Cronulla captain Paul Gallen says Andrew Fifita can put a troubled week behind him by leading the Sharks to their first win of the NRL season on Saturday.
Fifita has had a week to forget after his multi-million-dollar four-year deal with Canterbury fell apart on Monday and the struggling Sharks have thus far had a season to forget as well with a 0-4 start to the year.
With Gallen sidelined with an ankle injury until round eight, responsibility as the club’s forward leader has fallen to Fifita for the round-five clash against the Warriors at Remondis Stadium.
The boom prop hasn’t hit any great heights with his form this year in matches against the Gold Coast and Newcastle, with a two-week ban for a shoulder charge over rounds two and three robbing him of the chance to work his way into the season.
But Gallen is hopeful Fifita can return to the form that made him one of the game’s most devastating players last year against the Warriors.
“He was pretty upset about his round one performance, then he was suspended for a couple of games and the whole team wasn’t any good on the weekend,” Gallen said.
“I know he wants to get back into form, get back to the way he was playing last year.
“I’m sure he just wants to clear his head and get back into playing football.
“He is our leader this weekend, he is our most experienced forward, our best forward out there this weekend, we are desperate for a win and we need him to play well.
“We need him to roll his sleeves up to run hard and tackle hard. If he can do that, he will feel a lot better come Monday morning and hopefully he can put in that sort of performance.”
A loss would make things even tougher for the Sharks to make an impact in the NRL this year. No team since Newtown in 1933 has lost their first five games and gone on to win the premiership.
The Sharks were boosted this week with the news suspended coach Shane Flanagan signed a new three-year deal with the club that will keep him in the Shire until the end of the 2017 season.
Lock Sione Lousi is out for the Warriors due to a three-game suspension for a dangerous throw, Feleti Mateo or Jacob Lillyman will likely start in his place. Coach Matthew Elliott has named Konrad Hurrell at centre after a barnstorming effort for the Warriors against Wests Tigers last week in their second win of the year.
Michael Gordon (knee) and Todd Carney (hamstring) are in some doubt for the Sharks while halfback Jeff Robson might make an early return from a facial injury suffered in Cronulla’s final trial game against the Tigers.