Senior Sharks Chad Townsend and Andrew Fifita say players should be in the firing line for their poor start to the NRL season rather than coach John Morris.
Cronulla are in a log-jam of teams with just one win from five matches with their next opponents Canterbury, whom they face on Sunday night at Bankwest Stadium, also struggling for competition points.
“I don’t think Bomber (Morris) is the issue,” Townsend said on Wednesday.
“Bomber is doing a great job with some of the adversity he’s faced in his first year-and-half as coach and I speak as a senior player when I say we fully support him.
“He’s not the one out there playing – he’s giving us every chance to play well.”
Townsend says Morris has provided the tools for victory, but pointed to their poor defence – once a hallmark of the Sharks – low completion and ill discipline as reasons for their losses.
According to Fox Sports Stats, Cronulla are in the bottom four sides for missed tackles, averaging 28 per game, the bottom three for completion rates (73.5 per cent) and are conceding the third most penalties a game with 6.8.
“I truly believe we are doing it to ourselves … we let 30 points in on the weekend against the Dragons so defensively we weren’t good enough,” the halfback said.
“We are doing it to ourselves so we all deserve the criticism.”
Townsend also felt his halves partner Shaun Johnson shouldn’t be singled out after retired great Cooper Cronk said he hadn’t “fired a shot” since signing with Cronulla.
“I thought it was a bit disappointing,” Townsend said.
“There’s no doubt we’re not playing our best but it’s not fair on Shaun to be singled out.”
Fifita agreed Morris didn’t deserve the heat or talk that former Wallabies and now England rugby coach Eddie Jones was waiting in the wings to take over.
“We’re tight-knit and we’re all on the same page and we know that the only way we can help the club out is win,” Fifita said.
“We need to bunker down and block out the outside noise to move forward.”
The veteran prop, who made his return from a calf injury in their loss last round to St George Illawarra, said he was taking criticism of Morris personally and was determined to prove naysayers wrong.
“The results aren’t in Bomber’s hands at the moment, it’s on us as players because the game plan is working,” Fifita said.
“We were doing shapes and pulling the Dragons apart but we couldn’t capitalise because of errors.”