The NSW Cup Sharks have started 2014 in a similar fashion to the way they finished off 2013, with two wins from two starts again stamping them as the team to beat in this years NSW Cup competition.
The Sharks were a little scratch in registering a 20-12 win over the Tigers in their last outing, however when considering the players unavailable due to the injury crisis affecting the NRL squad, the victory was meritorious.
This week for their round three clash against the Illawarra Cutters the Sharks welcome a couple of key players back into the team, while the Storm have provided some quality in the backs with Justin O’Neil making the trip north to play for the NSW Cup Sharks under the joint venture arrangement.
Once again Brad Preston from NSWRL.com has delivered a match preview, with the game against the Cutters the first of three matches to be played at Remondis Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is at 2.40pm.
Summary: It may be a new year in the VB NSW Cup but for the Sharks some things haven’t changed. Two wins from as many starts to begin the season for the side from the Shire sees them once again putting up their hand as the team to beat.
Despite a raft of injury concerns, Coach Tony Herman has once again proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the competition by plugging in several replacement players into his system and still achieving the desired result.
The Cutters gained their first point of the 2014 season last weekend when they returned from Auckland with a point following their 12-all draw with the Warriors at Eden Park.
It was a match that the Cutters may well have won but having said that, if a late field goal attempt from the Warriors had been successful, they might have gone home with nothing to show for their effort, so perhaps a draw was not a bad result.
Some big inclusions this week for the Sharks with Penani Manumalealii returning to the side after making his NRL debut on Monday night. He will also be joined by Isaac De Gois and Justin O’Neill.
For the Cutters, they are largely unchanged however they have lost the services of Matt Groat’ with his place in the starting line up to be taken by Rory O’Brien.
Justin the nick of time: The Sharks are currently undergoing a significant injury crisis at present, so it must be nice to be able to call upon the services of Storm flyer, Justin O’Neill.
A former Junior Kangaroo and Maroons squad member, O’Neill is returning from injury and will be looking for a solid hit out prior to raising his hand for first grade over the coming rounds.
Prediction: Almost impossible to tip against the Sharks these days but look for the Cutters to make them earn it. Sharks by 8.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Illawarra Cutters
Remondis Stadium, Saturday, March 22
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au