Cronulla deal with rough draw around Origin

JOE BARTON
Last updated 10:07 17/05/2012

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Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says he is disappointed by the NRL club's horror schedule during the State of Origin period, but is hopeful they can come out the other end a better team for it.

The Sharks have been dealt the harshest of runs, one of just three teams to not get a bye during the eight-week Origin period, and are expected to have to do without star pair Paul Gallen and Todd Carney for three crucial matches.

The pair will be in camp with NSW when the Sharks are preparing to play Canterbury on Monday night, and also ahead of their round-14 clash with Gold Coast and their round-17 match-up with Brisbane.

At the other end of the scale, Melbourne (who have three Origin representatives), Manly (four), the Bulldogs (one) and even lowly Parramatta (one) and Gold Coast (three) will enjoy two byes during the same period.

"The only thing that disappoints me is that we don't get a bye during that period," Flanagan told AAP.

"We've got to play three games. I know Melbourne only play one without Origin players. A lot of sides only play one or possibly two but we've got to play three.

"We play Bulldogs, Titans and Broncos without Origin players.

"Bulldogs are probably the least-affected team of the three games we've got.

"The Titans will have three or four players out, in different positions to us and maybe not as crucial to them, and the Broncos will have four or five out as well.

"I'm optimistic we can manage it well, yes."

By comparison, their opponents on Monday night have the dream draw, playing without any Origin footballers in just the one game against a short-handed Sharks. The Bulldogs will enjoy byes before both State of Origin II and III.

The Roosters face an undermanned Manly and Brisbane before they receive a bye.

Penrith and the Warriors are the only other two clubs without a bye during the Origin period, but the Kiwi side don't have a single Origin player, while Panthers miss skipper Luke Lewis and centre Michael Jennings.

But despite the tough run, Flanagan points to Sunday's gritty 12-10 victory over the previously-undefeated Melbourne - while without Gallen - as an indication they could survive the Origin period.

"We're going into every game thinking we should win but, to be realistic, playing Melbourne is a tough job," Flanagan said.

"But we've got those two points.

"The bit we get out of it is we have a lot of the young kids in the team.

"While Gal's our leader and our captain, to get a win like that without him just gives them that much more confidence about what we're doing as a group and as a team, and all the work that goes into wearing this jumper.

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"I've always believed we've got good depth. I truly believe we've got players in second grade that could jump into first grade teams."

- AAP

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