NRL Preview – Sharks v Tigers
Rather than dwell on the fact that they be without five of their best players, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan preferred to look for the positives ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Wests Tigers.
The loss of Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita, Jack Bird, James Maloney and Valentine Holmes opens the door for others to shine, with Flanagan confident in the depth of talent at his disposal.
“Some other players get an opportunity. We showed last year when we had an important game in Penrith with our four Origin players out we weren’t expected to win,” Flanagan said. “We played really well to win, then a couple of weeks ago against the Bulldogs we had four out as well.
“We’ve trained well and expect to play really well tomorrow.”
Some of those mentioned by Flanagan who will get that opportunity tomorrow night involves the extremely versatile Kurt Capewell moving into the centres, Fa’amanu Brown slotting in at five eighth, while Sam Tagataese and Jayson Bukuya go from their usual interchange roles into the Sharks run-on 13.
Another significant variation sees Gerard Beale assume the fullback role with Holmes away in Queensland camp.
While the changes dictated by the Origin absentees leaves holes to be filled, as Flanagan went on to explain, all those coming in are seasoned NRL performers and players who had a role in the Sharks premiership success of 2016.
“There’s no one new, only Daniel Mortimer who has played NRL but makes his debut for the club. It’s exciting for some of those players who don’t normally start and they’re looking forward to it,” Flanagan said.
While the Sharks are dealing with the fact five players will be missing tomorrow night the Tigers will also arrive at Southern Cross Group Stadium minus two of their best, with James Tedesco and Aaron Woods also away with the NSW team.
However, helping the Tigers’ cause will be the return of playmaker Luke Brooks, this week partnering their newest recruit Tuimoala Lolohea in forming a combination the Sharks will need to watch closely.
“They are both good attacking players and we need to be at our best defensively. We need to be switched on,” Flanagan said.
The Sharks and Tigers have met once already in 2017, with the Cronulla side escaping with a 22-16 victory courtesy of some individual brilliance late in the match from Chad Townsend.
It was a Townsend chip-chase try which tipped the game in the Sharks favour, with the half back, as he did in the win over the Bulldogs three weeks ago, needing to assume greater responsibility tomorrow night without Maloney by his side.
The Sharks will go into the match as hot favourites although with both teams disrupted by the Origin absentees the game is likely to be a lot closer than many think.
Also when looking at the statistics, excepting a run of three Sharks wins heading into Saturday night, the Tigers hold an edge in the win loss column for matches played between the two clubs.
The Tigers hold the head to head advantage with 17 wins to the Sharks 10 overall, while surprisingly they have also been successful eight times in 12 matches as the visiting team at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks v Tigers match is scheduled to kick off at 7.30pm tomorrow night.
Below is the Sharks 19-man squad, having been trimmed down from the original 21 selected, with Flanagan to name his 17 one hour before kick-off.
NRL Team List – Round 15
Sharks v Wests Tigers
Saturday, June 17
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Kick-off – 7.30pm
1 - Gerard Beale
2 - Sosaia Feki
3 - Kurt Capewell
4 - Ricky Leutele
5 - Edrick Lee
6 - Fa’amanu Brown
7 - Chad Townsend
8 - Sam Tagataese
9 - Jayden Brailey
10 - Matt Prior
11 - Luke Lewis
12 - Jayson Bukuya
13 - Paul Gallen
14 - Daniel Mortimer
15 - Chris Heighington
16 - Jeremy Latimore
17 - Joseph Paulo
18 - Kurt Dillion
19 - Jesse Ramien
Head to head
Wests Tigers 17 wins
At Southern Cross Group Stadium
Wests Tigers 8 wins
Past eight matches
Sharks 5 wins
Sharks 32 beat Tigers 6, Leichhardt Oval, 2008
Tigers 56 beat Sharks 10, Toyota Stadium, 2009