Wade Graham of the Sharks is tackled by the Broncos defence in round 23.
Wade Graham of the Sharks is tackled by the Broncos defence in round 23. DARREN ENGLAND

Sharks won't risk star pair unless top four's in reach

REIGNING premier Cronulla will not be risking Wade Graham and Jack Bird against the Knights on Sunday unless the Sharks have a chance of making the NRL top four.

Bird has a shoulder problem while Graham has a corked calf and the Sharks will wait until the result of Friday night's game between the Eels and the Rabbitohs before deciding on whether to play the duo.

If the resurgent Rabbitohs can upset the Eels it will open the door for the Sharks to jump into fourth with a win, giving them a second bite at the cherry during the finals.

Veteran Sharks back-rower Luke Lewis said the club wouldn't risk the key duo unless there was something on the line against the Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Graham had to be assisted from the field in last week's loss to the Sydney Roosters and has this week been restricted to the club gym and training away from the main squad.

"He's training really well, he's on top of his injury at the moment," Lewis said of Graham.

"I'm not too sure if he'll play at this point in time.

"We'll wait until Friday night and see what the result is with Parramatta and Souths.


Jack Bird of the Sharks is injured during the Round 22 NRL match between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Canberra Raiders at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney, Saturday, August 5, 2017. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jack Bird of the Sharks goes down injured in round 22 agains the Raiders. CRAIG GOLDING

"I think if Parramatta lose he'll probably end up playing; if they win and we can't benefit from it, they'll end up giving him the week off and get the body right for one of the semis."

Centre Bird has been named on an extended bench in the squad to take on the Knights after being close to a comeback against the Roosters last week.

After missing the past three weeks, he has returned to training with the Sharks squad but coach Shane Flanagan will keep him in cotton wool if there's nothing to play for.

"(Bird) is looking outstanding, he's been training really well and doing a lot of fitness and he was back on the park the other day," Lewis said.

"I think he's keen to get back on the field.

"I'm pretty sure, depending on results on Friday night, we'll end up giving him one more week just to make sure he's 100% right."