Relief to have returned to somewhere near their best form, excitement in beating one of the competition’s front runners, just two of many emotions Shane Flanagan and the Sharks would have experienced following the impressive win over the Roosters on Saturday.
Below their best in recent matches the Sharks turned it around on the Central Coast last weekend, scoring seven tries in a dominating 44-12 win over a team touted to be a premiership contender in 2017.
Flanagan identified a few areas his team needed to address, slow starts and ball control being two of them, and they certainly delivered.
“It was back to the Sharks we know,” Flanagan said. “It was on the back of completions, we made no errors and got off to a good start, or at least a reasonable start compared to the last few weeks. It just shows what you can do if you hold he football.
“We didn’t blow them off the park or anything like that at the start, but we just got into the game and that’s been a problem the last month.
“We’ve started poorly and been behind the eight-ball after 10 or 15 minutes. We didn’t have to score points but it had to be a good start and I thought we did that.”
Losing Jayden Brailey for an extended period with a broken jaw, coupled with Daniel Mortimer leaving for the UK and James Segeyaro still a couple of weeks away from a return, the dummy half position could have been an issue for the Sharks last Saturday.
Enter Fa’amanu Brown, with the talented and versatile hooker capably carrying out the job assigned to him by Flanagan and the coaching staff. Not that the coach ever had any concerns Brown could handle the job.
“I knew he would, he’s a good quality player,” Flanagan said. “He can play in the halves and he can play hooker. He’s not going to be able to play 80 for us in the middle, he’s a different type of player, almost 100 kilos, but he did a fantastic job.”
If looking for other reasons as to the Sharks success, while there were several standouts on the day, with Ricky Leutele and Sosaia Feki outstanding on the left wing, Wade Graham enormous in the backrow and James Maloney close to his best at five eight, as Flanagan explained, the win was due to all 17 players carrying out their role.
“It was a real team effort. Coming off the bench or those boys that started, they all did their job. I don’t think there was a bad player, everyone did their job,” he said.
But surely there needs to be special mention of the ageless back rower Luke Lewis? For the second week in a row the 33-year-old sprinted up and out of the defensive line to defuse a dangerous situation, only to find himself with the ball and an open field in front of him.
Try as they might, led by Roosters speedster Latrell Mitchell, the chasing pack just couldn’t reel him in.
“He has anticipation and footy smarts, just the awareness to put himself in that position,” Flanagan said.
Now with a week off to rest up and recover, the game plan going forward seems simple. Start with energy and intent, control the ball and if everyone carries out the role assigned to them, the sky is the limit.
The challenge for Flanagan and his players is to deliver something to that effect on a consistent basis, starting with the Gold Coast in round 19.