The Sharks have a virtual NRL team on the sidelines this weekend, with the likes of Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis and Jeff Robson all sidelined.
They are set to field a team bearing little to no resemblance to the side which everybody had imagined would be representing the club in round 13 of the 2014 premiership.
However that doesn’t mean the Sharks head to Wollongong without confidence they can get the job done and put a halt to a three game losing streak, with coach Peter Sharp pleased with the attitude of his team at the final training session on Friday morning.
“They ripped in and trained well,” Sharp said. “We have a few missing but it is what it is and we have to deal with it. In saying that effort is a non-negotiable and these boys are ready to give me plenty of that and will have go tomorrow night.”
While Fa’amanu Brown has attracted a deal of publicity and chat on social media channels after making an impression earlier this year in the Auckland Nines, not so much is known about fellow debutant Jacob Gagan who joins Brown in the team to play the Dragons tomorrow.
A hard running outside back with good size and speed, Gagan has been in solid form in the NSW Cup and might just surprise a few in his first game in the top grade this weekend.
A Cabramatta junior who came through the Parramatta junior rep system before being picked up by the Manly club, Gagan transferred to the Sharks at the beginning of this season, Gagan was a member of the 2010 Australian Schoolboys side.
Gagan and Brown will become the 488th and 489th players to represent the Sharks at the top level, with Brown to partner Daniel Holdsworth in the halves and Gagan to take up one of the wing spots in the absence of Sosaia Feki, Jonathan Wright and the recently retired Beau Ryan.
In other team changes, Nathan Gardner has been called into the squad at fullback, forcing Michael Gordon to switch to the centres. Gardner has been one of the best for the NSW Cup side in recent weeks and will make an impact if he can bring that good form with him into the NRL team.
In the forwards, Luke Lewis is in doubt, with the very capable Tupou Sopoaga on standby should he be unable to take his place in the side.
With Paul Gallen out of action with a neck problem, Wade Graham will captain the Sharks team.
The match is set down for a 7.30pm kickoff at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, with the NYC at 5.15pm and the NSW Cup getting underway at 1.10pm.
Photo - Jacob Gagan playing NSW Cup for the Sharks v Manly earlier this season