Sharks turn tide on Dragons NRL rivalry

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan believes the Sharks are turning the table on local rivals St George Illawarra to the point where they could now almost consider themselves the bigger brother.

Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop (right) is one who agrees the power has shifted in Sydney's south.

Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop (right) is one who agrees the power has shifted in Sydney's south.

The southern derby is one of the closest rivalries in the NRL, with the Red V holding a slender 20-19 advantage in the head-to-head record during the merged era.

Matches between the sides have been split in six of the past seven years, a stark contrast to the early days when the Sharks won just on of their first 12 derbies between 1967 and 1971. They trailed St George 40-32 until the 1998 merger with Illawarra.

Flanagan himself made his first grade debut for St George in 1987, playing three games for the club that season before moving to Western Suburbs and eventually Parramatta.

He believes the advantage has swung to the Sharks by virtue of their maiden title success and having qualified for the past three finals series.

"Being in the Shire for most my life you understand the passion the Sharks originally had against the Dragons, the big brother," Flanagan said.

"But I think it's flipped around a little bit over time with us winning the competition in 2016.

"I even heard one of their players, Gareth Widdop, talking about us being the big brother which is great for us.

"We've turned the tide a little bit."

For the second season in a row the derbies will be over in the early part of the year, with the two sides set to face off again in round six in Wollongong.

While the Dragons were one of the most impressive teams of the opening round of the season against Brisbane, the Sharks fell into old habits in their six-point loss to North Queensland.

They completed at just 63 per cent - less than their league-low 74 per cent in last year's title defence - while they also gave away 10 penalties.

"We had 15 errors and we're back where we were last year," Flanagan said.

"We worked hard in the off-season to eliminate the errors and the penalties, and I think the penalties were 10-6 and the errors were 15 each.

"A lot of those ones, there's probably five penalties we can get rid of, and a similar amount of errors coming out of territory or trying to push passes if we can get rid of them out of our game we're going to be a force."

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