Sharks face toughest test in rugby league

Up in the air: Toby Rudolf has been one of the Sharks best in 2021. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Up in the air: Toby Rudolf has been one of the Sharks best in 2021. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Interim Cronulla coach Josh Hannay didn't mix his words after the Sharks coughed up a halftime lead against Melbourne to lose 40-14 on Friday.

"The reality is that we're a 40 to 50-minute football team at the moment, whether it's first half or second," Hannay said.

Will Kennedy.

Will Kennedy.

"This week our start was strong and last week it was poor but our back end was really strong and that's something we talk about and it's frustrating for everyone.

"First half there's a top-eight football team out there and second half there's a bottom half; the difference between our good and bad is enormous."

The Sharks are a third of the way through the rugby league equivalent of Amen corner: Storm, Panthers and Rabbitohs.

The Sharks are hopeful Wade Graham will be available to face his former club after their skipper passed a HIA late in the game

But reserve prop Braden Hamlin-Uele will be sidelined with a syndesmosis injury for the ultimate test in rugby league: Penrith on their home turf.

In their two games last year the Panthers racked up 94 points against the Sharks. The reality is a good 80-minute performance could lead to a 20-point loss against a Panthers team that are fuelled by confidence and are marching towards another minor premiership led by Nathan Cleary.

For the Sharks, resilience will be key for the rest of the year: on and off the field.

Hannay, who is in the hot-seat until Craig Fitzgibbon takes over next season, said the team struggled to stay composed when things didn't go their way.

"We're looking for a bit of luck to get things going our way again but sometimes you've got to bite down on the mouth guard and work hard to get back in the contest," he said.

  • Sharks v Panthers, Friday (6pm), BlueBet Stadium.