'They're lucky it's at Brookvale Oval because their fans don't travel': Chad Townsend stirs the pot ahead of Sharks-Manly finals clash

Sharks halfback Chad Townsend has been among Cronulla's best and most consistent players this season. Picture: John Veage
Sharks halfback Chad Townsend has been among Cronulla's best and most consistent players this season. Picture: John Veage

Chad Townsend is adamant Cronulla's dismal record against Manly - and even worse record at Brookvale Oval - will mean nothing on Saturday night.

The Sharks travel to Brookvale Oval for their elimination final against the depleted Sea Eagles who could be missing up to seven first graders through injury or suspension for the must-win clash.

Cronulla have a horrendous record against Manly. Of their 102 matches against the Sea Eagles, Cronulla have won just 26. More recently, the Sharks have lost 16 of their last 18 games against Manly and their record at Brookvale Oval is just as bleak.

Of their 48 games played at Brookvale, Cronulla have won just six. The last win came in 2008, a 16-10 victory over the eventual premiers. The Sharks have also lost their last six consecutive games at Brookvale.

Manly were in danger of losing home ground advantage for the final after isolated traces of asbestos were found in a small area on Brookvale's northern hill.

The NRL received a formal guarantee from Northern Beaches Council on Monday based on expert advice that there would be no risk to public safety, allowing the game to go ahead. The Sea Eagles would have been forced to transfer the game to Parramatta's Bankwest Stadium, the location of the other elimination final between the Eels and Brisbane on Sunday.

While Sharks halfback Townsend, who has been among Cronulla's best and most consistent players this season, was keen to make a serious point that the Sharks' previous record against Manly and at Brookvale would be irrelevant on Saturday night, he couldn't help but aim a cheeky dig at Sea Eagles fans.

"They're probably lucky it is at Brookvale because [their fans] don't travel either, apparently," Townsend said with a smile.

"But even in [last] weekend's game [against] the Tigers, the crowd and the way that it was. It was a pretty hostile environment. Obviously it was a big game and almost like a finals atmosphere. So it put us, especially some our young guys, in good stead in their preparation for this weekend's game.

"To be fair it's irrelevant. What's happened in the past is in the past. A lot of the players in our team actually haven't played at Brookvale for the Sharks before. So the record doesn't really phase us, to be honest. It's a new game, new competition. We've got a new team, a new coach and we're just focused on this weekend's game and what we can do."

No team has gone on to win the NRL premiership from outside the top four since Canterbury in 1995. Rookie coach John Morris guided Cronulla to seventh place in his first season in charge, battling consistent injuries and interruptions to his side before qualifying them for their fifth consecutive finals series.

Unlike Manly, Cronulla now have almost their strongest squad on the park at the right time of year, with only Matt Moylan in doubt for the Sea Eagles clash with his recurring hamstring problem.

And Townsend believes this Cronulla side have the ability to make a charge for a second premiership in four seasons.

"I truly do believe that we've got the talent within our team to win the whole thing," he said.

"Obviously we've got a long way to [go to] get there. But the talent we do have I think can beat any team on any day. So it's a matter of getting that consistency. I think over the course of the season we probably haven't been as consistent as our standards say but over the last month especially with our defence that's really what has got us to where we are right now.

:I think we're averaging about 13 or 14 points [conceded] defensively over the last month and that's the thing that when it's all said and done, the top teams are the best defensive teams. That's what we've tried to hone in on and focus on. If we get our defence right over the next month who knows what could happen.

"Over the last few seasons we've got a number of guys that have played a lot of finals footy. And the game on the weekend [against the Tigers] was the closest thing to a finals game. Obviously a lot on the line, a big crowd, a do-or-die atmosphere.

"And it's the same again this week. We've pretty much copied and pasted last week's [approach] into this week. It's the same mentality. It's do or die. If we lose we're out. And we're just preparing as best we can for a huge game."

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