Sharks captain Paul Gallen has fired back, after Phil Gould claimed Cronulla's long-awaited maiden NRL premiership came in what "ended up being a fairly soft competition".
Penrith supremo and Channel Nine commentator Gould raised the ire of Sharks fans by saying they were "the last man standing", after several previously-strong sides fell away in 2016.
"I read the quotes this morning," Gallen told the Sunday Footy Show. "I don't know in what context he meant them, but if he somehow meant that the 2016 competition was somehow flawed or soft, I've got to say I find that insulting.
"And I think the whole club would as well. As a group of 25 or 30 players and staff, we trained our backside off, like 16 other clubs from November.
"We beat the Melbourne Storm, we beat the reigning premiers [North Queensland] the week before to make the grand final ...
I find those comments pretty disappointing."
Gould said on the new Six Tackles with Gus podcast that the Sharks' premiership victory came in a competition where some recent powerhouses dropped away.
He pointed out that South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and Manly - who have dominated the competition for the last decade - had poor seasons.
"The 2016 competition ended up being a fairly soft competition," Gould said. "There were a lot of teams that have been at the top of your list there for a number of years - the Roosters and Bulldogs and South Sydney and Manly - these clubs fell by the wayside very early.
"You could even tell from the middle of the season that the two clubs that were so great at the start of the year - Brisbane and the Cowboys - weren't going to be able to keep it going until the end.
"The Sharks, to me, were the experienced team, the hard-nosed team that were last man standing."