The NRL could deny Cronulla the right to host a home semi-final if the Sharks secure a top-two finish for the first time since 1999 due to the outdated facilities at PointsBet Stadium.
Finishing their season with games against bottom-eight battlers St George Illawarra, Wests Tigers, Manly, Canterbury and Newcastle, the Sharks will fancy their chances of securing a top-two finish under impressive first-year coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
The Sharks have been able to turn their home ground into a graveyard for rival sides this season.
Third-placed Cronulla have a 7-1 record at the ground and only a round-12 loss to the Sydney Roosters has prevented the Sharks from being undefeated at PointsBet.
But in previous years where Cronulla have earned a finals game at home they have had to move games to the old Sydney Football Stadium.
Broadcast, corporate and parking facilities play a factor in the NRL’s consideration of granting clubs a home finals game with the league set to inform clubs of their requirements to host finals fixtures over the next month.
“If we win a home-ground advantage, we would want to play at home,” Sharks chief executive Dino Mezzatesta told AAP after his club last hosted a home finals game at PointsBet Stadium in 2008.
“That’s our starting point and given we are a fair bit out we will continue to have dialogue with the NRL.
“We have had no problem selling out our games regardless of the timeslot.”
PointsBet Stadium is currently working at an 11,500 capacity due to renovations but NRL head of football Graham Annesley said that wouldn’t be a determining factor.
Last year the NRL hosted finals games at Mackay’s 12,000-capacity BB Print Stadium.
“There’s not a specific (crowd) number because it’s a combination of not just a capacity but reserved seating,” Annesley told AAP.
“The long and the short of it is that the NRL has to approve the venue.
“We haven’t reached any conclusion that we would relocate the Sharks should they qualify for a home semi-final.
“We need to go through the process with them and every other club.”
The Sharks’ alternative preference would likely be the newly-built Sydney Football Stadium, although if they were to face another Sydney club they would be ceding any of the advantage earned by their final ladder position.
The Sharks hope to have PointsBet Stadium back to around a 17,000 capacity by July next year but are one of the clubs who were expecting to receive NSW Government funding for an upgrade to their facilities.
Cronulla have an NRLW side entering the competition next year but, as things stand, will be unable to stage men’s and women’s double headers because of the infrastructure.