Match preview – Sharks v Eels
The Sharks will run out onto ANZ Stadium tomorrow night wearing black arm bands to honour Sharnie Kimmorley, the wife of Cronulla Team of the Half Century inductee Brett Kimmorley, who tragically passed away on Thursday.
Sharnie, aged 38, lost a brave battle with brain cancer, with her family, friends, the Sharks and the entire rugby league community mourning her loss.
Brett, who played 140 games for the Sharks from 2002 to 2008, many of those as club captain, has four daughters.
Then continuing the theme of honouring those who have left a legacy at the Cronulla club, the two teams will pause before kick-off to pay their respects to former Sharks and Eels player Johnny Mannah, with the crowd to respond with a ‘moment of applause’ in celebration of his life, rather than a minute of silence.
The meeting will then see the fifth staging of the Johnny Mannah Cup with the Sharks the current holders.
Mannah played for both clubs over the course of his career and will be fondly remembered for his remarkable courage and positive attitude in the face of adversity.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009, Mannah regained control of his health in 2011, before tragically relapsing and eventually losing his fight against the cancer in 2013.
He played 24 NRL games for the Sharks before moving back to the Eels in 2012 where he would play for the Wentworthville Magpies.
So with an emotional scene set the teams will then do battle in match which promises to be physical and closely fought, with both needing a win to keep pace with the competition leaders.
While the Sharks enter the game on the back of a loss to the Dragons, similarly the Eels will be intent on returning to the winner’s circle after a disappointing last start defeat at the hands of the Titans.
Aiding the Eels cause will be the return of Corey Norman from injury, with the Sharks needing to keep the key playmaker in check should they hope to claim the two competition points tomorrow night.
On a positive the Sharks welcome back Grand Final winning winger Sosaia Feki, into a squad that is otherwise intact with no other injury concerns.
In an interesting twist, James Segeyaro has been named on an extended bench, with Coach Shane Flanagan to make a decision as to whether or not he plays closer to kick off.
“He’s been training on his own but he’s only trained with us twice,” Flanagan said at his press conference yesteday. “He’s definitely up to it but I’m not sure whether I’ll throw him in. I’ll be sleeping on it overnight, consult a few people but he’s done everything right this week.”
Flanagan’s keenness to get Segeyaro into the game is more about trying to protect young hooker Jayden Brailey, rather than replace him.
Brailey, who made 51 tackles in the Dragons match, is certain to play against the Eels with Segeyaro’s status still well and truly up in the air.
While the Sharks have enjoyed some recent success, winning the last two encounters with the Parramatta team, over time the clash has been one in which a winner is hard to predict.
In 82 meetings between the clubs the honours are close to being shared, with the Sharks holding a narrow 43-39 advantage, while in their last eight matches the ledger stands at four wins each.
Last year it was the Sharks who came out on top, coming back from a 18-0 deficit to win 34-24 in the game played at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks v Eels match is scheduled for a 7.00pm kick off at ANZ Stadium in what marks the first time the Cronulla team has returned to the Homebush venue since their historic victory last October.
The NYC match between the Sharks and Eels is the first match in ANZ Stadium, getting underway at 4.45pm.