By STEVE MASCORD
CRONULLA is likely to be without its first- and second-choice captains until August after Todd Carney helped the Sharks overcome Brisbane and leave the Broncos at long odds of maintaining their proud finals record.
With a foot injury having ruled Paul Gallen out from the NSW side for Origin III and up to three more weeks, coach Shane Flanagan then had to deal with a shoulder injury to his replacement, Wade Graham.
Five-eighth Carney responded by setting up three tries, converting them, and booting the winning field goal in a 19-18 win at Suncorp Stadium.
“He’s in a bit of pain – it’s either his AC or his actual collarbone,” said Flanagan of Graham. “We’ll get some scans on it and hope for the best but I wouldn’t expect …. I think he’d be out for a couple of weeks.”
Flanagan said of Gallen, who withdrew from Origin III on Friday: “I would’t think he’d be right for the Roosters game. I think we might have him back the week after that, the Panthers game. We hope he’ll miss one, maximum two weeks.
“He’s very disappointed. You don’t get too many opportunities, anyone in this game, to lead your state in an Origin decider at home. That’s the pain he’s going through at the moment – I don’t think he even feels his foot.
“It’s a terrible blow for him. The whole club feels for him.”
Carney is expected to deputise and he showed all the requisite qualities in a performance which rival coach Anthony Griffin reckoned was unquestionably the difference between the sides.
Lauding Carney’s performance, Flanagan said: “Both teams were missing some quality players and someone had to stand up. Our quality player stood up and got us over the line.
“All the games that we’ve won, we’ve played well. I put tonight in the category that we didn’t play well but we got two points. The way we played, doesn’t really please me.”
Griffin put on a brave face despite a run to the finals which requires the Broncos – who have only missed the finals once in the last 21 years – to win all but one of their remaining regular season matches.
“They all earned the right to wear that jersey tonight,” he said, describing the weeks ahead as “a challenge”.
“To his credit, Carney came up with a couple of great play. It was just brilliance from their six …. him and (Michael Gordon), a couple of times there they just opened us up.”
Carney faces the man who beat him to the NSW six shirt, James Maloney, next Saturday.
“When you get a field goal, you get in a bit of a comfort zone,” said Carney. “They (Brisbane) got the smell of it.
“It was a bit rough-and-ready, like all my field goal attempts this year. It was good to get one.
“I want to keep getting better as the weeks go on, towards the back end of the year, because last year around finals time I had a few injuries and my form dropped.
“So hopefully this is the game that sparked my final run hope for the year.”
Shark Mark Taufua was reported for a shoulder charge on Peter Wallace. “I was surprised it was even a penalty – seriously,” said Flanagan. “He’s got nothing to worry about in my view.”
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD