Infotainment Factory: Uncomfortable ego claims Sharks can't shake

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Thursday, 25 July 2019

Uncomfortable ego claims Sharks can't shake


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There’s been a cacophony of voices circling the Sharks this week.

Rumours of teammate tensions, speculation coach John Morris is too close to his players and claims the squad has forgotten their patented brand of ‘Cronulla-football’.

None of that will seem to matter, however, if they can’t make it work on the park against the Cowboys tonight.

Having slipped to 11th on the ladder off the back of five consecutive losses, another hiccup will all but knock the wind out of the Sharks’ finals hopes.

So Paul Gallen’s men find themselves at their very own cross-roads, and taking the right path will depend on whether the club’s biggest names can put aside their egos, says Blues coach Brad Fittler, even if coach Morris refuses to concede that issue is to blame for their problems.

Matt Moylan, Aaron Woods, Josh Morris, Shaun Johnson and Josh Dugan. It’s a senior playing group that on paper should be leading the club to a top four finish.

Yet, when those stars were sidelined by injury earlier this season, the club was at its most successful.

The formula seems unbalanced, something’s got to give.

NRL guru Phil Gould touched on it weeks ago when he blasted a host of “deluded” individuals in the playing group.

“This is a real test for the coach, a first season coach, Johnny Morris,” Gould told Nine’s 100% Footy.

“He’s got some very strong senior players in that club, he’s got some very strong personalities.

“He’s got some players that I’ve watched in their careers that have a history of being deluded about how good they are or how well they’re going, or how they value the excellence in their play.”

It’s a sentiment that continues to rear its head, as Fittler doubled down on that belief today.

“Johnny Morris has got to make some decisions without a doubt,” Fittler told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy & The Eighth.

“It just feels like at the moment there’s a lot of really big personality players at the Sharks. He needs to rein that in to make the personality about the Sharks.”

It’s that collective identity which has traditionally been a hallmark of the Sutherland franchise - but has seemed fractured this year.

“I think this is the night for the Sharks to say, ‘We’re going to play in the semi finals’ or it’s a little bit hard this year,” Fittler added.

“I’m not sure what’s really happening there but they sort of got to a standard and then it went a bit backwards.”

Falling backwards is made all the harder when Cronulla have outscored their conquerors in four of their past five losses.

“Incredibly four of those games they’ve scored more tries so you wonder how the coach is actually feeling at the moment,” Fittler said.

“Does he need a new goal kicker? Or is their discipline that poor where they’re giving away that many penalties and bringing the other team into the game.”

The problem seems multifaceted but failing to close out games in the dying moments perhaps the most common theme.

Andrew Fifita was put on blast when he brazenly gave away a penalty in the dying moments of the club’s loss to the Warriors last week.

But the focal point of scrutiny seems to be fixed on big-money recruit Shaun Johnson who, having moved to Sutherland from New Zealand, has failed to match his superstar credentials on the field.

Morris’ decision to sensationally hook the five-eighth in the dying moments of their loss to the Broncos was perhaps the biggest and most official strike against the 28-year-old.

But rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns has issued the executioner.

“Shaun Johnson is a bit like the Sharks,” he said. “I think they’re both on the last warning.

“Johnson needs to perform, he has to have a big game.”

Egos aside, Johnson is in the spotlight. It’s do or die for the Sharks.

There’s been a cacophony of voices circling the Sharks this week.

Rumours of teammate tensions, speculation coach John Morris is too close to his players and claims the squad has forgotten their patented brand of ‘Cronulla-football’.

None of that will seem to matter, however, if they can’t make it work on the park against the Cowboys tonight.

Having slipped to 11th on the ladder off the back of five consecutive losses, another hiccup will all but knock the wind out of the Sharks’ finals hopes.

So Paul Gallen’s men find themselves at their very own cross-roads, and taking the right path will depend on whether the club’s biggest names can put aside their egos, says Blues coach Brad Fittler, even if coach Morris refuses to concede that issue is to blame for their problems.

Matt Moylan, Aaron Woods, Josh Morris, Shaun Johnson and Josh Dugan. It’s a senior playing group that on paper should be leading the club to a top four finish.

Yet, when those stars were sidelined by injury earlier this season, the club was at its most successful.

The formula seems unbalanced, something’s got to give.

NRL guru Phil Gould touched on it weeks ago when he blasted a host of “deluded” individuals in the playing group.

“This is a real test for the coach, a first season coach, Johnny Morris,” Gould told Nine’s 100% Footy.

“He’s got some very strong senior players in that club, he’s got some very strong personalities.

“He’s got some players that I’ve watched in their careers that have a history of being deluded about how good they are or how well they’re going, or how they value the excellence in their play.”

It’s a sentiment that continues to rear its head, as Fittler doubled down on that belief today.

“Johnny Morris has got to make some decisions without a doubt,” Fittler told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy & The Eighth.

“It just feels like at the moment there’s a lot of really big personality players at the Sharks. He needs to rein that in to make the personality about the Sharks.”

It’s that collective identity which has traditionally been a hallmark of the Sutherland franchise - but has seemed fractured this year.

“I think this is the night for the Sharks to say, ‘We’re going to play in the semi finals’ or it’s a little bit hard this year,” Fittler added.

“I’m not sure what’s really happening there but they sort of got to a standard and then it went a bit backwards.”

Falling backwards is made all the harder when Cronulla have outscored their conquerors in four of their past five losses.

“Incredibly four of those games they’ve scored more tries so you wonder how the coach is actually feeling at the moment,” Fittler said.

“Does he need a new goal kicker? Or is their discipline that poor where they’re giving away that many penalties and bringing the other team into the game.”

The problem seems multifaceted but failing to close out games in the dying moments perhaps the most common theme.

Andrew Fifita was put on blast when he brazenly gave away a penalty in the dying moments of the club’s loss to the Warriors last week.

But the focal point of scrutiny seems to be fixed on big-money recruit Shaun Johnson who, having moved to Sutherland from New Zealand, has failed to match his superstar credentials on the field.

Morris’ decision to sensationally hook the five-eighth in the dying moments of their loss to the Broncos was perhaps the biggest and most official strike against the 28-year-old.

But rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns has issued the executioner.

“Shaun Johnson is a bit like the Sharks,” he said. “I think they’re both on the last warning.

“Johnson needs to perform, he has to have a big game.”

Egos aside, Johnson is in the spotlight. It’s do or die for the Sharks.

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