NRL preview – Sharks v Panthers #NRLCROPEN
The final training session was set to hold the key with the Sharks looking to unleash perhaps their strongest team of the 2014 season.
Missing a number of their stars through the first seven rounds of the competition, the Sharks welcomed back skipper Paul Gallen last weekend against the Roosters, with his wholehearted efforts taking his team within a whisker of an upset victory over the defending NRL premiers.
This Saturday afternoon, while Gallen will again lead the charge, the Sharks could potentially be bolstered by the return of a handful of their injured stars, with Beau Ryan, Anthony Tupou and Luke Lewis racing the clock to be fit in time for the kickoff to the Panthers clash.
Named as 18th man, Ryan is perhaps the most likely of the trio to play on Saturday, with coach Peter Sharp to make a decision as to where he might fit into his starting line up following the teams’ final training session on Friday.
Ryan was cleared by his specialist this week after undergoing neck surgery in the off-season and is known to be keen on a return to the field as soon as possible.
As for Lewis and Tupou, should they also come through Friday mornings’ captain’s run unscathed there is every chance they will be slotted back into the Sharks team for what is a must-win game against a Penrith side nicely positioned inside the top eight.
With just one win from their seven starts so far this season, Sharp is acutely aware the tide has to turn or the chances of playing finals football will slip quickly away.
“We played better (against the Roosters) and the effort was there, but we’re in the business of winning footy games and we’ve just got to win one,” Sharp said.
Winning against a Penrith team that has surprised many with their performances to date will be no easy feat, with the Panthers coming to Remondis Stadium on the back of a hard fought win over the Titans last weekend.
The Panthers will run out three players very familiar with the surrounds at Remondis, with former Sharks Kevin Kingston, David Simmons and the most recent Sharks-to-Panthers transfer Tyrone Peachey, members of their 17-man side.
Prop Jeremy Latimore was another to play lower grades at the Sharks without making an NRL appearance and is included on the Penrith interchange bench.
Sitting at the bottom of the NRL points table the Sharks will hope to begin their climb up the ladder on Saturday, while the seventh-placed Panthers are looking to consolidate their position inside the top eight.
The match is scheduled for a ‘family friendly’ 3.00pm kickoff time, with the NSW Cup match at 12.45pm and the NYC getting proceedings underway at 10.40am.
The Sharks are also continuing to offer a special $50 family ticket price, which includes general admission entry for two adults and two children. The $50 price represents a $20 saving on the normal ticket price and is available via pre-purchase only by going to the ticketing link on the Sharks website or by visiting the Sharks Store in Sharkies Leagues club.
In commemorating the Anzac Day weekend the Sharks are also admitting current armed servicemen and women, as well as veterans free of charge.