The Warriors will take nothing for granted against a wounded Sharks team when the two NRL sides meet at Mt Smart Stadium, says coach Andrew McFadden.
It’s an overused cliche, but there is a sense that the Warriors are genuinely wary of a wounded Cronulla side.
Put that down to the return of one man – the Sharks’ inspirational captain Paul Gallen.
In a last-ditch attempt to salvage their NRL season, Cronulla coach James Shepherd has boldly named Gallen in the starting side this week after it was initially thought he would miss the rest of the season with a biceps injury.
Gallen’s inclusion, which is yet to be confirmed, is set to alleviate the blow caused by injuries to key forwards Luke Lewis, Wade Graham and Anthony Tupou last week.
It also presents a whole new challenge for the eighth-placed Warriors, who are without stars Shaun Johnson (groin) and Konrad Hurrell (hamstring).
All of a sudden Sunday’s match-up at Mount Smart promises to be a much more difficult task than the Sharks’ position at the bottom of the table would suggest.
“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he [Gallen] is coming back early, because he knows his team needs him and I know what kind of impact he has for them,” said Warriors coach Andrew McFadden.
“We’ve got the utmost respect for Paul Gallen. He’s obviously a great of the game and he’s as tough as they come.”
This week will be testing for the Warriors. Not only are they looking for their first win over Cronulla since 2011, McFadden is eager to prove his side have overcome the complacency that typically hampers them after a large win.
In round 18 they beat Parramatta by 48 points then followed up with a lacklustre performance against Brisbane, triggering a two-game losing streak which dropped them outside the top eight.
After thrashing Canberra 54-18 last weekend, there is a golden opportunity to climb as high as fifth on the ladder.
Another win against Newcastle next week and the Warriors would be in prime position for their first top-four finish since 2007.
But McFadden was quick to shut down talk about a dream run heading into the playoffs.
“We’re not looking at what we need to make the eight. We’re really focused on performance. We know that if we get that right there’s an opportunity to go up the ladder.”