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Cronulla Sharks surging towards top four finish

No one really saw this coming.

At the start of the season the Cronulla Sharks were struggling. Ravaged by drama off the field and struggling to perform on it, the Shire club found themselves dwelling down the bottom of the NRL ladder, more like a bottom feeding wobbegong Shark than the great white pictured on their club emblem.

After losing their opening four rounds in poor fashion, the side fought hard for their first win over a much favoured opponent in the Sydney Roosters, before then disposing of the Knights and Rabbitohs in a spell showing the skill and determination of young Jack Bird.

But just as fans started to believe, the results soured again, highlighted by a lacklustre performance in their local derby against St George in which Cronulla endured a 42-6 thrashing.

People began calling for the head of coach Shane Flanagan. Paul Gallen was taunted for his lack of commitment to his club and over willingness to play for his state instead. Ben Barba, the big name signing for the club, became public enemy number one amongst fans as he struggled for form.

It looked set to be another long season in the Shire.

But something clicked. The Sharks once again strung together a three match winning streak, which started again with a hard fought win over the Sydney Roosters. They slipped up against Manly in round 17, leading to fears of another fall from grace, but this time the club responded positively. The loss seemed to galvanise the club.

They exacted revenge of sorts over the Dragons a week later via a 28-8 score line before beating the Raiders, Bulldogs and Warriors in tight affairs.

Then, last start, the applause for the club began to really rise. Taking on the North Queensland Cowboys, who were looking to go top of the table by breaking the Shark’s four match winning streak, the Cronulla side powered home to a 30-18 win over the competition heavy weights, with the blue, black and white side firing on all cylinders.

They now have set themselves up for a top four finish, a position they have fought hard to earn. While they don’t play the prettiest brand of football, preferring to get the opposition in a dour struggle, they have knocked off the bigger names in the competition. Of the current top eight sides, the Shire club has beaten all but the Broncos and Storm, the latter of which they play this weekend. They have disposed of the teams coming second and third two times in two outings, showing they are capable of mixing it with the big names.

They have proven they belong in the top four, but must finish off strongly to do so. In their favour is a tough run home for current fourth place holders the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who face top eight sides for the rest of the regular season, including all of the current top three.

Basically guaranteed of a Finals football return now, the Sharks must focus on a top four finish. From there, that elusive premiership may be within grasp.

It is a feat no one saw possible at half way through the season, which would make the fairy tale even greater.

There is still a lot of football to be played, but the porch light is blazing for Harold Holt to return.

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