Sharks win despite new off-field dramas - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sharks win despite new off-field dramas

By Bonny Symons-Brown and Darren Walton 15/06/2009 06:30:13 AM Comments (0)

Cronulla have cast aside their off-field dramas to register a third straight NRL win, downing Canberra 24-22 at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

The Sharks scored five tries to the Raiders' four, with former leader Paul Gallen scooping a double, including the match-winner with a little help from his captaincy replacement Trent Barrett.

Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart praised his embattled team, who only three days ago lost their chief executive Tony Zappia in the wake of workplace misconduct allegations.

Zappia's resignation was just the latest in a string of controversies at the club this year.

Stuart said it had been hard going for the side but the players had tremendous courage.

"I've never been involved in a football club with such adversity all in one period," he told reporters in Canberra.

"To try and just keep them sheltered from it and focused has been our coaching staff's main goal and the boys have done a really good job of it."

Even when things were at their worst, Stuart said the group kept their spirits high.

"The character these guys show, you'd like to have it bottled so you can replicate it somewhere else along the line," he said.

The Sharks had a slow start and often looked out of the game but tries to young fullback Nathan Stapleton, centre Matt Wright and Ben Pomeroy off the bench saw them reel the Raiders in every time.

Gallen's double was particularly impressive given he was still carrying a shoulder injury. He also topped the tackle count to boot.

Barrett said one of the most rewarding things about the win was seeing the effect it had on the younger players.

"It's particularly hard on the young blokes that we've brought into a losing environment, so it's good to be winning and see the looks on their faces after you string some wins together," he said.

Barrett felt the Sharks had finally turned a corner.

"It's probably one of the hardest periods I've had and it's good to come out the other side of it," he said.

"We just need to keep winning."

But it wasn't a one-sided affair and Canberra also showed moments of brilliance.

Blues contenders - five-eighth Terry Campese, second-rower Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and centre Joel Monaghan - all had solid games ahead of Monday's NSW State of Origin selections.

Campese had a hand in a numerous tries, including one to Learoyd-Lahrs and another to Monaghan, while second-rower Bronson Harrison and 18-year-old Jarrod Croker also found the line for the Raiders on either side of half time.

Canberra captain Alan Tongue said although Cronulla made some quality plays, it was ultimately the Raiders who let a seemingly assured win go begging.

"Both teams were making errors off kick-offs, kicking out on the full," he said.

"It was a side that was prepared to be patient and make the most of those little opportunities ... those moments in the game (that) can be the make or break.

"Unfortunately we couldn't come up with them."

Canberra's Trevor Thurling sustained a knee injury in the clash and was also put on report for taking the legs out from under a kicker, while the Sharks' Jonathan Mannah (back), Anthony Tupou (knee) and Kade Snowden have also pulled up lame.

Zappia, an observer at the game, was under the spotlight again on Sunday night with questions raised by the Seven Network about money allegedly sent directly to him by a dying Sharks fan to be used to set up a foundation.

"I'm just here as a fan," Zappia told AAP earlier on Sunday.

"I've still got to support the team. I love rugby league."

Zappia said he planned to do "sweet FA" for the next few months before weighing up his future employment options, which include possibly taking charge at Parramatta.

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