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.
''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.''
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