Cronulla coach unfazed by Canberra challenge

Last updated 21:19 02/09/2012
Cronulla Sharks
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NO FEAR: Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says his side's NRL elimination final in Canberra holds no fears.

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Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says his side's NRL elimination final in Canberra holds no fears, but admitted some of his players were distracted by next week's game as the Sharks went down 36-22 to North Queensland on Sunday.

Needing to beat the Cowboys to secure a finals match in Sydney,  the Sharks finished their home campaign in lacklustre fashion and  now must win in the nation's capital if they are to keep alive  hopes of a maiden premiership.

Cronulla have an excellent record at the home of the Green  Machine, winning six of the past eight matches between the sides at  Canberra Stadium, but Flanagan is well aware they need to  rediscover their early-season form if they are to prolong their  season.

''Our performance today wasn't anywhere near where it should be,''  Flanagan said.

''I have a sneaky suspicion they were looking ahead to next week  a bit too much.

''It's hard for some of them to get it out of their heads. I'm  making no excuses for it and hopefully it is a blessing in  disguise.''

Trailing 18-12 at halftime to the Cowboys, who had already  secured fifth spot on the ladder and a home final with Brisbane  next Saturday regardless of the result, Flanagan said his players  were unaware Canberra had already won in Auckland.

The Raiders' 44-22 success over the Warriors ensured a  sixth-spot finish, but instead of building on Paul Gallen's early  second-half try, the hosts fell apart and end the season in seventh  position.

''None of the players knew the score, we didn't really talk about  it,'' he said.

''We would have liked to have played at home, but it is not to  be.

''It holds no fears, but in saying that, we haven't played a  semi-final down there.

''It's a new competition next week and that is how we're treating  it.''

Todd Carney sustained a twisted ankle late in the game, but  Flanagan said the injury is unlikely to sideline his key playmaker  for next Sunday's game.

However, centre Ben Pomeroy is almost certain to face the  judiciary on Wednesday after being put on report for a shoulder  charge to the head of Johnathan Thurston that poleaxed the Cowboys  five-eighth late in the game.

The ARLC ruled on Thursday that all shoulder charges must be  referred straight to the judiciary and the timing of the new edict  has infuriated Flanagan.

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''It's going to be interesting. It was shoulder on shoulder for  me. I will have a look at it before I go off about it,'' Flanagan  said.

''It's round 26 and the rules changed. I knew they were going to  get someone, I was just hoping it wasn't me.''

Gallen admitted he fears Pomeroy will be rubbed out for the  club's first finals appearance since 2008 as the NRL looks to crack  down on head injuries.

''Changing the rules a week out from the semis you'd think the  first person is going to be made an example of,'' he said.

''But it's a bit harsh going into the semis.''

Gallen also criticised his side for not building on Andrew  Fifita's 71st-minute try with a late flurry of pressure.

''I thought our attitude in the last 10 minutes wasn't that  good,'' Gallen said.

''We would have liked to go down there to Canberra on a roll but  it's not hard to turn around, we know what it is. We just have to  run around and tackle a bit harder.''

- AAP

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