NRL PREVIEW | Sharks v Dragons
The local derby is annually a significant occasion on its own, with the Sharks and Dragons doing battle for the Monty Porter Memorial Sports Foundation Cup.
Throw in a memorable milestone with Luke Lewis to play his 250th NRL game in a match set to have serious ramifications when it comes to the finals prospects of both teams and a bumper afternoon of rugby league in the Sutherland Shire is assured.
On the outside of the top eight looking in, the Sharks enjoyed three successive wins before hitting a hurdle when they were well beaten by the Sea Eagles last Sunday, meaning they arrive in reasonable form and confident of a bold showing.
On the other hand their opponents the Dragons were riding high the last time the teams met, however four losses in a row means they will be desperate for success at Remondis Stadium this week.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan realises the importance of the game on Sunday as his team hopes to turn around their loss to the St George Illawarra team at their previous meeting.
“It wasn’t that long ago we were at Kogarah Oval and we were embarrassed by them in the second half,” Flanagan said. “The playing group has talked about that already and we can’t wait for Sunday.
“They were in good form and we were struggling for consistency. But our game is in a lot better shape that it was back then and we’re at home.
“It’s coming to that pointy end of the season and we need some consistency
Flanagan also looked forward to his team getting plenty home ground support.
“Hopefully it’s a nice day and hopefully we can fill (the Stadium),” he said.
If the Sharks needed any extra motivation Sunday will also be a special occasion for experienced back-rower Lewis, who plays his 250th NRL game.
“I’m very excited to be running out, local derby, packed house, I’m looking forward to it,” Lewis said.
For Lewis however it wasn’t so much about his personal achievement as it was about helping his team register a win and claiming the all-important two competition points.
“For us we’ve just got to keep everything simple, stop making simple errors, giving away silly penalties at the wrong end of the field and just complete our sets,” he said.
“We’ve got to forget about the 250 and other milestones in the team and just worry about putting our best foot forward. If we do that the result will look after itself.”
Flanagan, who first crossed paths with the now veteran forward when he was Junior Kangaroos coach and Lewis a wiry winger, understandably had only words of praise.
“He’s had a great career and he’s playing really good football for us at the moment,” Flanagan said.
“It’s a credit to him the way he looks after his body ad he’s still got plenty of good footy in front of him.”
The Sharks were due to complete their preparations with a Captain’s run today, with the coaching and medical staff to assess skipper Paul Gallen and hooker Michael Ennis who are attempting to back up following a bruising Origin encounter on Wednesday.
It is hoped both will be cleared to play, bolstering the Sharks side for Sunday’s game.
Kick-off for the NRL match will be at 4.00pm, with the NYC getting underway at 1.45pm. Gates to Remondis Stadium open at 1.30pm.
With a large crowd expected fans are encouraged to pre-purchase and print tickets before arriving at Remondis Stadium to avoid delays on the day.
Sunday's match against the St George Illawarra Dragons is proudly brought to you by match day sponsor Southern Radiology.