Three Sharks shouldn't have played: Morris

Cronulla star Briton Nikora (C) shrugged off injury to star in their comeback win over Penrith.
Cronulla star Briton Nikora (C) shrugged off injury to star in their comeback win over Penrith.

One player withdrew before the game, three should have joined him, and another waved the trainer away in the first half.

But a busted Cronulla side showed plenty of character to overcome their injury issues - and a 14-point deficit against Penrith - to get their NRL season back on track on Thursday.

Already missing star trio Matt Moylan, Wade Graham and Aaron Woods, the Sharks lost winger Sione Katoa in the build-up to face Penrith.

And while skipper Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita passed late fitness tests to play, coach John Morris admitted neither should've played against the Panthers.

"Just talking to Andrew (after the game), even in warm-up, he felt like he wasn't sure how he's going to be able to contribute," Morris said.

Another player, Josh Dugan, who was shifted to wing in favour of debutant fullback Will Kennedy, almost pulled out due to a bout of gastro on Wednesday night.

"He was going to be ruled out before the game," Morris said of Dugan.

And to top it off, second-rower Briton Nikora's night appeared over after he copped a knock to the hip late in the first half at PointsBet Stadium.

But not only did the rookie second-rower play after halftime, he broke into the backfield and produced an audacious chip kick that resulted in a penalty try.

Morris said Nikora was still in pain after the match.

"It's amazing. He's six games into his career and he pushes away our medical staff and we're probably just getting ready to bring him off," Morris said.

"We had the interchange card in our hand to get him off and he found a way to get back into the defensive line.

"Ten minutes later, he's finding those breaks and doing chip over the top and setting up tries.

"He's just a wonderful kid and great for his development to be able to play through some pain and still be really effective the way he was."

It was a courageous effort from the Sharks, who were staring at a fourth loss in six games before fighting back from 14 points down with 16 minutes remaining.

"I said to them all week, 'It's about our character this week'," Morris said.

"I think that's what it was won on, really."

Australian Associated Press