Chad Townsend calls for end to Cronulla Sharks discipline problems ahead of Parramatta Eels clash

Warning: Sharks halfback Chad Townsend has called on his side to tighten up ahead of their clash with the Eels. Picture: Chris Lane
Warning: Sharks halfback Chad Townsend has called on his side to tighten up ahead of their clash with the Eels. Picture: Chris Lane

Sharks halfback Chad Townsend says his side have addressed their alarming disciplinary problems as they attempt to kick start their season against a desperate Parramatta.

On-field discipline problems have engulfed the Sharks in opening losses to North Queensland and St George Illawarra, a continuation of existing problems that blighted their title defence last season.

Coach Shane Flanagan eluded to Cronulla’s issues in his post-match press conference after his side’s dismal second half showing in their loss to the Dragons last week. Flanagan described Cronulla’s poor execution of the fundamentals as the “same old Sharks”.

It was a hangover from a similarly ill-disciplined campaign last season when Cronulla were the second most penalised side and made the third most errors in the competition. They have already made 27 errors – the equal most in the competition – so far and are again the second most penalised side.

And with the star-studded Sharks staring down the barrel of a third straight defeat to open the season, halfback Chad Townsend admits his side’s lack of discipline is a worry ahead of the Eels at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

“We can’t afford to keep doing it, to be honest. It’s individual accountability and we’ve got to start to realise the time and scenarios in the game and when to go for an offload or when to go for a 50-50 riskier play. Or when to just tuck it under your arm and really complete a set,” he said.

“We’ve probably made more back to back errors or given back to back penalties away this year than I’ve ever been a part of in the last few years. Errors are a part of the game but it’s when you compound them and back them up.

“In round one we didn’t complete three sets in a row against the Cowboys and they were attacking our line for like 10 minutes straight. In the NRL you’re going to get scored on. And [against the Dragons] we did the same thing. We didn’t complete three sets in a row. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”

Some will point Cronulla’s slow start to their 2016 premiership winning season where they lost two of their opening three matches. But the Sharks won’t be banking on another club record 15-game winning streak to get them out of trouble and will demand a response against Parramatta so they are not left chasing their tail for the rest of the season.

Sharks players have discussed their discipline problems during the week following a review session last Friday and the outcome is clear – it won’t be tolerated any longer. 

“We’re very aware of our standards and what we need to do to win football games,” Townsend said.

“It’s a simple method for us. We know what our processes are and what we do well when we’re playing our style of football. Our boys are fully aware and accountable for our actions every week. We need to go out there and really stand up and play our style of football this weekend.”

Hooker James Segeyaro shared Townsend’s assessment and said both Cronulla and Parramatta were already under pressure.

“We reviewed it straight after the game the next day. The issue has been brought up several times about the lack of discipline and the penalties and stuff like that and it’s the same people,” he said.

“We’ve addressed it. We know now as the senior players and it needs to stop.

“I’m expecting a massive game. Both teams had big things expected this year and haven’t really delivered. We’ve only played two rounds but… there’s a lot of pressure on both teams to perform. It’s good to be in a position like that because it brings out the best in you. The cream rises to the top.”