Sharks into the eye of the Storm
The last meeting between these two teams was a monumental one, resulting in a Sharks win over the Storm and the Cronulla club claiming their maiden premiership title.
Andrew Fifita crashed over for the winning try, Ricky Leutele made THAT final tackle, Jack Bird played through the pain of an elbow hyperextension and Luke Lewis was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for the best player in the Grand Final.
Many magical moments that will live on in the memories of Sharks players and fans for a long time to come.
Now fast forward six months and the two combatants come together once again.
The stakes aren’t quite so high, the venue is a different one and some of the personnel has changed, but that doesn’t mean the Sharks aren’t keen to continue their winning run and the Storm intent on getting some sort of redemption with a first up win in this new NRL season.
Add to the challenge awaiting the Sharks is the fact they are running headfirst into a Storm side which is undefeated in 2017 with a fit and firing Billy Slater back in his customary role as fullback.
“They’re the benchmark right now and are playing some really good footy,” Sharks halfback Chad Townsend said. “They don’t give you an inch, they complete at a high level and we need to match that. If we do, we’ll give ourselves the best chance to win.
“We need to be at our best, we know they’ll give us nothing but we’re looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to get out there on Sunday.”
In a similar vein, Townsend’s halves partner James Maloney was full of praise for what the Storm have managed to achieve through the first five rounds of the 2017 season.
“We probably haven’t been at our best, but it’s about building the foundations of our season. I think we’ll get a really good yardstick of where we are sitting (against the Storm on Sunday), a good gauge of where we are at, but at the same time hopefully we can get a win,” Maloney said.
While the teams enter Sunday’s match with a very familiar look, there are a few significant changes as both squads juggle the playing talent early in the year in search of their best combinations.
For the Sharks youngster Jayden Brailey has been a revelation and recently joined by James Segeyaro has capably filled Mick Ennis’s hooking role, with Valentine Holmes learning his trade at the back now that Ben Barba has flown off to a foreign land.
At the Storm, international forward Kevin Procter has left for the Gold Coast and Cameron Munster is sidelined with a broken jaw, however Melbourne have an extremely capable replacement at fullback with the return of Slater.
“To make the Grand Final without him and now to have him in their team, I think they’ve gone to the next level,” Townsend said.
The two teams come into Sunday’s game on the back of last start victories, the Storm smashing the Panthers and the Sharks scraping by the Knights.
However, what has gone before, either last week or last October will soon be forgotten when the ball is kicked off a little after 4.00pm at AAMI Park on Sunday.
For Sharks fans not travelling to Melbourne the game will be televised on free-to-air on Channel 9 and also via the Fox Sports network.
Tale of the tape
Sharks v Storm
Head to head – 32 matches
Sharks 11 wins
At AAMI Park – 7 matches
Storm 7 wins
Biggest head to head margins
Sharks 40 beat Melbourne 16, Southern Cross Group Stadium 2005
Storm 46 beat Sharks 6, AAMI Park, 2014
Last eight matches
Melbourne 6 wins