KEY MATCH-UPS | Sharks v Cowboys
THE FULLBACKS | Michael Gordon v Lachlan Coote
Michael Gordon this weekend squares off with Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote, in a battle of contrasting styles of the respective ‘number ones’.
Gordon continues to show that he has plenty to offer as a ‘traditional’ running fullback, as seen in his support play at Belmore in Round 20 to finish a well-worked Wade Graham bust. Coupled with his ever-reliable work with the boot, ‘Flash’s consistency at the back has been highlighted by his work without the ball.
Coote meanwhile leads the NRL in bombs diffused (23), while proving a constant threat with the Steeden in hand. The 25-year-old last week played his 100th game in the top grade, and he continues to develop as a new age, ball-playing fullback. Coote has 13 linebreak assists to his name in 2015 (Second only to Johnathan Thurston at NQL) while having broken 53 tackles.
Gordon and the Sharks will have to be on their game come Saturday evening, and shutting down Coote will go a long way to securing the two competition points come full time.
THE HALFBACKS | Jeff Robson v Johnathan Thurston
Sharks general Jeff Robson this week turned 33-years of age and his present from the football gods is a match-up with arguably the NRL’s best, Johnathan Thurston.
Thurston leads the NRL for try assists (23), and ranks second in linebreak assists (23) across the League. The Queensland five-eighth has shown time and time again why he is the favourite to take out a fourth Dally M Medal come the season’s end, turning in stellar performances at Club level each and every week.
Robson meanwhile returns to Remondis Stadium having taken care of wide-running Warriors hard-man Ben Matulino last Saturday afternoon. And despite the change of scenes, ‘Robbo’ can expect much of the same this weekend when he is presented the challenge of bringing down Ethan Lowe and Jason Taumalolo.
Robson has 8 try assists to his name this season, and will without doubt be hoping to add to the tally in the Round 22 clash this weekend.
THE HOOKERS | Michael Ennis v Jake Granville
Cowboys hooker Jake Granville will play just his 30th NRL match this week, having won Man of the Match honours in his 29th last weekend against the Raiders.
Granville has been a revelation in the Cowboys ‘9’ shirt this season – his running game the highlight – having made 10 linebreaks and scoring nine tries in the process.
The 26-year-old is yet to defeat Cronulla (2 games, 2 losses), and the Sharks middlemen will be out to ensure he again walks away without a win this Saturday.
One man in particular that will be hoping to keep Granville’s record in tact will be his opposite number in Michael Ennis. ‘The Menace’ has been exactly that to opposition teams in 2015, having laid on 14 tries and playing a hand in 11 of his side’s linebreaks.
The veteran will be out to again stake his claims as to why he has been the season’s most astute signing, and a personal win over one of the game’s best young hookers will do his prospects no harm.
The Cronulla Sharks Round 22 ‘Indigenous Round’ clash with the North Queensland Cowboys is proudly brought to you by Sutherland Heart Clinic.