Cronulla coach Josh Hannay has told his side to start playing like a finals team as they prepare to walk the top-eight tightrope for the next month.
Sunday's clash with Newcastle shapes as a four-point game, with both teams in a seven-horse race for the final two spots in the top eight.
The Sharks were considered the favourites to claim one of those spots a month ago, with one of the most favourable runs home of any team.
But they have now dropped from seventh to 10th on the back of three losses out of their last four games, highlighted by last week's capitulation to the Warriors.
Hannay's men still have the second most missed tackles of any team in the competition, conceding almost 30 points a game over the past month.
“If you're going to consider yourself one of the teams to contend for those top-eight spots, you've got to start playing like a finals football side to be realistic,” Hannay said.
“Sunday's a really important game for us.
“Obviously a win is important but what I want to see from ourselves is a really good performance. I'm confident that if we play well we'll win.
“But ideally and first and foremost, we want to see that performance.
“We want to see a performance that's going to hold us in good stead over the next month of football.
“We need to start to play with some consistency and consistency for 80 minutes.”
The Sharks have again ruled out five-eighth Matt Moylan, with the 30-year-old having not played since injuring his calf in a warm-up six weeks ago.
Hannay admitted Moylan's recovery had “plateaued” in recent weeks, but was hopeful he would return next Saturday against Wests Tigers.
That will leave Connor Tracey and Braydon Trindall in the halves together again, with Hannay conceding they'd perhaps tried too hard in their two losses together.
“First and foremost I love how hard they're trying,” Hannay said.
“I can't fault Connor and Braydon's competitiveness and effort. They're really trying super hard.
“What they're probably lacking at the moment is that finesse and experience to play composed when composure is needed.
“They're sometimes possibly trying a little bit too hard.
“We have to accept that they're not always going to get it right, but as long as they keep trying as hard as they are we will continue to back them.”Internet Explorer Channel Network