The under-18 Sharks SG Ball squad completed their preparations last night, while the Matthews Cup boys will have their captains run tonight ahead of their respective Grand Final matches at Leichhardt Oval tomorrow.
The two Sharks teams will create history regardless of the results, with having both squads in the competition deciders in the same year a first for the Cronulla club.
The under-16 Matthews side enjoyed a consistent season, culminating in a three-match winning streak through the finals series.
After finishing fifth at the end of the home and away rounds following a four win, three loss and one draw season, the young Sharks kicked into gear with a 34-18 victory over Manly, a 56-28 demolition of Western Suburbs, before proving too good in their preliminary finals match against the Bulldogs.
(*see match highlights below)
In abysmal conditions the Sharks still managed seven tries in a 38-18 triumph last weekend and despite now facing an undefeated Eels side, will head into the match confident of a bold showing.
While their progression to the Grand Final has been built on a team effort, coach Glenn Brailey will again look for bulldozing prop Fine Kula to lead the way, while centres Bronson Xerri and Semisi Kioa have also proven hard to handle throughout the year.
Captain Lachlan Smith will attempt to lead from the front once again, while halfback Luke Metcalf, the competitions leading scorer with 110 points for the year, is sure to try to exploit any weaknesses in the Eels defensive structure.
In the SG Ball three to four weeks ago nobody would have predicted a Sharks v Rabbitohs decider after the teams finished eighth and seventh respectively on the competition table.
Forced to win their final three games of the year just to make the top eight, their last win coincidently coming against Souths, the Ball Sharks have since been on an impressive roll, capped off by their 12-0 win over the Panthers at St Marys last Saturday.
(*see match highlights below)
In what was described by their coach Dave Howlett as being perhaps the best defensive performance he has been associated with during his coaching career, the Sharks shut down the heavily favoured Penrith side in qualifying for the Grand Final this weekend.
As indicated earlier, the Sharks did have some success against Souths in their only meeting this year, coming away 20-8 winners in the round nine match at Redfern Oval, however Howlett and his team are under no illusions as to the enormity of the task awaiting them at Leichhardt tomorrow.
The list of outstanding performers for the Ball Sharks this year, especially during their run to the Grand Final, is a long one, however captain Curtis Scott and lock Billy Magoulias, two of the more experienced players in the side, deserve praise for keeping the team rolling along during the difficult times they encountered earlier in the season.
Of late the likes of fullback Will Kennedy, halves Kyle Flanagan, Jack Williams and Jaiden Brown since returning from a broken jaw, had added both control and spark to the attack, while props Daniel Vasquez and Brock Illet have provided the go-forward in the middle of the field.
The Matthews Sharks are attempting to become the fourth Sharks team to claim that title, while a win for the Sharks 18’s would a club first in the SG Ball competition.
The games are scheduled for 11.00am (Matts Cup) and 1.00pm (SG Ball) at Leichhardt Oval, however for those wanting to follow the action and unable to make the trip to the venue, the NSWRL will provide a Live Stream of both matches from their website.
The Sharks will also show the Live Stream in the Locker Room Sports Bar in Sharkies Leagues Club, which includes special live crosses to Sharks TV reporters at the ground.
From all involved with the Sharks we congratulate both Sharks Junior rep teams on their achievements thus far and wish them well in the Grand Finals tomorrow.
The Sharks also thank SBA - Salmon Buckets & Attachments and Harvey Norman Commercial Division for their support of the Junior reps and Academy programs.
*Matthews Cup - Sharks v Bulldogs – Preliminary Final Highlights - http://www.nswrl.com.au/news/2015/05/07/harold_matthews_high_0.html
*SG Ball - Sharks v Panthers – Preliminary Final Highlights - http://www.nswrl.com.au/news/2015/05/07/sg_ball_highlights_p.html
Photo – Sharks impressive bloodlines
Eight Sharks players were identified this week as having family ties to former NRL or First grade players, making for some impressive bloodlines within the Sharks ranks.
Pictured from left – Matthews Cup (from top) – Trace Davidson (Son of Les Davidson), Jack Gould (Son of Phil Gould), Monty Raper (Grandson of the late Monty Porter, great nephew Johnny Raper), Rhys Ward (son of Col Ward), SG Ball (from top) – Jack Williams (Grandson of the late Reg Gasnier), Jaiden Brown (Son of Darren Brown), Kyle Flanagan (Son of Shane Flanagan), Will Kennedy (Son of Bubba Kennedy)
Photo credit – Brett Costello