Cronulla have emerged as one of the NRL’s form sides a month out from the finals but coach Shane Flanagan has revealed he feared being sacked after the club’s horror start to the year.
After a 0-4 opening to 2015 and with games against premiership favourites Sydney Roosters, then-premiership front-runners Newcastle and premiers Souths Sydney to come, Flanagan thought his tenure might be coming to a premature end.
However, the Sharks bounced back to win three straight and with a month left of the regular season are within striking distance of a top-four berth for the first time since 2008.
Manly’s Geoff Toovey and Newcastle’s Rick Stone have been shown the door while Flanagan has powered on with the Sharks, now the NRL’s form side alongside the Roosters.
“Looking back we were 0-4 and we had the Roosters, Newcastle and Souths and Newcastle at that stage had won four on the trot so I was planning some holidays about June or July if we didn’t win those couple,” Flanagan said on Friday.
“But we didn’t panic, the senior players in the squad stuck solid, we went out and won a few in a row and got ourselves back to where we thought we should be.
“We haven’t over achieved to where we are now, we have just achieved what we expected, the next month will be determine our season.”
Cronulla can consolidate fifth on the NRL ladder with a win over sixth-placed Melbourne at Remondis Stadium on Monday.
Flanagan is confident the big-game experience in his playing group will help over the final NRL premiership rounds and into the finals series.
“The age of our squad, some people have criticised that, but it actually will hold us in good stead this last month if there is a bit of noise, that we are going to play finals,” Flanagan said.
“I think barring Birdy (Jack Bird) and Valentine Holmes everyone has played semi-finals, and they should be able to handle that situation. Nothing rattles Jack too much – he is a cool customer – and Val, he just follows in his footsteps.
“They are fine, they have some good leaders around them, there is a big month ahead of us.”