By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
The Sharks are happy to be the hunted species in the NRL if it means they continue their rich vein of form against the Bulldogs on Monday night.
Sitting atop the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder for the first time since Round 2, 2000, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said while the team was aware of their table-topping status they hadn't made a great deal about it.
An inconsistent Bulldogs outfit threatens Cronulla's eight-game winning streak, and Flanagan expects Des Hasler's squad to be on song this week.
Flanagan also confirmed New South Wales Origin trio James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and skipper Paul Gallen would all be fit to face the Bulldogs.
"[The Bulldogs'] season isn't on the line or anything like that, but they need to start to put back-to-back wins or get a win this week. I'm pretty sure Des will have them fired up for us," Flanagan said.
"I'm sure I know what Bulldogs side I'll get, I'll get that tough ruthless forward pack coming at us. So we're really expecting a tough game from them – we've always had tough games against the Dogs."
Flanagan said his own side wasn't done improving yet despite their lofty place on the ladder.
"We've got a lot of improvement still to be done before the end of the season and the players are working really hard and identified areas that we need to improve," he said.
"I think they're enjoying the ride and obviously they understand where we're at, it's certainly better than the alternative."
With news emerging on Friday afternoon that Roosters and NSW back-rower Boyd Cordner would miss the next month, discussions quickly began of who would be the man to replace him for the Blues.
Sharks vice-captain Wade Graham is a potential candidate for the role but wasn't getting too far ahead himself, with back-rowers Dragon Tyson Frizell and Panther Bryce Cartwright initially named in Laurie Daley's Origin I squad.
"Boydy has done the job there for a number of years and he's been great. I actually had dinner with him [Thursday] night and he said he was seeing a specialist [on Friday] and fingers crossed for him it is good news," Graham said.
"All I can do is keep playing well down here in Cronulla. If the opportunity is there and I'm lucky enough to get selected then it'll be good. I'm not looking too far forward, my focus is on the Bulldogs."