Gallen: Sharks have coped with big losses
Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen's delighted the Sharks have kept alive their premiership defence despite having lost two of last year's stars.
Some pundits were predicting Shane Flanagan's side would drop away sharply this season after having won the grand final in 2016.
And Gallen admits it's been tough to cope with the loss of departed stars Ben Barba and Mick Ennis.
But the senior players at the club like Gallen, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita have stood up well in their absence.
Rookie hooker Jayden Brailey, meanwhile, has risen to the challenge of covering for the loss of Ennis.
Gallen conceded the Sharks weren't qute as potent this year - when they missed out on the top four by two points - as they were when winning the premiership.
"We had Benny Barba at the back who had a phenomenal ability to set up tries and score them so probably not quite as potent there," he said. "But as far as Mick goes, it's probably taken three players to replace him but I think we've replaced him."
Brailey's one of the men who have bridged the gap left by Ennis, while Cronulla have also used James Segeyaro, Dan Mortimer and Nu Brown at times at hooker.
"People want to keep comparing us to last year but we're not the same team as last year, we're a different side and I think we're finally realising that now," said Gallen.
"We won 15 games this year which is not bad at all so it's do or die for us now."
The Sharks have another clash with the Cowboys on Sunday, their elimination final being the third time in four years they have faced North Queensland in a sudden-death final.
Cronulla are 1.35 to beat the Cowboys, who are 3.35.
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