If Coach Shane Flanagan has decided how to use his ace Ben Barba in the match against the Newcastle Knights tomorrow he is refusing to show his hand, with the utility training in a number of different positions at the Sharks final training run today.
Named on the interchange bench in jersey 14, Barba will be injected into the game at some stage, however where and when remains a mystery.
“Benny (Barba) is in our 17 but I haven’t made up my mind what way we will go there … you’ll just have to come to Remondis Stadium on Friday to find out,” Flanagan said.
With Jack Bird outstanding in the win over the Roosters the youngster retains his place at five eighth, while Valentine Holmes was equally impressive playing dual roles at fullback and wing last Sunday, adding even more intrigue as to how Barba will be utilised on Friday night.
However it won’t be all about one player, with the Sharks looking for another team performance as they hope to build on last weekend and what was their first win in five starts in 2015.
The Sharks were ruthless in defence and efficient in attack in recording a 20-12 win over the highly rated Roosters, the performance a vast improvement on their first four outings.
“We worked really hard through the first four rounds but didn’t get the results we wanted; the challenge now is to back up last week’s win,” Flanagan said.
This week the challenge about which the coach speaks is a considerable one against a Knights team which enjoyed four consecutive wins over the first four rounds, followed by a 13-0 defeat at the hands of the St George Illawarra Dragons at home last weekend.
The Knights have a potent backline featuring a number of attacking weapons, while their forward pack led by Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith will attempt to intimidate their opposition. They will however be missing enforcer Beau Scott who was injured in the Dragons loss last weekend.
While the Sharks second-biggest win in club history came against the Knights, a 64-14 win back in 2002, the Newcastle team has a solid record in games played at Remondis Stadium, with the ledger standing at 11-games apiece from the 22 times they’ve clashed.
In total head to head the Knights come out on top, with 27 wins against 16 for the Sharks, with one match drawn.
The game is the 1,150th in Sharks history, including home and away season as well as finals series matches.
And in another reminder to fans of both clubs, in a special arrangement with Transport NSW, train travel either locally or for Newcastle fans coming from the Hunter region, is included in ticket prices and Sharks membership options.
“Hopefully our fans will be out in force this week and Newcastle will bring some supporters with them as well, especially with the Sydney trains offer,” Flanagan said.
The match is scheduled to kick off at 7.35pm, with the NYC game getting underway at 5.20pm. Gates to Remondis Stadium open at 5.00pm.
Note: With the Sharks v Knights game being televised on delay by Channel 9, Remondis Stadium is the only place to catch all the action live.