Star playmaker Todd Carney says the bad press haunting Cronulla over the first month of the NRL season played a significant role in the Sharks' horror start on the field.
The Sharks finally broke through for their first win of the season over the Warriors last Saturday after a troubled start in which they scored just five tries in their first four games.
Cronulla dealt admirably with the constant speculation surrounding the Asada investigation last year to progress to the second week of the semifinals, but Carney said the continued drama surrounding the club this year got the players down.
A number of issues including the continued spectre of the Asada investigation, doubt over suspended coach Shane Flanagan's role with the club, Andrew Fifita's contract situation, talk of possible relocation and criticism of the club's poor onfield form have dogged the Sharks early this season.
Carney said it was affecting the players.
"You have to address those things," he said. "When there is so much publicity and so much criticism of the way we are playing and where the club is going and we are not scoring points it is hard.
"But as players we have to try and keep a cool head and keep our spirits up, to get the two points at home is a bonus for us and we have to keep building.
"We had only won two games this time last season and when I was at the Roosters we lost four games in a row and went on to make the grand final so it can be done. It's just that losing four games at the start of the season is something else."
Carney was critical of his own early season form, after missing the first two rounds with a hamstring injury. He said halfback Jeff Robson's return from facial injuries for his first game of the season against the Warriors helped him find his groove.
"I thought against the Dragons [in round three] I was quite impressed with way I went," he said. "Last week against Newcastle I was off the pace. That was a reality check, I got ahead of myself but to have Robbo back this week really helped me."