Shark Moylan flourishes without captaincy

Steve Zemek
Matt Moylan is enjoying life at the Sharks without the captaincy burden

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan insists Matt Moylan has flourished in the Shire because he's not being burdened by the captaincy and leadership.

The battle between Moylan and his opposite No.6 James Maloney will take on star billing when the Sharks meet the Panthers in Friday's NRL semi-final at Allianz Stadium following their off-season club swap.

This time last year Moylan was on his way out the door at Penrith after a reported falling out with coaching staff and club management over his work ethic and commitment to rehabilitating a hamstring injury.

Moylan's departure generated shockwaves given he was a Penrith junior, had signed a five-year deal in 2016 and up until late last season was the club captain.

After a steep learning curve at his new club he's slowly but surely emerged as a central figure in the Sharks' strong run into the finals.

Asked if Moylan had been freed up because he no longer had the captaincy next to his name, Flanagan said: "I definitely think that's part of it.

"Sometimes we think players are going to be good leaders because they're your best players. That doesn't work all the time.

"Matty might have fallen into that category a little bit. He was a rep player out at Penrith but he was't their leader.

"Here he's got some really good leadership above him, he's got Gal (skipper Paul Gallen), Luke Lewis, some players that have been around a long period of time, so he can sit back and play football."

Flanagan said there was no secret to unlocking Moylan's best football, saying he was just happy and settled at the club.

"He's worked hard in areas that he was reported to not be real good at," Flanagan said.

"It was pretty well reported that his rehab and his work in the gym and all that other sort of stuff (wasn't up to scratch), that he was just a natural footballer.

"He's worked really hard in getting his body right and he's played a majority of our games this year. He's happy, he's got a good support network here and senior players and staff."

The Sharks are expected to welcome back Jesse Ramien (ankle) with Josh Dugan to drop out (shoulder).

Panthers coach Cameron Ciraldo said his side would be as per the named line-up.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Cronulla are ranked in the top three for fewest points conceded (17.8 per game), tries conceded (2.9 per game) and linebreaks conceded (3.5 per game).

* Penrith have not won two straight finals match since 2003-04.

* In the first half Penrith are scoring 8.2 points per game (ranked 14th) but in the second half they are scoring the most points (13.6 per game).

Source: Fox Sports Stats.