BREAKOUT YEAR: Chad Townsend of the Sharks is tackled during the round 4 NRL match between Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and Melbourne Storm.
BREAKOUT YEAR: Chad Townsend of the Sharks is tackled during the round 4 NRL match between Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and Melbourne Storm. CRAIG GOLDING

Sharks wary of Warriors’ offloads

RUGBY LEAGUE: Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend says the table-topping Sharks are determined to contain the Warriors’ second-phase attack in tomorrow’s intriguing NRL clash.

The former Warriors playmaker is well aware of the ball-playing threats posed by his old teammates after playing two seasons in Auckland before returning to his junior club this year.

Townsend said he was not surprised by their recent form revival after a slow start to the year.

“I’m still a big Warriors fan,” he said. “I obviously know the boys personally and know what it’s like to go through a couple of tough times and a couple of losses.

“But if people ever asked me, I said I backed the coach when I was there and I thought Cappy (coach Andrew McFadden) was doing a great job and I knew that they’d bounce back.

“They’ve got themselves back playing some good footy and we definitely know that we’re going to be in for a tough game this weekend.”

The 25-year-old believes limiting the visitors’ offloads and go-forward will reduce the impact of hooker Issac Luke, as the Sharks look to remain unbeaten at Southern Cross Group Stadium this season and extend their 10-match winning streak.

“Last weekend (against the Roosters) the amount of offloads they had was just unbelievable,” Townsend said.

“It was back to the old days and it was great to watch. That’s an area we’ll have to really knuckle down in to stop their offloads and second-phase.

“Off the back of that, Issac Luke had a lot of runs, and he’s definitely a big threat for us.”

A strong start to the season saw Townsend win a City Origin call-up and his game has continued to flourish alongside another former Warriors playmaker, James Maloney, who spent three seasons at Mt Smart Stadium between 2010 and 2012.

“It’s been great playing with Jimmy,” he said.

“His big-game experience and ability to take the right options at the right times in the pressure moments of games is something that I’m trying to learn off him and implement into my game.”

The pair played alongside Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson, offering the side direction and structure, but Townsend’s attacking role has broadened since his return to the Sharks.

“This year the coaches have really drilled into me the importance of support play.

“As a half you can easily fall out of the game by trying to get the structure on – when there’s a half-break or something, and you might be sitting back on your heels waiting for the set play.”

With the Sharks in their 50th season and looking strong contenders to claim their first premiership, Townsend insists the side is not getting carried away.

“We haven’t really accomplished anything yet while people are pumping up our tyres,” he said.

“We want to be playing our best footy at the end of the year so we still know there’s a long way to go.”

APNZ



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