A resounding victory over the Newtown Jets at their last start has confidence high once again amongst the Sharks NSW Cup team who managed to edge back into the top eight with their win last weekend.
Sitting eighth but just two points behind the competition leaders, the Sharks face a tough assignment against Panthers team featuring a sprinkling of youth and NRL experience.
The Sharks have named a strong line up with Nathan Gardner making a successful return from injury in the 46-10 victory at their last start. He again take his place in the Sharks team, with Gardner to be joined by the likes of Daniel Holdsworth, Nathan Stapleton, Matt Prior and Michael Lichaa, while Tupou Sopoaga returns after a stint in the Sharks NRL side.
The match is scheduled for a 12.40pm kickoff at Remondis Stadium. For those Sharks fans who cant get to the ground in time to catch the NSW Cup action, the match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports.
Brad Preston from NSWRL.com has provided his weekly match preview.
Summary: This matchup, between what is effectively last year’s grand finalists, is the one VB NSW Cup fans have been waiting for.
Whiz kid Dallin Watene-Zelezniak returns for the Panthers this weekend, making the Panthers’ back three one of the most potent in the competition once you add Eto Nabuli and Kevin Naiqama into the mix.
Nathan Gardner was a late inclusion for coach Tony Herman last weekend and he has again been named to start at fullback for the defending premiers. Ben Hampton has been named at five-eighth but the Storm has indicated he will play in their ANZAC Day clash against the Warriors, with Pat Politoni or Kurt Mann his likely replacement.
With injuries starting to clear up at both clubs, the scary thing for other teams in the competition is that these teams are going to be boosted by some more high profile inclusions in the coming weeks.
While the Sharks sit in eighth on the competition table, they are only one win behind the first-placed Mounties side.
Sharks Coach Tony Herman said he would have been happy to scrape through with a few wins due to the injuries sustained in the top squad but we think he would be more than happy with where the Sharks sit with almost a third of the competition completed.
A sign of the times: It is plain and clear to see just how far the VB NSW Cup has come in a few years. More than 20 players with NRL experience will line up for this Fox Sports television match.
With a mix of seasoned veterans and some of the best emerging talent in the game, VB NSW Cup fans should be excited about the future of the competition.
Prediction: Tough to split these two teams with the amount of talent they possess. The Sharks to sneak home by two on the back of their home crowd.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Penrith Panthers
Remondis Stadium, Saturday, April 27
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ and Radio coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury FM (hawkesburyradio.com.au/index.cfm)