They’re the only home side not to play in their own backyard over the first week of the NRL finals, but Cronulla players say they won’t be getting homesick.
The Sharks will be closer to enemy territory than the Shire when they host Redfern-based South Sydney in the NRL’s second elimination final at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It’s not the first time Cronulla have taken their finals fixture away from Woolooware, with rules dictating the club take their qualifying final against North Queensland to the Moore Park venue two years ago.
This weekend, the Sydney Roosters, Canterbury and Brisbane all get the advantage of playing a genuine home final, however Cronulla second-rower Wade Graham said he understood why the governing body took finals away from suburban venues.
“It’s just one of the things with the league. I understand the amount of seats they need to get,” he said.
“It would’ve been nice to play at Remondis, I think we had 19,000 here on the weekend.
“It was good, but at the end of the day it’s an NRL thing, not a club thing.
“We’ve just got to follow the rules there.”
Asked whether he felt the club had lost home ground advantage in taking the game to Allianz Stadium, he said: “I don’t really think about all that stuff. I just like to get out there, play footy, and get it happening.
“Whether it’s here, there… the field’s the same. I’m sure both teams will have plenty of support there. Sunday arvo footy, finals, it should be good.”
Halfback Jeff Robson said it could be worse.
“You could end up going to Brisbane or Townsville. I’m happy playing in Sydney,” he said.
The Sharks, who have won five of their past six matches, will be boosted by the return of star front-rower Andrew Fifita, as well as supersub Ben Barba.
In contrast, South Sydney have lost their past two by a combined 77-12 scoreline and have key men George Burgess, Issac Luke and John Sutton injured on the sideline.
Cronulla enter the clash as favourites, however Graham said it was dangerous to write off the defending premiers.
“They have a lot of experience in their team that people are discounting,” he said.
“It’s a different kettle of fish now that the finals time has come around. A lot of players played in their grand final last year and won.
“I’m expecting a red-hot Rabbitohs outfit, ready to go on Sunday.”