The Sharks celebrated success against the Dragons but face a tough three-week stretch. Image by HANDOUT/NRL PHOTOS
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Sharks out to flip narrative ahead of tough NRL run

George Clarke May 6, 2024

Craig Fitzgibbon has claimed Cronulla’s season won’t be defined by the toughest stretch of their campaign, even if his Sharks side are increasingly fed up with critics questioning their premiership credentials.

Cronulla did what they had to do to get past St George Illawarra in a 20-10 win on Sunday, holding on to top spot ahead of a testing run of fixtures.

Fitzgibbon’s men have often been criticised for failing to fire against the NRL’s heavyweights while breezing past lesser opponents.

But after a 7-1 start, there has never been a better chance for the Sharks to put that narrative to the sword.

Cronulla face a trip to second-placed Melbourne on Saturday before hosting the Sydney Roosters and Penrith over the following fortnight.

“We’ve got Melbourne next week and that’s it,” Fitzgibbon said.

“We keep hearing it and it’s just distracting, because if you can assess our premiership credentials in three weeks, don’t you reckon there’ll be a twist after that?

“It’s hard to tell and for us there’s a narrative around us which is fair, it’s a fair question, and we can’t do anything other than try and be better than where we’ve been.

“We’re constantly trying to work on things and get better.

“Where we’re at after those three weeks will be where we’re at, but it won’t be the end of the year.”

 Craig Fitzgibbon doesn’t want his team to look past Saturday’s top-of-ladder clash with Melbourne. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

The Sharks have made it their hallmark under Fitzgibbon to play openly and expansively.

But against the Dragons on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon, the Sharks played with a more measured, streetwise approach.

“I enjoyed winning in a different way,” said captain Cameron McInnes.

“We expected them to come out firing and, to come from behind…that showed great resilience, it’s really pleasing.”

Melbourne will almost certainly be without Ryan Papenhuyzen for next Saturday’s meeting, while there are also injury concerns surrounding Jahrome Hughes and young outside back Sua Faalogo.

Cronulla were pumped 54-10 in last season’s trip to AAMI Park.