By Ryan Selvage (@ryanselvage)
1. The Sharks are playing without fear
Having toppled the Cowboys for the second time this season – a feat not any other club can lay claim to – it is clear that the Sharks are playing a brand of footy without fear of being a ‘lesser’ team.
Sitting outright 16th on the NRL ladder after the competition’s first month, the Sharks now sit on the cusp of the top four, and will hold no concerns when they’re asked to take on the competition’s heavy weights at the back end of the year.
Having beaten the Roosters on two occasions this year also, as well as wins against South Sydney and the Bulldogs, the Sharks are primed to challenge the NRL’s top teams on the big stage.
2. Beale, Graham can keep their kits on come the season’s end
With crucial tries at key stages against the Cowboys, Gerard Beale and Wade Graham both made sure that they wouldn’t be doing any ‘nudie runs’ come the end of season 2015.
Their first four-pointers for the year, Beale and Graham remove themselves from the unwanted list – leaving only Matt Prior, Tinirau Arona and David Fifita on the list of first grade regulars to have not crossed for a try in 2015.
3. The Sharks showed that Johnathan Thurston is human after all
While Johnathan Thurston remains an odds-on hope of taking out a fourth Dally M Medal this season, the Sharks proved that with added pressure, Thurston could have a tough night in the office.
Mick Ennis terrorised JT for much of the Round 22 clash, which later saw the Queensland five-eighth miss a one-on-one tackle to see Jack Bird score a try. The miss on Bird was just one of Thurston’s 5 missed tackles, on a night which saw him drop the ball once, miss a conversion, and all-but hand Gerard Beale a gift try.
The champion player he is, Thurston will be out to bounce back – and hopefully not against the Sharks come finals time.
4. The make up of the interchange bench will be interesting come finals football
With Luke Lewis and the Fifita twins set to return in time for finals football, the make up of Coach Flanagan’s interchange bench remains a difficult puzzle to solve.
Sosaia Feki made way for Ben Barba against the Cowboys, but whether the Coach opts to keep a utility back on the bench in the season’s biggest games remains to be seen.
Flanagan describes the depth at the Cronulla Club as a “good headache to have”, with competition for selection bound to only continue to hot up as the season reaches its climax.
5. There’s a good vibe amongst the boys
After 8 wins from their last 9 matches there’s no reason not to see smiles in the Sharks sheds. Need proof? Check out the banter amongst the Sharks boys when Junior Roqica got a hold of Wade Graham for an interview in the sheds.