Instead of the foot of the mountains and Penrith Stadium the Sharks will head even further west to take on the Panthers in this week’s round 20 clash, with the two teams to clash at the central west town of Bathurst.
In a match to be played at Carrington Park, the game matches a Panthers outfit looking to consolidate their position towards the top of the NRL ladder, against a Sharks side hoping to spoil the party and put a dent in their opponent’s finals aspirations.
The third time in their history the Sharks have played in Bathurst, they will need to be on their game if they hope to add to their perfect 2-0 record in the town recognised as Australia’s home of motor racing. And they’ll have to do it without the services of skipper Paul Gallen.
Battling a biceps tear Gallen tried to get through the final training run on Friday morning but with the injury having not having recovered sufficiently the Sharks inspirational captain won’t be joining his team on the bus for the journey west and will miss the match.
However despite the absence of Gallen and their lowly position on the competition table the Sharks trained strongly throughout the week and are confident of a bold showing against the Penrith side.
Andrew Fifita, with two games now under his belt following a frustrating run with injury, is intent on leading the charge up front, while the likes of Luke Lewis, Wade Graham and Michael Gordon will be keen to impress against their former club.
Sharks coach James Shepherd, who was this week confirmed as coach for the rest of the 2014 season, named a 19-man squad, with the final make up of his side to be determined tomorrow.
Chris Heighington was named as one of the six bench players, with the experienced back rower certain of a start on Saturday.
For the Panthers, currently in second position, the match gives them a chance at some sort of revenge, with the Sharks handing in one of their better performances for 2014 when they beat the Penrith team 24-20 in an exciting contest at Remondis Stadium earlier in the year.
The Sharks have in fact enjoyed some sort of dominance over the Panthers in recent years, having won four of the last five matches between them.
And in some positive news for the club, the Sharks secured another major corporate partner, with ENZED signing on as back of jersey sponsor for the remainder of the season, beginning with this match with the Panthers.
They join other recent Sharks sponsor acquisitions such as LabourHealth, LabourForce and Martec.
The match on Saturday has attracted plenty of interest in Bathurst and surrounding areas, with NRL fans sure to flock to Carrington Park to catch all the action. Three games will be played on the day, beginning with the NYC match at 10.40am, followe by NSW Cup at 12.40pm and the NRL clash at 3.00pm.
For Sharks fans unable to make the trip to Bathurst, all three games will be televised live on Fox Sports.