It’s by no means out of mind, but Cronulla concede they are getting better at dealing with the ASADA investigation that has engulfed the club as the Sharks stamped themselves genuine top-four contenders.
Fears the Sharks season could unravel after the drugs scandal went up a gear during the week when the NRL instructed those players caught up in the 2011 supplement drama to set up meetings with the anti-drugs body, with interviews to begin on Thursday.
But the Sharks rebounded from the distraction and a heavy loss to the Sydney Roosters to thump Penrith 38-10 on Sunday, coach Shane Flanagan admitting players were growing strength courtesy of the scandal.
“There is definitely no shirking it,” Flanagan said.
“A bit of adversity makes us stronger and we’re working really hard to stay strong as a group.
“We’re dealing with it as a club. The players are concentrating on what we need to do, train and play footy.
“There are six weeks left in this competition and we’d like to think we can plays semifinals and that’s our focus.
“It’s not something we want to deal with but we have to as a club and we will.”
Fullback Michael Gordon, who is not one of the Sharks in line to be questioned, admitted there was not the same angst among his teammates involved in the investigation.
“It was obviously hard when they were talking about careers and their lives and you could see blokes down but I really don’t know what’s going to happen now ,” Gordon said.
“I don’t know how much they’ve been told or anything – so far so good, hopefully it stays that way.”
The Sharks are trying to keep their focus on-field ahead of a huge trip to Auckland to face the Warriors, who maintained their finals charge with a 30-22 upset of premiers Melbourne.
With skipper Paul Gallen likely and Luke Lewis a chance of returning next week, the Sharks appear well placed to push for a top four berth.
Along with Canterbury, who will now be without Ben Barba for five weeks, the Sharks are one competition point behind Manly, who play Wests Tigers on Monday night.
Star playmaker Todd Carney said it was still hard to tell if the Sharks were genuine title contenders.
“We haven’t played with our full side for the last eight weeks,” Carney said.
“Until we get that team back … I think we have the Roosters in three or four weeks time, hopefully we’ve got everyone back on deck and we’ll gauge ourselves from that game.”
The Warriors’ win left them ninth, equal with eighth-placed Newcastle on 22 competition points, a clear win ahead of the now desperate Penrith and Gold Coast.
The Sydney Roosters 28-12 win over the Knights coupled with the Storm’s loss all but assured the Roosters and ladder-leaders South Sydney of a top two finish, the Roosters now five points clear of Melbourne with six games remaining.