Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen has warned his struggling side they’re in danger of kissing their NRL season goodbye if they lose to the Wests Tigers on Saturday.
The Sharks have tasted victory just twice this season and sit last on the ladder following Monday’s heavy defeat by Parramatta.
Gallen’s return from injury three weeks ago appeared to lift his side, who went close to beating the Sydney Roosters before coming from behind to overcome Penrith in round eight.
However, the NSW captain admitted the 42-24 loss to an impressive Eels side was a big setback.
“We really turned the corner against the Roosters with the way we played and then we beat Penrith,” Gallen said.
“But I thought the bye came at a bad time for us … against Parra, individually, we just weren’t good enough.
“We have to start stringing some wins together quickly otherwise our season is going to be over.”
The return of representative star Luke Lewis after shoulder reconstruction was a small crumb of comfort for the Sharks on Monday, but that positive news was tempered by Andrew Fifita’s ankle syndesmosis injury.
The NSW prop is out for up to six weeks and joins star playmaker Todd Carney in the treatment room, but Gallen says it’s important the rest of the team step up against the Tigers.
“This is a real opportunity for us and it’s a must-win game,” he said.
“We then play Souths the following week which will see them without their Origin players … if we get the job done, then we go into the bye week with two wins – we are back in the race.
“But the next couple are really must-wins.”
The Tigers are boosted by the return of skipper Robbie Farah from a dislocated elbow after just a month on the sidelines.
Coach Mick Potter admitted having his talismanic hooker back in the side will be a massive lift for his young team who were well beaten by the Roosters.
“No disrespect to Joel Luiani, who’s been very good for us, but Robbie gives us that extra bit of go forward and carries the ball a bit more,” Potter said.
The Sharks have no fewer than six former Tigers named in an extended 20-man squad and Potter says that will certainly add some spice to the occasion.
“I think players enjoy playing against their former teammates and I am sure there will be some banter going on during the game,” he said.
“It will be quite amusing for them but it won’t take away the competitiveness of the game.”