They say all good things come to an end. Is this it for the Cronulla Sharks?
However, following an entertaining 18-18 draw against the Gold Coast Titans in Round 21, Cronulla have lost two on the trot and come crashing back down to earth. Could this be the start of a Sharks losing streak? Let's consider the facts.
Cronulla were disjointed in attack against Canberra in Round 22. But after a short six-day turnaround and without influential hooker, Michael Ennis, this can be excused. The Raiders are in hot form and recently moved up to third by beating ladder leaders, Melbourne Storm, at home last Monday night.
Their 32-18 loss to the Dragons on Saturday night is more concerning. Again the excuses are plenty. The Sharks were without skipper, Paul Gallen, lost winger, Sosaia Feki, to a groin injury just after halftime, while other key players are clearly fatigued from Origin commitments.
However, St George have been playing terrible footy so this latest result should ring some alarm bells. After a 15-match winning streak, Cronulla have let errors and complacency creep into their game and are not demonstrating the ruthlessness required of premiership contenders.
As a big Sharkies supporter myself, it seems that underperforming at the end of the season has become a Cronulla trademark in recent years and, come finals time, I would hate to see an excellent season go to waste.
The Sharks next face South Sydney on Monday night, giving their stars plenty of time to recover from any injury niggles. The men from the Sutherland Shire have run out of excuses and will hopefully deliver an emphatic victory to put any doubts to bed. If not, expect critics to really sharpen their pens.
The fixture looks like an easy win for Cronulla on paper, but the Rabbitohs flogged the Warriors over the weekend and will prove a handful at ANZ Stadium. Against a side out of finals contention, let's see if the Sharks can rediscover their mid-season form along with an ability to win at all costs.
Cronulla are currently placed second on 37 points and another upset would leave them feeling the pressure. While the minor premiership is within reach - the Storm are only 1 point ahead - a top two finish is theirs to lose. Importantly, two wins out of their remaining three matches would ensure a great finals draw.
The Sharks clearly have a real opportunity this year to break a 49-year jinx and claim their first-ever NRL premiership. To do so, they will need to snap out of their recent form slump before it gets any worse.