Flanagan relieved as injury woes ease - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Flanagan relieved as injury woes ease

Ian McCullough 18/06/2011 12:54:41 PM Comments (0)

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan believes his side can start climbing the NRL ladder now that their injury crisis has started to ease.

Influential backrower Jeremy Smith will return to the Sharks side for the clash with Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Sunday having been sidelined since round eight with a knee injury.

Nathan Gardner came back from injury against Brisbane two weeks ago but Flanagan said the diminutive fullback has benefited from the extra week's break, with the Sharks enjoying the bye last weekend.

"Getting Jeremy Smith back for us is a huge boost," Flanagan told AAP.

"He is a big player for us and we have really missed him. Gardner is now fully fit and we really missed him when he was out too.

"Losing Nathan and Albert Kelly at the same time really hurt us as it was two of our major strike weapons gone at once.

"Albert is still a few weeks away from coming back, but we are pretty much at full strength for the Bulldogs game."

"When we have been a full strength we have competed well this season and I think we can do that again on Sunday."

Flanagan admits the brilliant form of Paul Gallen in Wednesday's State of Origin clash at ANZ Stadium, lifted everyone at the struggling club, who sit in 15th spot on the ladder.

"We were not surprised by how well Gal played here at the Sharks, because he does it every week, but are all very proud of him," he said.

Despite his punishing Origin workload in the 18-8 win over Queensland, which saw him run for 214 metres and clock up 27 tackles in addition to playing 80 minutes in an unfamiliar front row role, Gallen will start on Sunday against the Bulldogs.

"Gal has come back fine, he is a very fit guy and although he hasn't trained, because we play on Sunday he has a bit more time to back up and he'll be there playing up the middle like he always does."

Despite Gallen's fine display in Origin, Flanagan has no plans to switch him into the front-row permanently and although Kade Snowden and Luke Douglas are leaving the club at the end of the year, the Sharks this week recruited Wests Tigers bookends Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita to round off a good week for the club.

"We needed to get some new faces in because we were losing Luke and Kade, and we are delighted to get over the line with Bryce and Andrew, but I don't want to talk about 2012 because I am only focused on this season and the present."

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