Desperate might be too strong a word at this early stage of the season, however both the Sharks and Eels will be determined to notch their first wins of 2018 when they face off in the second game of a double header tomorrow night.
The Sharks have shown glimpses of what they are capable of, slipping to two narrow losses, while the Eels were beaten by the Panthers them thumped by Manly in their two matches to date, with tomorrow shaping as a crucial one for both clubs.
Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan, while disappointed in the final results in both of his teams opening games, saw enough to be encouraged that tomorrow could be the night where his team puts an 80-minute performance together.
“It’s disappointing we haven’t got wins, JT’s 300th in Townsville and that game could have gone either way, then we played well in the first half against the Dragons,” Flanagan explained.
“We haven’t played badly, but we haven’t got the two competition points and that’s what its all about in the end. We’ve just got to find that win.”
Making life somewhat more difficult will be the loss of Matt Moylan to a leg injury, however having an experienced campaigner in Trent Hodkinson waiting in the wings to take his place eases the pain somewhat.
Moylan was injured at a Wednesday night scrimmage session and although hopes were high that he would overcome the problem he was today deemed unfit to play and ruled out by Sharks medical staff.
Having not been named in the original 21-man squad, Hodkinson was given dispensation by the NRL to be brought into the Sharks side to fill the void left by Moylan.
On the other side of the ledger and on a positive note, Paul Gallen has been cleared to play after media speculation had him missing the Eels clash.
Flanagan quickly put to bed rumours of Gallen’s injury concerns.
“He’s in. When you are getting a bit older, sometimes you don’t train at the start of the week but I knew he’d play,” Flanagan said. “He trained well today and he’ll be there tomorrow.”
While the Sharks come into the contest on the back of narrow six and four point losses, the Eels arrive at ANZ Stadium after suffering a 54-0 drubbing at the hands of the Sea Eagles last Sunday.
In a bid to turn around their fortunes, the Eels have rushed Beau Scott and Kenny Edwards back into their squad, while Jarryd Hayne is expected to move form centre to fullback for the Sharks clash.
Flanagan was aware of the potential positional switch, reasoning Hayne had played in a fullback role when his team had the ball last week, but he was unsure where the former San Francisco 49er would line up when in defense.
“I’m not sure where they’ll put him defensively, but not a lot will change from the way he played last week, just where he is going to defend,” Flanagan said.
The match between the Sharks and Eels will be played for the Johnny Mannah Cup, a special trophy created for a player who tragically passed away in January of 2013 and represented both NRL clubs.
The Sharks currently hold the trophy after winning the past three encounters between the clubs.
Sharks fans heading out to ANZ Stadium can also take advantage of free Transport NSW buses. Buses routes include one from Menai and another which starts out at Sharks Leagues Club.
The Sharks v Eels clash is the second of a double header, kicking off at 7.30pm, with the first match at ANZ Stadium seeing Souths take on Manly. That match is at 5.30pm.
The Sharks 19-man squad list is below, with the team to be trimmed down to 17 one hour before kick-off.
NRL Team List – Round 3
Sharks v Eels
Saturday, March 24
Kick-off – 8.00pm
1- Josh Dugan
2- Sosaia Feki
3- Jesse Ramien
4- Ricky Leutele
5- Valentine Holmes
22- Trent Hodkinson
7- Chad Townsend
8- Andrew Fifita
9- Jayden Brailey
10- Matt Prior
11- Jayson Bukuya
12- Wade Graham
13- Paul Gallen
14- Kurt Capewell
15- James Segeyaro
16- Ava Seumanufagai
17- Joseph Paulo
18- Kurt Dillion
20- Edrick Lee