LOOK AHEAD AND FOR­GET OLD DAZE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL - DAVID RIC­CIO CHIEF SPORTS WRITER

FOR­GET the past, play for the fu­ture.

Deep in­side the away team dress­ing room at WIN Sta­dium last Fri­day night, Cronulla coach Shane Flana­gan held up his pointer fin­ger and be­gan draw­ing an imag­i­nary line in the sand.

The Sharks and their rep­utable steel, scrap and courage had just had 40 points put on them by St Ge­orge Illawarra.

Rep­u­ta­tions were on the floor. Which is why Flana­gan, leav­ing noth­ing be­hind, spoke to his play­ers about mov­ing on to­gether — and fast.

“If we’re go­ing to evolve as a group, re­ly­ing on our rep­u­ta­tions of our past isn’t us,’’ Flana­gan told The Sun­day Tele­graph. “We’re a new team, we’ve got new faces, qual­ity new lead­ers, but we need to play with a new pur­pose and re­solve.

“We should def­i­nitely take some of the val­ues from 2016 — but we can also raise the bar as well. This is a new era.

“When I look at this 2018 team, I see a team that could do some­thing spe­cial to­gether, but for that to hap­pen, we need to re­alise that all that mat­ters is what we do in the fu­ture. “For us, that’s Sun­day.’’ New team is right. Of the 17 play­ers who fea­tured in Cronulla’s his­toric premier­ship win over Mel- bourne in 2016, 11 are miss­ing from a cru­cial clash with Pen­rith at Shark Park this af­ter­noon. Only Valen­tine Holmes, Ricky Leutele, Chad Townsend, Matt Prior, An­drew Fi­fita and Luke Lewis re­main in to­day’s line-up from the premier­ship class of 2016.

Fi­fita and Lewis, who were in doubt with in­jury, only need a fi­nal med­i­cal clear­ance to­day to be de­clared cer­tain starters.

The swap of Pen­rith’s James Maloney and Sharks pivot Matt Moy­lan has at­tracted the head­lines ahead of to­day’s clash. Maloney is just one of the many changes from an in­cred­i­ble turnover of per­son­nel at Cronulla in just 18 months.

Leutele — nick­named ‘Ricky-The Tackle-Leutele’ by Sharks trag­ics after mak­ing the last cru­cial tackle against Mel­bourne in the 2016 grand fi­nal — said he was aware of the role he could play in a new-look Sharks side.

“With the new faces, one of my jobs I try and do is to make sure that they know I have full con­fi­dence in them,’’ Leutele said. “That’s what de­vel­ops suc­cess. I can see it get­ting closer to that now.

“We don’t have many play­ers from the 2016 side, but we’ve got the same mind­set and sim­i­lar val­ues as 2016 — we’ve just got to put it into ac­tion on the field.

“We’re not fo­cused on the past, we’re fo­cused on work- ing hard to­gether to make it click, which I know it will.’’

In-form for­ward Joseph Paulo, who made his NRL de­but with Pen­rith, missed the 2016 grand fi­nal due to in­jury.

But hav­ing played 152NRL matches he re­alises how, in the ab­sence of in­jured lead­ers Paul Gallen and Wade Gra­ham this af­ter­noon, how in­flu­en­tial he can be for Cronulla.

“Hav­ing these young guys come in, my­self and Matty (Prior), those boys that have been part of the last few years need to step it up,’’ Paulo said. “We need to take own­er­ship of it. It’s not about talk­ing more, it’s about con­tin­u­ing to lead and give the new guys con­fi­dence.”

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