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Sharks stick tight despite distractions

For all the focus on Cronulla in 2013, lost amongst the ASADA investigation into the NRL club is the Sharks' on-field success.
Sharks stick tight despite distractions
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, Aug 9 AAP - For all the focus on Cronulla in 2013, lost amongst the ASADA investigation into the NRL club is the Sharks' on-field success.

Still searching for a first premiership, the Sharks - sixth on the ladder - seem poised to have a serious tilt at the title, provided the off-field distractions don't tear the club apart.

Their preparations for Saturday night's home game against Newcastle have again been impacted by the ASADA probe with several players believed to have recently held their interviews with the anti-drug agency.

But the squad has shown a remarkable ability to shift focus to games throughout the season.

"We're not really listening to what everyone's saying about us with the off-field incidents, we're just trying to keep it under wraps," centre Jonathan Wright said on Friday.

"... just making sure we come away with the two points, that's the main thing at the moment.

"If we're going under the radar, that doesn't really bother us too much.

"We're just playing our footy, (hopefully) make the finals and see what happens."

With the increasing likelihood that any possible sanction against players or the club in relation to the drugs investigation will affect future seasons rather than 2013, the Sharks are channelling all their energy into a deep run into the finals.

They appear to be timing their run well, with NSW back-rower Luke Lewis excepted to return from a calf strain against the Knights, his comeback coming just one week after skipper Paul Gallen was welcomed back to the fold.

"We've had a few players out during the season and we're still winning games, which has been a positive," Wright said.

"As we're going through the next few games, boys keep coming back."

The Knights are also set to get a boost with skipper Kurt Gidley expected to make a long-awaited return from a foot injury in his first bit of action since round 11.

Newcastle lost their first three games without Gidley, but have lost just once in five games since.

It has them clinging to eighth on the ladder, but a loss on Saturday night could drop them to tenth.

Should Gidley get on the field, it appears he and veterans Craig Gower and Danny Buderus will share the halfback and hooking roles - with Tyrone Roberts missing out.

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