The NRL's decision to make Cronulla play two games without their State of Origin stars may prove the biggest test in the Sharks' title defence, coach Shane Flanagan says.
Ahead of Thursday night's clash with North Queensland, Flanagan has revealed he confronted the NRL over the defending champions' draw during Origin.
'It's a strange one. A club that produces four or five Origin players year after year and we have to play two games during Origin without our representative players,' he said.
'I spoke about it to the NRL at the start of the year but it is not going to change.
'We just have to get on with it.'
While Sharks skipper Paul Gallen is not expected to feature for NSW, Cronulla could still lose up for four players - fullback Valentine Holmes (Queensland), pivot James Maloney, prop Andrew Fifita and centre Jack Bird (NSW).
They will be without their Origin stars in their next round clash with Canterbury and in round 15 against Wests Tigers.
They receive a bye ahead of Origin III.
Flanagan said the potential effect Origin duty had on Cronulla's spine could prove to be the toughest challenge as they plot their title defence.
'It's definitely going to be a difficult challenge where we've got to play games without our Origin players,' he said.
'We will probably lose Val and Jimmy (Maloney) so we will have to adapt differently than what we did in previous years when we had forwards Gal, Wade (Graham) and Andrew (Fifita out).
'It hadn't really impacted on our spine (in the past). It will definitely impact on us this year.
'It's a good chance for the rest of the club to step up.'
Flanagan may not be a fan of their draw but the second placed Sharks do have one advantage during Origin - they start a run of five straight home games when they take on the Cowboys.
Not that it provided much solace for Flanagan.
The Cronulla coach admitted he was concerned about their home form after winning just one of four games at Shark Park this year - a one point round five victory over lowly Newcastle.
In last year's premiership season, the Sharks won 11 of 12 at home including 10 straight.
'It is a concern but we have five games at home now - we have to address it,' Flanagan said.
'I can't put my finger on why we haven't been so good at home.
'But we would like to think we can start a bit of a run at home (against the Cowboys).
'It's an important game. We need to get a bit of a kick along for that Origin period.'