A good performance by Cronulla against North Queensland on Friday night could be enough to earn interim coach James Shepherd the job for the rest of the year.
While a win would almost certainly guarantee Shepherd the position, a decent showing by the Sharks against the Cowboys could secure his spot as head coach until Shane Flanagan returns at the end of this season.
Cronulla were expected to find a short-term replacement for Peter Sharp, who quit his post as interim coach earlier this month. Shepherd enjoyed success in his first outing when the Sharks recorded an unlikely victory against Sydney Roosters, before they squandered an 18-0 lead against Newcastle last week.
The Sharks have been actively searching for someone to fill the head coaching vacancy, with the likes of Tim Sheens and Laurie Daley rejecting the club’s advances. Former St George Illawarra coach Steve Price also met Cronulla chief executive Steve Noyce last week. While Price may not coach the team this year, there is a possibility he could join Flanagan’s coaching staff next year.
The Sharks’ short turnaround from last Sunday’s loss to playing on Friday meant a decision did not happen this week.
It is understood that Brett Kimmorley and Steve Folkes were among those interested in coaching the squad this year.
A change would make it four different mentors for Cronulla players since Flanagan was banned in December.
With just seven games remaining, captain Paul Gallen has urged the Sharks to stick with Shepherd, who was once the club’s under-20s coach. Injured hooker John Morris has stepped in as assistant coach.
The chances of the last placed Sharks beating the Cowboys have been made more difficult with Gallen and Chris Heighington sidelined.
Unlike Sharp, Shepherd has said he feels comfortable as head coach and wants to continue in the role until the end of the year.
Rookie winger Jacob Gagan celebrated his rise to the NRL by signing a two-year contract extension with the club.