Sharks out to tame the Tigers
The predictions were for a one sided affair, with as much as 34.5 points start being offered by betting agencies on a Cronulla side decimated by injury and suspension.
However with 19 players from their original NRL squad unavailable, 18 of those having played at some stage in the top grade side during the current season, the one point loss to the Cowboys was a memorable and courageous effort as the Sharks came within a Johnathan Thurston golden point field goal of producing the upset of the year.
At home watching on from the comfort of his lounge room, second rower Luke Lewis, one of many at the Sharks to have endured a wretched season with injury, was suitably impressed by the effort in Townsville.
“It was awesome to sit back as a player and watch the boys, the way they have come together and then played so well on Monday night,” Lewis said. “There were guys who played probably three or four first grade games and they were coming up against a North Queensland side that have won eight or nine on the trot up there.
“I think we are certainly going to be a lot better for it next year.”
But before next year rolls around the Sharks have one more assignment to complete their 2014 campaign, that being against the Wests Tigers, another club to have gone through a frustrating season.
Having unfortunately wrapped up the wooden spoon after narrow losses the past two weeks the Sharks go into the contest without too much to play for, although if the effort on Monday night was anything to go by there is still enough pride in the club to indicate they are in with a definite shot of finishing a disappointing season on a winning note.
Bolstering the Sharks side will be the return of Tinirau Arona, along with young hooker Michael Lichaa, with the pair missing from the team which played in North Queensland last week.
Arona’s experience will provide a boost to the young forwards around him, while Lichaa’s work out of dummy half should enhance the Sharks attacking options.
The two teams have met once already in 2014, that clash coming back in round 10 in a match where the Sharks led during the second half before eventually being run down by the Wests Tigers in a 22-20 loss.
With two vastly different playing rosters to last time around, the match up will be an intriguing one, with both teams fielding young and inexperienced, albeit certain to be extremely enthusiastic squads.
If they are to be on the positive side of the ledger come full time on Saturday, the Sharks wil need similar performances from their older statesmen, with Chris Heighington, Michael Gordon and Jeff Robson leading the way in Townsville.
Heighington in particular was outstanding on Monday night in perhaps his best game since joining the Cronulla club, while Gordon was his usual busy self, running for over 200-metres while defusing almost all the attacking kicks put through to him by Thurston.
The main game is scheduled for a 3.00pm kick-off at Leichhardt Oval, with the Sharks v Tigers NYC match to get underway at 10.40am.