NRL preview – Sharks v Sea Eagles
It’s a rivalry that began back in 1973 and continues to this day, a battle played out on the NRL playing field matching the southern and northern beachside suburbs, the Sharks and Sea Eagles.
Adding a little something extra to the contest the teams also compete for the Steve Rogers Trophy, a piece of silverware struck in honour for the late Sharks Immortal, with both clubs keen to house the cup and to claim bragging rights for another season.
However as significant as the rivalry is and as important as winning the trophy might be, the main thing on the minds of the two playing groups and their coaches will be banking two competition points and continuing a march towards the NRL finals.
And with the Sharks currently third, against a Sea Eagles squad that has surprised some with their performances so far this season, a classic Sunday afternoon showdown seems assured.
Five Sharks are backing up from Origin, as compared to just Jake Trbojevic from Manly, and while that may appear to be a disadvantage for the Cronulla side, coach Shane Flanagan sees it somewhat differently.
“There’s different views but we’ve got five Origin players and we’ve got them this Sunday,” Flanagan said. “They’re all okay, emotionally they are a bit down but they are fit to play.
“We’ll train tomorrow and they’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”
As indicated by Flanagan, Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham, Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes are definite starters, with James Maloney likely to be good to go pending his recovery from a slight leg cork.
In their absence last weekend the Sharks left it late, a 78th minute try sealing a win over the Wests Tigers, with veteran Luke Lewis pleased and at the same time relieved to get the victory.
“To win the way we did, especially with those five boys who were out, was very good,” Lewis said. “It was one of those games where we were talking about what we needed to do, but didn’t really do it until the last five or six minutes.”
As for the Sea Eagles on Sunday.
“Manly are playing outstanding footy. They’re going to be there at the end of the year. I believe that we can win but we’ve got to nail our preparation and nail Sunday,” Lewis said.
While Kurt Capewell, one of those who did an outstanding job deputising for Origin rep Jack Bird out in the centres, this week named on the Sharks interchange bench, was eagerly anticipating the Manly clash.
“There’s great energy here at the moment. We look forward to getting the Origin boys back, then we can rip and tear into Manly,” Capewell said.
Sandwiching two byes in between three wins over their last five weeks the Sea Eagles arrive at Southern Cross Group Stadium confident and somewhat refreshed, while with a record that reads in their favour – 20 wins to 16 at the Sharks home ground – and the venue will also hold no fears.
But as they have shown this season, this Sharks group is a resilient bunch and despite not finding their best form so far in 2017 still see themselves sitting in third position on the NRL table as a result of 10 wins and four losses through the first 15 rounds.
The return of the Origin boys will be important, however the like of Lewis, Paul Gallen and half back Chad Townsend, three players in solid form, will also go a long way to ensuring the Sharks success.
The match also represents a milestone game for two Sharks, with Sosaia Feki to play his 100th match in the NRL, Wade Graham his 150th top grade game for the Sharks.
Due to the heavy Origin representation Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was able to name 23 players in an original squad on Tuesday, with that number now trimmed back to 20. A final 17-man team will be announced an hour before kick-off tomorrow, which is at 4.00pm.
See below the team list and some key stats from matches played between the Sharks and Sea Eagles.
NRL Team List – Round 16
Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sunday, June 25
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Kick-off – 4.00pm
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 - Kurt Capewell
17 - Daniel Mortimer
18 - Jeremy Latimore
19 - Sam Tagataese
20 - Joseph Paulo
21 - Fa’amanu Brown
22 - Edrick Lee
23 - Jesse Ramien
Tale of the tape
Head to Head
Manly 62 wins
At Southern Cross Group Stadium
Manly 20 wins
Past 8 matches
Manly 7 wins
Highest winning margins
Sharks 68 Manly 6, Toyota Park, 2005
Manly 50 Sharks 14, Brookvale Oval, 1984