Black Friday for Sharks as injuries strike
CRONULLA captain Paul Gallen could've done without limping up into the WIN Stadium grandstand for a press conference on Friday night.
"But we were looking around for another senior player to do it," he said with a shrug. "And there was none. No one was left."
And Gallen wasn't joking, either.
In a huge blow to the Sharkies premiership hopes for 2018, coach Shane Flanagan conceded the immediate playing future of his four most senior forwards -- Gallen, Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham -- was now unknown after the quartet all left the field injured against the Dragons.
Indeed, Flanagan said he had never before endured such a casualty ward in one game.
Both Gallen and Andrew Fifita left WIN Stadium in the first half with knee injuries, and NSW Origin back-rower Graham was forced off with a hamstring problem early in the second.
Lewis also left the game in the dying minutes with an injury to his leg.
"So tough night at the office," Flanagan conceded. "To lose my (four) most experienced players ... I haven't ever had that before.
"But we will know a lot more tomorrow. I don't want to speculate on how long people will be out for anything but it's not looking real good at the moment."
Gallen limped from the field with only 13 minutes gone after being tackled awkwardly while attempting a grubber kick. Fifita went off after 30 minutes and never returned.
Quizzed on his injury, Gallen continued: "I just got twisted the wrong way. It's probably a medial strain. Hopefully nothing too serious.
"It's just one of them things that happens in a game ... unfortunately for us it happened to all our senior players."
Yet while Cronulla could be without its four most experienced players, Flanagan insisted there would be "no excuses" when they fronted Penrith next Sunday at home.
"If you lose four senior players it's going to drain your depth," he agreed. "So we need to take stock, take a deep breath and see what the scans come up with.
"We will reassess tomorrow and put 17 out there again.
"No excuses. Our backs are against the wall now. We need to turn up and win some football games quickly.
"So the Sharks with their backs to the wall ... we'll see which team turns up next week.
"Some of the tries they scored against us were ordinary.
"As Paul touched on there were some really soft tries. We had 13 out there.
"That was disappointing for me. Some really soft tries, two in particular through the middle. We're not starting our halves very well.
"Our discipline in the first half got us behind.
"We'd scored two tries, they had scored one and we (because of Dragons' penalty goals) were still behind. In the first 10 minutes of the second half there were 18 points went try, try, try ... game over.
"We didn't complete sets. Some players have to put their hand up and take responsibility. I have to put my hand up.
"We're not playing well.
"And now we've got some injuries."