BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Mark round 14 down in your calendars because that’s the next time the NRL’s newest rivalry takes place between 2016 grand final opponents Cronulla and Melbourne.
The Sharks and Storm slugged it out in a sometimes vicious contest on Sunday at AAMI Park where the Sharks outlasted the home side 11-2 in horrendous conditions.
Now we wait until round 14.
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen admitted there was no love lost after the contest.
“100 per cent, we don’t like each other, it’s no secret,” Gallen said.
“It was played in good spirit and we ripped into each other. We knew it was going to happen and we spoke about that.
“I was really confident of coming down here for a good performance. We always rise against the good sides.”
Cronulla five-eigth James Maloney was in the thick of things throughout the day. The State of Origin playmaker sparked an all-in after going high in a tackle before kicking the late field goal to send the Sharks ahead 3-2.
“At that stage, it was crucial for us to go one point ahead but it really helped when we scored the next try, so they would have to score twice and made it hard for them,” coach Shane Flanagan said.
“I thought it was an outstanding game from both sides. They threw everything at each other. It was a worthy grand final rematch.”
Cronulla’s premiership defence has thus far been a rocky one beginning the season with a home defeat at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos. They then went to Canberra where they hammered the Raiders before returning to Shark Park and another loss against local enemies St George Illawarra. In the last few weeks they’ve beaten Parramatta comfortably and scored a 19-18 win over strugglers Newcastle.
But Sunday was easily their most impressive performance considering they hadn’t won in Victoria for almost a decade.
They’ll be on the road again next week for another big test when they battle the Penrith Panthers who will be bolstered by the return of captain Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku.
It will be another interesting week in the Shire with speculation star utility Jack Bird is on his way out of Sydney with Newcastle and Brisbane leading the race to sign the State of Origin player’s signature. It’s being reported that the Broncos have offered a $3.6 million deal over three years.
But Flanagan is still hoping to retain the premiership winner.
“We would like to think that Jack is going to stay at our club” Flanagan said.
“He’s won rookie of the year and won a grand final and played Origin all from here. So there’s only blue sky for him if he stays at the club.”
They may also lose halfback Chad Townsend but Flanagan could have a contingency already in place due to his existing relationship with Canterbury playmaker Josh Reynolds.
“Josh doesn’t know if he’s leaving the Bulldogs yet. So if Josh leaves the Bulldogs I will have a chat to him.
“He’s a quality player, he’s a competitor and we like those kinds of players at our club.”