The next two weeks are set to provide the NSW Cup Sharks with a good yardstick as to their chances of a title defense in 2014 as they come up against the first and second placed teams in consecutive matches.
This weekend their first assignment sees the Sharks travelling to Ringrose Park to take on the Wentworthville Magpies on Sunday, before the Cronulla side then takes on the competition leading Penrith Panthers a week later.
Despite the difficulty of the task at hand on Sunday, the Sharks will field a strong line up for the match with the Magpies and after going down by just two points the last time the two teams met, will be confident about their chances of notching a victory.
As always, look for the attacking potency of Nathan Gardner at the back to have an impact on the result, while in the forwards, youngster Sione Masima could make a further push for an NRL debut with another strong performance.
Again Jamie Anderson from the NSWRL has produced a match preview, and once more while we don’t necessarily agree with his predicted outcome, we respect his opinion.
The game will be played at Ringrose Park, kicking off at 3.00pm on Sunday (not Saturday as wrongly reported on Shark.com.au earlier in the week).
Summary: A cracking match awaits us here when the second placed Magpies roll out the welcome mat for the seventh placed Sharks.
Wenty will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing outing in Auckland where they were almost blanked by the Warriors, while the Sharks bring some good form into this one having won their last two matches.
Wins over the Jets and Mounties have seen the Sharks move into seventh spot on the ladder, but such is the closeness of the competition, a loss could see them joined by the Knights (8th) on 22 points, while a win could see them join the fourth placed Cutters on 24 points.
These two sides produced one of the games of the season back in round nine when Wenty came from 18-0 down early to claim a two point 30-28 win over the Sharks at Henson Park.
Ryan Matterson scored a double for the Magpies that day, and has been named to return from suspension here. Ken Sio has been named at the back for Wenty which may see Justin Hunt shift to the wing, but if both end up playing, don’t be surprised to see them swap positions at some stage.
Travis Robinson comes into the Sharks starting side at the expense of Josh Portlock while Matt Prior has also been named at lock.
It was announced this week that Melbourne wouldn’t be continuing their association with Cronulla beyond the 2014 season, so look for last year’s premiers to try and finish on a high.
Family Fun Day: All of our clubs do a number of great things on and off the park right throughout the year, but Wenty’s annual ‘Family Fun Day’ is always right near the top of the list.
With plenty of rides for the kids, as well as a petting zoo, there is no shortage of things to keep the little ones happy.
And for the big kids, a host of Parramatta players and also the cheerleaders usually turn out, so you can grab an autograph or a picture.
It’s just a gold coin donation to get in and all of the rides and attractions are free, so if you are only going to head out to one game this year, pack the kids in the car, and make the trek to Ringrose Park this Sunday.
Prediction: Probably the toughest game of the weekend to predict a winner in. Tipping the home side by the barest of margins. Wenty by 1 (Tip courtesy NSWRL.com).
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Cronulla Sharks
Ringrose Park, Sunday, July 20
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of ALIVE fm (Link available via alive905.com.au)