Five Key Points: Sharks v Eels

1 Discipline is key
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan gave his team a couple of big ‘ticks’ for their performance against the Eels and one was in relation to their discipline on a weekend where NRL referees were seemingly happy to blow the pea out of the whistle in enforcing the rules.

Flanagan reasoned of the six penalties his team game away, he was only disappointed in two of them in as far as those indiscretions being avoidable.

Add to that the first Eels penalty wasn't awarded until the 50th minute of the match and it came as little surprise the Sharks, despite it being a close and low scoring game, were somewhat in control for most of the match.

After three weeks, two of those being losses where discipline let the Sharks down, it becomes obvious where Flanagan’s team needs to remain diligent during the 2018 season.

 

2 Defensive desire is back
With the Sharks their own worst enemies in the opening two rounds with their ball control and discipline, they were forced to do a mountain of defence, letting in a couple of tries in their losses to the Cowboys and Dragons they would have usually prevented.

Saturday night however the defensive desire was certainly evident in keeping the Eels to just one try at ANZ Stadium.

After receiving stinging criticism coming into the contest the Eels were up for a fight and definitely came to play, however the Sharks kept turning up and turning them away with excellent defensive attitude.

It was the type of defence which had the media asking if this was the Sharks the blueprint which the success of 2016 was built, a xxx Flanagan didn't dispute.

 

3 Hodkinson set to be a vital cog in the wheel
It may not be every week, with the Sharks likely to run with the Townsend-Moylan halves partnership until injury of form dictates otherwise, but as was clearly on display on Saturday night, when Trent Hopkinson gets the call up he certainly won’t let anyone down.

In his first game for the club the former Origin half back slotted into the Sharks NRL side as if he had been there for years, with Hokko calm, controlled and taking some pressure off Townsend with his clever kicking game.

Moylan certainly adds speed, while also providing some x-factor, but as was shown last night, experience and smarts can be equally important.

After an extremely professional performance in game one, Flanagan will have every confidence in the 519th Sharks NRL player should he need to put out the call for Hodkinson again in the weeks and months ahead.

 

4 Rule him out on a Wednesday at your peril

Media speculation had Paul Gallen missing the game against the Eels with a leg injury, however Gallen’s ‘out’ is totally different to whenever almost every other player in the NRL declares himself in doubt and likely to sit out a match.

Now in his 17th season in the NRL, with the help of the Sharks medical and training staff, Gallen manages his body and his work load, with the ultimate goal being to have him available on game day.

It’s not very often NRL matches are played on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so Gallen being absent from sessions midweek can be somewhat overrated, with the Sharks captain courageous usually finding a way to make it onto the field by kick off time on the weekend.

Not only did he play on Saturday, Gallen delivered the off-load that resulted in the Sharks only try, ran with his usual gusto and was a power of strength in defence.

The advice going forward would be to not pre-empt anything with Gallen unitl the teams are made official on game day.

 

5 His time will come
Spare a thought for local junior Kurt Dillon who is waiting in the wings to make his NRL debut.

Dillon, the Newtown Jets player of the Year in 2017 and now in his second season as a full-time NRL squad member at the Sharks, has been next cab off the rank in all three of the Club’s games this year.

He travelled to Townsville and was close to getting a call up when Luke Lewis withdrew, he again went through the warm-up as 18th man at the derby in round two, then with speculation surrounding Gallen and his injury status, was preparing for a possible first NRL game against the Eels.

In the sheds following the Sharks win on Saturday night, Dillon joked that he is getting very good at warming up, as the 18th man does each week in case of a late injury to the selected 17-man team.

A tough, no nonsense front rower who Flanagan has labelled a little bit ‘old school’, the De La Salle junior will get his chance sometime soon and when he does expect him to grab the opportunity with both hands.