It is well documented how hard it is to win the NRL grand final after finishing outside the top four. But Cronulla created history last season and halfback Chad Townsend believes they can again.
The Sharks host North Queensland at Allianz Stadium on Sunday in an elimination final after finishing the regular season fifth. They will need to win four do or die matches in a row to be the first club to defend a title since Brisbane in 1992-93.
No side has won the grand final after finishing outside the top four since the NRL moved to a top eight system in 1999. But Yarrawarrah Tigers junior Townsend told the Leader he believes Cronulla have what it takes.
“I definitely think we can win it, for sure,” he said.
“We’ve got the experience. We’re ready, we’re fit, we’re healthy. We’ve got the runs on the board. We’ve got 15 of the 17 players that played last year and we know what to expect coming into these games.”
Sunday’s game will be the fourth time in the last five seasons that Cronulla have played North Queensland in an elimination final. It is a genuine rivalry between two quality teams built on intriguing clashes.
Cronulla benefited from an infamous seventh-tackle try to eliminate North Queensland in 2013 before the Cowboys got revenge in 2015 as they thrashed the Sharks 39-0 in Townsville on the way to lifting their first premiership.
The Sharks did the same thing last year, marching into the grand final with a win at Allianz Stadium.
“We have played them quite a few times over the last few years and in some big games. They’ve always been quality games, that’s what you get when you get two quality teams coming up against each other. We know them quite well and I’m sure they know us quite well,” Townsend said.
“For us it’s no different. We just make sure we prepare well and control what we can control.
“That’s been all we’ve spoken about, focus on us, focus on one week at a time. We’re not worried about what anyone else is doing. We want to really bunker down… one week at a time.
“It’s down the track but you always dream about [winning a premiership] but we want to focus one week at a time. This week it's the Cowboys and we want to make sure we’re ready to go come Sunday.”