Cronulla’s medical staff must be feeling the pinch.
Bronson Xerri, Briton Nikora, the Brailey brothers and Chad Townsend kept Cronulla humming through the first half of the season but the club’s form finally tapered off in the weeks after the bye.
After initially appearing a chance of challenging the competition’s big three – the Storm, Roosters and Rabbitohs – a five-game losing streak suddenly left the Sharks languishing outside the top eight.
A 16-14 win over North Queensland last Thursday snapped that losing streak and now, Fifita and Graham will return to face the Rabbitohs.
Their may season still on life support but Graham believes finals football is still within reach.
“The hard work is all in front of us but it’s there if we are good enough,” Graham said.
“That is the way we will be approaching the back end of the year.
“We’re not too far away and at times, we have been our own worst enemy.
“We know we can play well when we put it together. It’s just a matter of actually putting together.”
The Moylan, Johnson, Townsend and Brailey spine has not clicked post bye and the Cronulla halfback puts that down to a lack of continuity at training.
“To form those combinations, they don’t happen overnight. They happen at training,” Townsend said.
“It happens when you’re under pressure in the game.
“Sometimes you both might see the same thing and you don’t need to say anything but if you just give that player the look and they give you that look back, that’s what a combination is.
“It’s just time on the field and time together in games. We need to start forming it quickly.”
Townsend’s right. Time is running out. Fall to Souths and the door will all but certainly have slammed shut on the Sharks’ finals hopes.
That would be quite the fall from grace after a start to the season that promised so much.
“I’m always confident in this team,” Graham said.
“I’m always confident when we go on the field that we can win the game. I’m not worried about that.
“We have just made it hard for ourselves. Now we need to go out there and rectify it.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.