The man hurting the most after Cronulla’s thrashing by Brisbane – Paul Gallen – insists it is “not all doom and gloom” for the defending premiers despite their pre-finals stumble.
Gallen was shattered after his 300th-game celebrations were soured by Brisbane, who kept their top-four hopes alive with a 32-10 romp at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
In contrast the Sharks could finish the round in sixth after their second straight loss.
Cronulla appeared fatigued in an error-riddled display that turned a match billed as a top-four blockbuster into a one-sided fizzer.
But Gallen – who turns 36 on Monday – warned Cronulla fans not to panic, reminding them the Sharks also appeared vulnerable before their historic premiership triumph.
Last year Cronulla lost four of their last five regular-season games before regrouping to clinch their maiden title.
“I think the motivation is still there (to defend the premiership),” Gallen said.
“We still want to win. I think we lost three in a row this time last year so it’s not all doom and gloom.
“We can turn it around in one game.”
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan went one better, saying they could fix their problems in one half.
That may be easier said than done after Cronulla made 16 errors and missed 54 tackles against Brisbane.
“I don’t think we are lacking drive or energy, I just think it is our discipline in all areas of the game and it has been an issue all year,” Flanagan said.
“But we can fix it one game. We can fix it in one half.”
Flanagan bristled at the suggestion Cronulla had finally run out of gas after clawing their way through the season earning some wins “they didn’t deserve”.
“I don’t know if we have won games we didn’t deserve to, we have fought really hard,” he said.
Flanagan couldn’t hide his disappointment after Gallen lost yet another milestone game, having lost his 100th and 200th matches.
“I don’t want that performance to take away from Gal’s 300,” Flanagan said.
“It should be celebrated. But we just couldn’t get the job done. It’s disappointing.”
Gallen became just the second man to play all of his 300 games for Cronulla, behind only Andrew Ettingshausen (328).
“I am happy I got to 300 games but it is about the team and we didn’t perform well tonight,” Gallen said.
“We are all hurting, not just me, about the performance we put on.”