Write us off at your peril, warns Gallen
CRONULLA premiership captain Paul Gallen says he and his team have no concerns about being written off as a chance to win the NRL title again ahead of the season-opener with the Brisbane Broncos tomorrow night at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The TAB has the Sharks equal on the eighth line of betting with South Sydney to repeat its drought-breaking title success - the longest odds for a premiership-winning team to defend its crown since the NRL era began 20 years ago.
But Gallen, who at 35 is the oldest player in this year's competition, said the Sharks were not worried what the pundits believed.
"Last year, no one gave us a chance to win the competition and we did that," he said.
"We've just to go out there and do what we do well on the field - winning games. It will shut people up.
"If we start losing, we're going to hear more noise - but the good news is only we can control that."
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said that while he understood why some did not rate his team's chances of doubling up, he reckoned the club still had the players to give the premiership retention a good shake.
"On the back of Ben Barba and Mick Ennis retiring, all you people have got a lot of ammunition there," he said.
"But as I said, I think I've got two good replacements there, and Val (Holmes) will come back in eventually as well.
"He's a star of the future and a star of the game now."
Holmes is out of tomorrow's game with a hamstring injury, with former Bronco Gerard Beale set to take the fullback role.
Jayden Brailey, who was the under-20s player of the year in 2016, will take Ennis's spot in the hooking role.
The Sharks' pre-season has not been the best, with a 22-6 defeat by Wigan in the World Club Challenge giving more ammunition to the doubters.
But Flanagan said he had already set targets for his team if it wanted a chance of going back-to-back.
"You make the top four, you give it a chance," he said.
"Our first thing is to win on Thursday night.
"And as a bigger-picture thing, we need to make the top four.
"You win two out of every three games, you're in the top four and that's where we need to be at the end of the year."