Cronulla make a claim to be season’s hard men

Cronulla make a claim to be season’s hard men

Attack … Brisbane’s Josh McGuire gets tackled by a pack of Sharks during Friday night’s match.NO SANITISED modern-day footy. No show ponies. No prisoners.

Cronulla have crashed and bashed their way into the top four and are not pretending to hide how they have got there. Nor are they making apologies.

”We definitely want to be known as the tough side of the competition,” said Chad Townsend, Origin star Todd Carney’s replacement in the brutal 26-12 win over Brisbane on Friday night.

Never mind that Wade Graham and Jeremy Smith face charges or that coach Shane Flanagan thinks the game is going soft. This is how the Sharks play – with or without Paul Gallen – and it is how they will continue to play this season.

”We always talk about it at training, being tough,” Townsend said. ”We pride ourselves on our defence. I think last night we showed that we can be a real hard side to play and we showed that we’re a real threat to the competition this year.”

There are good reasons for Townsend’s enthusiasm.

The Cronulla-Sutherland junior is desperate, like everyone else at the club, to taste top-tier premiership status. There is little to be gained shouting that this is the year it will all happen. But Townsend admits it feels like something special is brewing.

”It would mean everything – every NRL player wants to win the comp,” he said. ”It’s the pinnacle. Some people talk about playing State of Origin or playing for Australia. They’re great things. But, for me, winning the comp would definitely be up there. Especially, winning it with the local club, the club I grew up supporting.

”There’s a lot of belief here now. We’ve knocked over some pretty good sides this year. We just wanted to prove that we’re a top-eight team and we’ve got the belief to do it.”

Townsend, 21, is extending on his dozen games last season with two this season in Carney’s Origin absence and has contributed to wins in both.

The sometime halfback, contracted to the Sharks until the end of next season, said Friday’s performance was not his best, but he ”loved it”. ”Any chance to play first grade I’ll take with both hands,” he said.

The Sharks scored five tries to two and held a 16-6 half-time lead after they had streaked out to a 16-0 lead. Brisbane got within four points in the second half before Nathan Stapleton snapped up an intercept try to seal the win.

In the process, however, Graham was placed on report for shoulder contact with the head of Broncos fullback Josh Hoffman and Smith was reported for elbowing replacement forward Jarrod Wallace.

”We stuck together and stuck to our plan,” Townsend said. ”But then there was a period in the second half where we fell away a bit and they got a bit of a roll on. But I thought the boys in the middle played real tough and that set us up for the victory.”

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