NRL PREVIEW | Sharks v Eels
An emphatic victory by Brisbane over Souths last night has the Sharks positioned to move into the top four however Coach Shane Flanagan is under no illusion as to the task at hand when his team travels to Pirtek Stadium to take on the Eels.
The Souths loss means a win by the Sharks will see them sitting fourth with just one round of the regular season left to play, however Flanagan isn’t letting his team get ahead of themselves.
“We're not looking past this week, we've got a job to do tomorrow,” Flanagan said. "They're in good form, they're a tough team and a club with a lot of pride, so we're not expecting to just turn up and get the points.
"We're going to have to work hard for it."
While out of finals contention the Eels have proved to be somewhat of a thorn in the side of a number of the leading teams, highlighted by their win over Manly at their last start.
In recording a victory that virtually ended the Sea Eagles season, the Eels showed they will be a hurdle the Sharks will need to clear before declaring themselves top four finishers.
Wade Graham, lining up for his 150th NRL match despite having not yet turned 25, has his mind on this week rather than looking too far into the future.
“We’ve got to focus on week to week, focus on Parra and try to get the result over there,” Graham said.
Similarly, Luke Lewis was another not taking the challenge of the Eels lightly, especially when taking their previous outing in account.
“Manly is a class outfit and they had a lot to play for last week,” Lewis said. “Parra turned up and played well, ran hard and completed their sets and that’s what we expect from them this week so we’ll have to play well.”
As for the top four, Lewis wasn’t let himself think about that at this point of the season.
“Our goal was to finish top eight, now it’s to finish as high up as we can. We’ve got a big task playing Parra at Parramatta Stadium, especially with them coming off that big win over Manly,” Lewis added.
The game matches a Sharks side firmly inside the top eight, against an Eels outfit which has struggled for consistency in 2015. Nine wins from their 22 games to date indicates the Eels may have underachieved this year, but at their best they have shown they can match it with the best teams in the competition on their day.
Considering their recent record against the Eels, the Sharks will head west wary of the Parramatta side and knowing only something near their best will suffice if they hope to remain in the hunt for a top four position and a double shot at the finals in the coming weeks.
While the Sharks overall record against the Parramatta club is a positive one, with 41 wins from the 80 matches played, over the past few seasons the tables have turned in favour of the blue and golds.
The Eels won both encounters in 2014, with the Sharks last win at Pirtek coming back in 2010.
The Sharks have named the same 17 which took to the field in their win over the Tigers in round 24, with Ben Barba slated for a return in round 26, the Fifita brothers Andrew and David week one of the finals.
The Sharks v Eels match, which will be played for the Jon Mannah Cup, is scheduled for a 3.00pm kick-off at Pirtek Stadium, with the NYC getting underway at 10.40am. In between those two games will be a NSW Cup match between Wyong and Wentworthville.