Match preview – Sharks v Raiders
The Sharks will have a captains run on Saturday morning as they wind up preparations for their season opening clash against the Canberra Raiders the following afternoon.
After a long pre-season everything is readiness for the start of 2015, with a near full strength Sharks outfit looking to begin their campaign on a winning note.
The Sharks are set to field a team featuring a handful of new faces alongside the returning stars, Ben Barba, Michael Ennis and Gerard Beale bolstering a squad that features Sharks and NSW captain Paul Gallen, representative prop Andrew Fifita and quality players the like of Michael Gordon, Wade Graham and Jeff Robson.
While the trials have seen various combinations tried and tested, Sunday will be the first official outing for the halves partnership of Barba and Robson, with Gallen full of praise for his new five eighth and confident he can do an important job for his team beginning Sunday.
“He has been really good,” Gallen told the Sydney Morning Herald in relation to Barba “A lot of people have asked me. I haven’t anything but good things to say about him. He has just trained well. I don’t know what he was like at training in the past, if he relied on natural ability or not (but) he has worked really hard.”
Barba himself admitted he probably didn’t arrive in the Shire in peak fitness back in November, however he has done the hard yards and is ready to produce in his debut match for the Sharks this weekend.
“I knew I had to train harder than what I was used to because I had to lose a little bit of weight and try and work to find that speed and pace again,” Barba said. “I did put a little bit more of an effort in. Hopefully it all works out for me come Sunday and it gets me out of the blocks.”
Although much of the focus has been on the Robson-Barba pairing, the Sharks halfback preferred to talk about what will be his first outing alongside another of the new boys in Ennis, with Robson eager to see what the former Bulldog can bring to the team.
"I'm excited about playing some footy with him; he's a great player and he really steers the forwards around in the middle of the park really well," Robson said on NRL.COM. "That makes my job a lot easier, I'm really looking forward to playing with him."
However as confident and upbeat as the Sharks might be, coach Shane Flanagan realises his team will need to be on their game if they hope to put two early competition points on the board.
“The Canberra Raiders don’t care how well we prepare of what changes we’ve made, they will come here equally ready to play and looking to spoil the party,” Flanagan warned.
As for the likely Sharks 17-man side, Saturday’s last session will determine the final team. Youngsters Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes have been named on an extended bench but it remains to be seen whether they will take part in the game on Sunday.
The Sharks v Raiders clash is scheduled to kick off at 6.30pm on Sunday at Remondis Stadium, with the NYC match at 4.15pm and gates opening at 4.00pm.
Sunday is also a Family Fun Day, featuring plenty of activities for the kids and new fan interactions for members and supporters of all ages.
Transport – Getting to the Game – plus parking information
Parking is strictly limited in and around Remondis Stadium and patrons are encouraged to make use of the Sydney Trains Integrated Ticketing and complimentary Sharks Shuttle Service.
The Sharks have worked with Sydney Trains to include train travel in the cost of tickets to all home games at Remondis Stadium this season, complemented by a free shuttle service from local train stations at Sutherland, Miranda, Caringbah, Woolooware and Cronulla.
Trains will run every 15 minutes.