I have seen from this club. [It was] awful actually, to be honest."