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Sharks interim coach Josh Hannay praised injured prop Andrew Fifita for helping to inspire the young Cronulla side to a gritty 24-16 defeat of Brisbane just days after undergoing surgery for a fractured larynx.

Fifita, who was released from hospital earlier this week, walked among the players in the dressing room at Suncorp Stadium as they prepared for the all-important clash with the unpredictable Broncos.  

The 2016 premiership-winner suffered the life-threatening injury 13 days earlier against Newcastle and received an exemption from Queensland Health to sit on the sideline without a mask as rookie halfback Braydon Trindall steered the Sharks to victory.

“I know he was getting around to a lot of the guys in the sheds and they really respect Andrew,” Hannay said.

“I think he realises that we are a young group and while he can’t be out there physically contributing, he knows what a reassuring arm around these young guys or a little word of advice before the game can do.

“He has done some wonderful things for the club and you go back to the grand final they won [in 2016] and he was probably the best player on the field so he has got a fair bit of collateral with the club and the young players. They really do look up to him.”

The Sharks, who are on 22 points and boast a -24 differential, play Melbourne next Friday night and will know before kick-off whether they need to win to retain eighth-place.

Canberra, who are also on 22 points and have a -73 differential, face the Roosters on Thursday night.

If both Cronulla and Canberra lose, the Titans can join them on 22 points by beating the Warriors next Sunday and would be in finals contention as they have a -47 differential.

However, Hannay has no doubt Cronulla deserve to be in the finals.

"We haven’t had it easy, I know that. There has been nothing gifted to us," he said. "We have relocated up here and it has been a challenge, like it has for every side.

"We have had our injuries and there has been plenty of upheaval at the club so I certainly think we have had to deal with a lot this year so I think we do deserve to get there.

“Because we are a relatively young side I think when we are on the front foot and we play with the freedom that we like to play with there is no doubt we are a handful.

"Defensively it is a work in progress but certainly I think we have the cattle and the game model to trouble teams."

Nikora offloads after contact to send Trindall in

Cronulla’s finals hopes were helped by the ill-discipline of Broncos forwards Tom Flegler and rookie Brendan Piakura, who both spent stints in the sin bin.

Flegler’s departure midway through the first half for a high tackle on Jack Williams was a turning point in the match, while Piakura played just 11 minutes of his NRL debut after being sin-binned in the second half for a late shot on Trindall.

The Sharks opened the scoring before Brisbane even had a tackle in possession with winger Sione Katoa crossing in just the fourth minute after Corey Oates spilled a Luke Metcalfe bomb and Brisbane conceded a six-again.

However, the Broncos hit back in their first set of tackles after hooker Jake Turpin split the defence from dummy half and Xavier Coates snatched an Albert Kelly bomb from Mawene Hiroti to score in the ninth minute.

Brisbane fullback Tesi Niu then put the home side ahead 10-4 when he stepped inside Braydon Trindall after receiving a cut-out pass from Anthony Milford for a 21st minute try.

Flegler out four weeks for careless high tackle

The momentum being built by the Broncos was undone when Flegler was sin-binned in the 25th minute and the Sharks scored two tries while their opponents were down to 12 men.

Jesse Ramien scored in the 26th minute and Connor Tracey crossed eight minutes later after Katoa raced down the right side touchline and ran 50 metres across field to put the Cronulla left centre over on the opposite side of the field.

A penalty against Flegler almost immediately after his return from the sin bin for stripping the ball from Williams enabled Trindall to put the Sharks ahead 18-10 at halftime with a 40th minute penalty goal.

Cronulla again dominated the early exchanges in the second half and were rewarded with a 46th minute Trindall try after a run-around move with second-rower Briton Nikora before Niu crossed for his second try five minutes later.

Ramien is on report for a high tackle on Brisbane centre Herbie Farnworth but Hannay is hopeful he will be available for the Storm clash, and said playmaker Matt Moylan would start after playing 50 minutes at five-eighth.

Katoa doing what he does best

"We are definitely a better side with Matt in it," Hannay said. “He adds a bit of experience to a young side that we probably lack, particularly in a key position like the halves.

"I thought defensively he was fairly physical and he was at his scheming best a number of times. He was really unlucky not to score a try." 

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