Beware the wounded Eel might be the last word offered by Coach Shane Flanagan before his team runs out against Parramatta tomorrow night.
A club embroiled in turmoil throughout 2016, the Eels have continued to deliver on the field, playing with determination and courage, making them a dangerous opponent for a Sharks team looking to set a new club record of 12 wins in succession.
“They’ve had a good season considering, they’ve had a huge amount of stuff going on off the field,” Flanagan said of the Eels. “So we’ve got to prepare well, they’re a tough team, led by Beau Scott who is playing some good footy.
“We’ve got a battle on tomorrow night. I’ve just go to worry about us and make sure we’re well prepared.”
Despite the fact the Sharks have put together an amazing winning streak and sit alone on top of the NRL ladder, most of the headlines in the lead up to Saturday night have centred on the Eels and the status of Fijian winger Semi Radradra.
A try-scoring weapon, Radradra flew home to Fiji during the Parramatta bye week and only returned last night, again amidst a storm of controversy and with an off-field accusation hanging over his head.
However despite all the speculation, while trying not to get drawn into the Radradra debate, Flanagan believes the Fijian flyer will be at Southern Cross Group Stadium and will again be a key player for the Eels.
“We’ve prepared for him to play and we expect him to play,” he said.
As for the Sharks, they again showed their resilience in overcoming the Warriors last week in extra-time in taking their win tally to an equal club record of 11 victories in a row.
While setting a new mark would certainly be noteworthy, Flanagan and his team have their focus on the bigger picture at the end of the season, but that being said, being a part of a record-breaking effort would still be an outstanding accomplishment.
“They (the players) haven’t spoken about it or about setting records, but if we win it would be a good reward for the playing group,” Flanagan added.
Similarly five eighth James Maloney was happy to embrace the winning run but at the same time was trying to put it into perspective.
“We haven’t focused on the record too much, we’re only concentrating on Saturday’s game and how we go there. (But) it’s been good for the confidence,” Maloney told The Telegraph.
“The most important thing for us Shane has been on top of us and making sure we’re still improving and taking lessons out of our wins.”
The game on Saturday night also takes on some special significance for the fact that the teams will compete for the Johnny Mannah Cup, a trophy struck in honour of the former Sharks and Eels forward.
While the Sharks hold the Cup, the Eels have a 2-1 win advantage in matches played since the inaugural Johhny Mannah Cup game was held back in 2013.
In the head to head statistics between the Sharks and Eels, the ledger is tipped slightly in favour of the Cronulla club, with 42 wins to 39 in the 81 matches played.
At Southern Cross Group Stadium the Sharks also hold an advantage with 21 victories in 35 matches.
The game on Saturday night is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick off, with the NYC match getting underway at 5.15pm.
Gates to Southern Cross Group Stadium open at 5.00pm.
SHARKS 11 game winning streak
Round 4 – Sharks 14 – Storm 6
Round 5 – Sharks 34 – Tigers 26
Round 6 – Sharks 25 – Titans 20
Round 7 – Sharks 40 – Raiders 16
Round 8 – Sharks 20 – Panthers 18
Round 9 – Sharks 30 – Broncos 28
Round 10 – Sharks 62 – Knights 0
Round 11 – Sharks 20 – Sea Eagles 12
Round 13 – Sharks 20 – Bulldogs 18
Round 14 – Sharks 13 – Cowboys 10
Round 16 – Sharks 19 – Warriors 18