In a rematch of a fiery 2016 finals encounter the Sharks travel to Canberra looking to notch their first win of the new season when they tackle an equally determined Raiders outfit tomorrow night.
In a game remembered for the ‘Viking clap’ and a heroic performance from an undermanned Sharks side, last year’s clash has set the tone for another intense clash this time around.
With both teams coming off losses in round one, Coach Shane Flanagan is under no illusion as to the difficulty of the challenge awaiting his team.
“They’ll turn out, there will be a big crowd and it’s going to be a tough game early in the season,” Flanagan said. “They’ll be thinking same as us that they need to get their season off to a start. What happened last year, happened last year and we’re trying to push that barrow. We just want to get the season off to a start.”
While both clubs come into the game without a win from their round one matches, the two games took on a similar look.
The Sharks conceded 10 penalties and made 10 handling errors in the loss to the Broncos, with similarly the Raiders on the wrong end of the penalty count in their defeat in Townsville.
Flanagan concedes his have looked into where things went wrong against Brisbane and will attempt to rectify some of the problems this weekend.
“I heard Ricky (Stuart) talking about Canberra’s discipline but we’ve got to fix that up too. We need to fix a few things up and our discipline is one of them and we’ve addressed that.
“Penalties and errors, if we can fix that up we put ourselves in a good position.”
Throwing another spanner into the works ahead of tomorrow’s game will be the positional switch of Jack Bird from centre to fullback, that forced change following the withdrawal of Gerard Beale with a hamstring twinge.
A player of immense talent, Bird was animated at training today and didn’t appeared phased about making his top grade debut in the fullback role.
“It gives Jack an opportunity and he’s excited about, I know his teammates are and I’m real excited about seeing him there as well,” Flanagan said.
Aside from Bird for Beale, along with the possible inclusion of Kurt Capewell in the centres, Flanagan wasn’t giving too much away as to the make-up of his bench.
Sam Tagataese drops off the interchange as named on Tuesday and is likely to play for the Newtown Jets tomorrow in a bid to gain some match fitness, however who might fill his spot is yet to be determined with both Jeremy Latimore and Tony Williams both boarding the bus for Canberra today.
The Sharks head to the national capital knowing they have a good record in Canberra in recent times but also realising the formidable challenge that awaits.
In fact in the last seven matches between the two clubs, the away team has won on each occasion, a stat the Sharks would like to continue tomorrow night.
“I don’t know what it is, we’ve had some good wins down there the last couple of years and I just hope it continues,” Flanagan said.
The Sharks play Canberra at GIO Stadium tomorrow, Saturday, March 11, with kick off scheduled for 7.30pm.
The provisional Sharks team is listed below.
NRL Team List - Round 2
Sharks v Raiders
Saturday, March 11
Kick-off – 7.30pm
3 Jack Bird
2 Sosaia Feki
19 Kurt Capewell
4 Ricky Leutele
5 Edrick Lee
6 James Maloney
7 Chad Townsend
8 Andrew Fifita
9 Jayden Brailey
10 Matt Prior
11 Luke Lewis
12 Wade Graham
13 Paul Gallen
14 Jayson Bukuya
15 Chris Heighington
17 Fa’amanu Brown
18 Tony Williams
20 Joseph Paulo
21 Jeremy Latimore