Playmaker Chad Townsend plays his 100th NRL game, Gerard Beale his 150th on a night where the Sharks and Storm renew a rivalry which reached a peak at the 2016 Grand Final.
A clash matching one and two on the NRL ladder, the Sharks will be looking for a third straight win over the team everyone believes will challenge for the title once again in 2017.
The rivalry term has been much-used in the lead up and Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan wasn’t downplaying the competitiveness which exists between the two clubs when asked at his weekly media conference. Rather Flanagan and his team was trying to embrace it.
“We enjoy the rivalry and I know all the players look forward to the game,” Flanagan said. “It’s going to be wet again, which means there’s more challenges there, but the way the boys have trained this week and the way they trained today I know there is something special coming tomorrow.
“There’s a few players that dislike each other and as a club after playing a Grand Final there’s always going to be a bit of history but the players are excited about the challenge.”
While his focus was on his team and what they might be able to achieve tomorrow night Flanagan was also prepared to single out the Melbourne ‘big three’ for special mention.
In Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, three of the outstanding players of the current generation, Flanagan was excited Sharks fans would get an opportunity to the see the trio play together in the same Melbourne team, with Cronk moving on at season’s end, for what would be the last time at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
“It’s a good opportunity for young kids and fans to see probably three of the best players at a suburban ground for the last time,” he said.
Talking of best players of an era, Sharks skipper Paul Gallen also falls into that category, with his recent form a major reason his team is nicely positioned in second place on the NRL ladder.
Gallen copped a verbal battering from Sharks and NSW ‘public enemy No 1’ Will Chambers last time around, with Flanagan confident it will take more than words to upset his team captain.
“I don’t think Craig (Bellamy) coaches than way, but Gal is a big boy. If they want to come and sledge I’m sure Gal will handle that,” Flanagan added.
With their four Origin reps back on deck the Sharks are close to full strength for tomorrow night’s game, with only James Segeyaro missing from what might be rated as their best 17 after the hooker was dropped off the originally selected extended bench.
Flanagan trimmed Segeyaro and Fa’amanu Brown from the 21 named on Tuesday, with the Sharks injury free and 1-19 for the Storm game. The coach will name his final 17 one hour before kick off on Thursday.
As for the Storm, Smith is believed to have overcome the injury problem which kept him out of the Storms last-start win and should take his place in the Melbourne team.
Kick-off to the Sharks v Storm Grand Final rematch is scheduled for 7.50pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Gates open at 5.00pm, with the NYC at 5.05pm and a Women’s Series match at 6.45pm.
The Sharks 19-man squad is listed below.
NRL Team List – Round 14
Sharks v Storm
Thursday, June 8
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Kick-off – 7.50pm
1 - Valentine Holmes
2 - Sosaia Feki
3 - Jack Bird
4 - Ricky Leutele
5 - Gerard Beale
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
16 - Sam Tagataese
17 - Joseph Paulo
18 - Jeremy Latimore
19 - Kurt Capewell