Caretaker Cronulla coach Josh Hannay admits his side are downtrodden and hurt after their horror month culminated in the second biggest flogging in the club’s history.
Sitting eighth on the ladder a month ago, the Sharks have since seen their season spiral out of control with five straight losses and had popular coach John Morris sacked.
They have conceded 158 points in that five-week period, with their 48-0 hammering from Penrith on Friday night only dwarfed by a 70-point loss to Parramatta in late 2003.
“They’re down, there is no shying away from that,” Hannay said.
“They take a lot of pride in their performance and wearing the jersey. This is hurting them, no-one is sitting there as if if it’s water off a duck’s back.
“They are hurting because they care for the club and they care for each other.
“It’s a tough period. I have been through tough periods as a player and as a coach and only hard work gets you through it.”
Hannay went through a similar experience last year, having taken over North Queensland at their lowest ebb after Paul Green’s exit.
But while the Cowboys’ season was over when Hannay took charge, Cronulla still had hope of a seventh straight finals series when Morris was marched.
The Sharks have also been hit hard by injury since, with just 21 players available for selection this week.
Andrew Fifita could come back for Magic Round against South Sydney as Morris eyes his experience, but centre Jesse Ramien has suffered a suspected facial fracture.
“What I’ll say about the group is they’ve got great camaraderie, and that’s important through times like these,” Hannay said.
“They’re very much united, and they’re very much determined to turn this thing around.
“They want or desire to do better – and that’s critical.”
Meanwhile, Hannay shied away from confirming that Matt Moylan would partner Shaun Johnson in the halves next week.
On return from injury, Moylan came on after Chad Townsend was essentially hooked with half an hour to play.
Johnson was also far from his best, three weeks back from last year’s season-ending achilles injury.
“I don’t like the word ‘hooked’,” Hannay argued.
“It wasn’t anything to do with Chad’s performance, it was just a plan to get Matt on for any one of those guys.
“If we were on the front foot and things were going well, I wouldn’t have put Matt on and destabilised our footy.
“But it was a chance to get Matt on his preferred left side.
“So I wouldn’t be speculating moving forward as to what that means.”