Bacon and eggs. Allan Langer and Kevin Walters. Brisbane Broncos and finals footy. For years that was a combination that would never falter.
The Sharks came from 10-6 down to beat Brisbane and jump back into the NRL’s top eight with one round to play.
With their finals fate in their hands ahead of a last-round clash with Melbourne, the Sharks (22 points) have a superior points differential to ninth-placed Canberra (22) while a game clear of tenth-placed Gold Coast (20).
Their win on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium wasn’t fluent and was helped by sin-bins to Broncos pair Tom Flegler and Brendan Piakura, who had been on the field for just six minutes in his NRL debut.
Cronulla will be sweating on a possible suspension for strike centre Jesse Ramien for his hit on Herbie Farnworth, Ramien among his side’s best as they came from 10-6 down.
He somehow found the turf among four Brisbane defenders for a try, while winger Sione Katoa’s flying effort and Connor Tracey’s try from a Katoa break were all highlight-reel moments for the Sharks.
Off the bench in his return from a calf injury, Matt Moylan was stoic in defence and Andrew Fifita provided inspiration from the sideline after spending five days in an induced coma after fracturing his larynx a fortnight ago.
Hannay took control after Josh Morris was sacked mid-season and is hopeful their campaign has some chapters left to write before Craig Fitzgibbon takes over next year.
“I think we do (deserve to play finals) but the other coaches would think the same,” he said.
“There’s been nothing gifted to us … there’s been plenty of upheaval at the club, we’ve had to deal with a lot this year.
“When we’re on the front foot and playing with the freedom we like to, there’s no doubt we’re a handful.
“We’ve got some threats there so on our day I think we can really aim up.”
He was particularly pleased with the side’s goal-line defence and scramble against Brisbane, an area he admits will make or break a finals campaign.
“Defensively it’s a work in progress but we have the cattle and game model to trouble teams,” he said.
Brisbane led 10-6 before Flegler’s high shot on Jack Williams, the Sharks scoring twice and then benefiting from a one-man advantage when Piakura hit halfback Braydon Trindall late.
Cronulla weren’t able to put Brisbane away though, Anthony Milford showing signs of his best as he prepares to leave for South Sydney and fullback Tesi Nui scoring twice for the hosts at Suncorp Stadium as they peppered Cronulla’s line without success in the final ten minutes.
“The effort was there but not quite there with our discipline,” Brisbane coach Kevin Walters said.
“The Piakura one I’m not 100 per cent convinced and he’s a bit disappointed in there, but certainly Fleg (deserved his sin-binning).
“The idea was right, because we needed something but he’ll have to find a way (to manage his aggression) otherwise he’ll be sitting on the sideline a lot.”