Sharks pair in doubt for Cowboys NRL clash

Sharks' Chad Townsend (r) was forced off against Wests with a hamstring injury.
Sharks' Chad Townsend (r) was forced off against Wests with a hamstring injury.

Cronulla's horror start to the NRL season could get a lot worse with key duo Chad Townsend and Andrew Fifita in some doubt for next week's trip to Townsville.

Townsend failed to finish Saturday's disappointing loss to the Wests Tigers after succumbing to a hamstring issue late in the second half.

Coach John Morris believes his halfback suffered the injury only minutes before getting beat by David Nofoaluma for a crucial 64th-minute try.

"I don't wanna make any excuses for him, but he was under the pump. He was struggling a little bit with it," Morris said of Townsend's injury.

"That's probably a reflection of our night. We gave them some real cheap points and that was obviously a pretty ordinary moment in the second half for us."

Morris conceded Townsend could be forced to sit out next week, which could result in Matt Moylan shifting back to the halves.

Moylan missed the opening fortnight of the season with a calf problem, but played 50 minutes off the bench in a middle forward role.

Morris also suggested playmaker Connor Tracey could be an option.

"I'd have to say Chad would be 50-50 at best. With a hamstring, you don't normally turn them around within a week," he said.

"So if that's the case, Moyza would slot back into the halves.

"Connor's done a fantastic job for us as well in the pre-season and unfortunately missed out tonight but he's been super impressive in everything he's done.

"I'd like to Connor out there as well."

Morris also admits the possibility of dropping a fourth straight game to start the season could force them to risk fielding Fifita against North Queensland.

The Tonga international was a late scratching from the Tigers loss due to a knee issue he's been dealing with for most of the season.

"Given it's all back-to-back games now, you can't plan to rest," Morris said.

"And we're a bit short there in the middle as it is, we've got to be certain that when we do bring him back, it's not going to give him any more grief.

"So we've just got to get the timing right. Given we lost today, we might be inclined to push him for next week. Hopefully we get him back."

Australian Associated Press