Flanagan’s warning to Sharks’ halves
CRONULLA coach Shane Flanagan delivered a sobering message to halves Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend, declaring their combination still isn't where it needs to be.
The Sharks jumped into seventh - and into the top eight for the first time - after recording their third consecutive NRL win, against Parramatta on Saturday night.
For the most part, the 22-20 victory was the Sharks' most composed effort of the year.
However, that almost came crashing down after three tries in five minutes gave the Eels a chance to send it into extra-time - only for Mitchell Moses' clutch conversion attempt to sail left of the uprights.
Central to the result were the efforts of Townsend and Moylan. Townsend set up two of the Sharks' four tries and came up with three linebreak assists.
Outside of a few off moments - such as dropping the ball twice in the first-half and miskicking into touch - Moylan had his best game in a Sharks jersey. However, asked for his appraisal of his No. 6 and No. 7, Flanagan said: "Their combination is building, it's nowhere near where it needs to be. "But it's definitely building."
Flanagan's feelings were mixed after his side almost gave up a 22-8 lead with five minutes remaining.
However, he described Townsend's efforts as diligent after he delivered arguably his best effort of 2018.
"He tries his butt off week in and week out," Flanagan said. "Some days it doesn't go the best for him.
"But halves in the modern era, they're under a fair bit of defensive pressure. And then they're scrutinised pretty heavily offensively.
"If teams don't score points then they're looking at their halves."
Wade Graham admits he's unsure if he'll be fit for next month's State of Origin series opener after suffering a f
rustrating recurrence of his hamstring injury. Graham lasted just 27 minutes of what was supposed to be his return game in the Sharks' nailbiting win.
The NSW back-rower spent the better part of the game on the sideline with an ice pack on his left hamstring after it gave way in the first-half.
It gives him just three weeks to prove his fitness before NSW coach Brad Fittler reads out his side for the June 6 series opener in Melbourne.
The Blues are well-stocked for back-up options with the likes of Tariq Sims and Jack de Belin pushing their cases for a representative call up.
And while Graham desperately wants to represent his state again, the difficult nature of hamstring injuries is clouding his chances.
"I just have to get through a game for Cronulla first," Graham said when asked if he'll be fit for Origin I.
"Origin's probably not even on the radar for me at the moment now. "If I can't get through 80 here, that's got to be the first focus. "There's still a bit of time but I'm more focused on here."
The time frame for Graham's return is unclear and while the injury-hit Sharks want him back on the park sooner rather than later, they'll take no risks.
Skipper Paul Gallen is a chance to take on Canberra next Sunday however fellow veteran forward Luke Lewis will be out for several more weeks with a calf strain.
Jayson Bukuya will also return after this week being hospitalised with a virus, though Scott Sorensen suffered a suspected broken hand.
Graham said he would be cautious with his rehabilitation.
"I did a pull of the hammy that I did originally so it's not ideal, it's pretty frustrating," Graham said.
"I trained well throughout the week, it felt good to start the game, felt good in the contact, felt good running and kicking.
"It's one of those things, it's rugby league sometimes."