Townsend silences his critics

Sharks halfback Chad Townsend says he's not bothered by the external criticisms of his form that have echoed loudly around social media in recent weeks.

Townsend silenced some of his doubters with a Man of the Match display in Cronulla's victory against the Cowboys last weekend but has copped the blame for many of his side's losses this year.

The peak of the fan anger aimed at the reliable number seven followed the Sharks' two-point loss to Brisbane in round 20, during which he missed a relatively simple conversion.

However, Townsend insists he hasn't paid much mind to the outside chatter about his place in the team, nor lost any confidence because of it.

"I didn't take a hit at all. I block out what everyone says," said Townsend.

"I don't watch the news, I don't watch sports shows or [listen to] what people say about rugby league. I block all that out.

"I focus on things that I can control. That's coming in and working hard at training, making sure my preparation is the best it can be, and coming out and playing with passion."

While Townsend concedes he underperformed against Brisbane a month ago, he's satisfied with his improved efforts since.

"The last two weeks I've definitely been happy with my individual form," said the 2016 premiership winner.

"I had an off game against the Broncos which I was disappointed about, but moving forward my mindset after that was I can't control what's happened in the past; I can only control what happens in the future.

"I'm happy with the way I bounced back from that. I've definitely got improvement in myself and as a team I think we do as well."

Two rounds out from the finals, Townsend's game is coming together nicely.

He was at his busy best in the Cowboys win as he scored one try, set up another, forced a dropout and made a line-break.

"I think the weekend was one of my better performances of the year," said Townsend.

"I wanted to play with a lot more passion and really show the team what I could do, and it was definitely pleasing to contribute."

The main competitor for Townsend's halfback jersey is 19-year-old Kyle Flanagan – son of Sharks coach Shane – who has been outstanding in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.

Despite the rumblings that Flanagan junior is on the fringe of an NRL debut, Townsend said he hasn't discussed Kyle's emergence with Shane at all.

"I don't talk to 'Flano' about other people or other players," said Townsend.

"I'm accountable to him and the coaching staff about the [game] plan and how we attack. If I do a good job they'll tell me, if I do a bad job they'll tell me things I can improve.

"That's how it works. I just focus on myself and what I can control."

This Sunday, Townsend is pitted against Newcastle Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce in what will be an intriguing encounter.

Although Townsend is looking forward to opposing Pearce, he won't be getting caught up in a personal tussle with the former Origin player.

"He's probably one of the elite halfbacks of the competition on his day. His ball-playing [skills make him] one of the best," said Townsend.

"When he gets his team on the park and he's got all his weapons around him, he's really hard to stop. I always enjoy coming up against the game's best and there's no difference there.

"I don't look at it as an individual challenge; I look at it more as our team versus their team. That's how I try and view every game."

If Townsend does inspire a Cronulla win over Pearce's Knights this weekend, his once-vocal knockers may well remain hushed.