NRL Preview – Sharks v Roosters
Less than 12 months ago a Sharks side decimated by injury rebounded from a 24-point deficit to beat the Roosters 30-28 in what will be remembered as one of the great victories in club history.
It was a remarkable comeback and probably the highlight moment for the Cronulla side during the 2014 season.
Fast forward to 2015 and another trip to Allianz Stadium and while they will be hoping it doesn’t require similar heroics to get a win, it will be an equally desperate Sharks outfit again looking to upset a Roosters team rated amongst the leading contenders for this years’ crown.
Winless so far, the Sharks need a win to get off their duck and to kick start their 2015 campaign, but it wont be easy against a Roosters squad with long memories and out to atone for what went on last July.
“The weekend will present a lot of challenges but it will be a great achievement if we can get a win and beat the Roosters,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.
“Last week was heartbreaking. They worked very hard to get that win but we blew it in the end and it was disappointing for everyone, fans, sponsors and certainly the players and coaches.
“It’s been a tough couple of days since but they’re over that, they’ve trained pretty well this week and we’ve got a real focus on the Roosters this weekend,” he added.
Adding interest to the clash is the faith shown by Flanagan in his young gun Jack Bird, with the Wollongong product slated to slot in at five eighth after producing an outstanding cameo performance on debut last weekend.
While some may question the move, Flanagan was confident his teenage prodigy had the ability to handle the responsibilities involved with the positional switch.
“He’s got great utility value, he can play six , centre, wing and fullback and although starting at five eighth has come a little bit earlier than expected with the suspension of Benny Barba, now Jack gets an opportunity to grab that position and hold onto it for as long as he can,“ Flanagan said.
In his first taste of the NRL last weekend Bird played in the centres, while prior to that was used primarily as a back rower in the NYC competition by the Dragons last season. All that considered the coach has no doubt he will handle the role.
“He’s played a lot of five eighth, not at this level but coming through the grades and if you know Jack, he’s not afraid of anything. He wont be too concerned about who we’re playing this weekend. It’s just another footy game for him and he’ll be ready to rip and tear,” he said.
In other changes to the Sharks side another of the teenage brigade in Valentine Holmes moves from wing to fullback, in what appears to be a bid to get him more involved in the game, while Andrew Fifita will start the match from the interchange bench.
Both tactical switches are set to have a bearing on the result, with Holmes to add to the Sharks attacking potency due his electrifying speed, while in casting an eye back to the 2013 season, Fifita enjoyed a breakout year when injected into games as an interchange player.
But whatever combinations the Sharks come up with they will need to be on the top of their game should they hope to come away with the points against a Roosters side oozing class right across the paddock.
From Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at the back, to Michael Jennings in the centres and the halves pairing of James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, the Roosters have the attacking weapons to make teams pay for any defensive lapses.
In giving the Sharks a little more hope of what is possible over the past five years of matches played between the two teams the ledger reads five Cronulla wins against three to the Roosters.
As for the overall head to head, the clubs have played 87 times, for 56 Rooster wins, 29 to the Sharks, with two draws.
Sunday’s match is scheduled for a 4.00pm kick off at Allianz Stadium.
NOTE: For those Sharks fans unable to get to Allianz Stadium tomorrow, watch the match ‘live and loud’ from the Locker Room Sports Bar in Sharkies Leagues Club.