NRL Preview - Sharks v Eels

It doesn't seem that long ago, in fact it was only back in round three, when the Sharks met the Eels and both clubs were looking for their first victories of 2018.

The Sharks emerged victorious that time around, scoring a no-frills 14-4 win in a match which featured as a part of a double-header at ANZ Stadium, while it took the Parramatta side a little longer to bank those first competition points.

It took the Eels until round seven to register their first victory over the season, and after backing that win up with another last weekend, they are now set to arrive at Southern Cross Group Stadium with a new level of confidence as compared to last time around.

When quizzed during their mid-week media calls this week, both Jayden Brailey and Matt Prior were acutely aware it would be a different Eels team than the one they met earlier this year.

"They are a different team to round three and they're going to play with a lot of energy," Brailey said. "I know it's going to be a tough game."

While Prior added; "The last couple of weeks they've been playing a lot better football. We are definitely going to have our hands full this weekend."

Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan is equally wary of what the Eels will bring tomorrow night.
"They had a tough start to the year, they've got a bit of rhythm now and are playing with real enthusiasm. We've got to make sure we match that," Flanagan said.

Flanagan has also done his homework on the Eels, acknowledging the ability of halves Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman, along with energetic fullback Clint Gutherson, however he believes it is the job of the forwards to limit their time, space and opportunity.

"The halves and the fullback are their strength. But we've got to make sure they're playing off the back of a forward pack not going forward," he said. "They're quality players and we've got to make sure they're not playing on the front foot."
As for the Sharks, they scored a grinding 10-9 win over the Titans at their last start, coming on the back of a good victory over the Panthers, both weeks playing without the trio of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham, and while Graham is named to return, this week Josh Dugan is missing at the back.

Potentially adding to their casualty ward, Jayson Bukuya has battled a virus for the most part of the week and is some doubt for the game tomorrow night.

"Jayson is in hospital at the moment. He has a bit of a virus. We'll see what happens over the next 24 hours," Flanagan explained. "We'll give him every chance and see how he pulls up tomorrow morning."

With Dugan sidelined for up to a month with a broken bone in his foot, Valentine Holmes shifts to fullback, a position he filled for the majority of the 2017 season, while Grand Final-winning winger Sosaia Feki returns on the flank after missing the last three games.

Sharks hooker Brailey was confident about Holmes's ability to slot into the fullback role and to do so to a high standard.

"Dugan out, Valentine Holmes in," Brailey grinned, believing it to be a reasonable substitution. "Val's going to offer us something different at the back. He knows our systems, he played there all last year, so hopefully we adjust to his style and get another win on the board."

Through eight rounds the Sharks are four-and-four, the Eels two wins and six losses, making Saturday night's game crucial as the two clubs look to stay in touch with the top eight and the leading teams in 2018 premiership.

Also taking place as a part of the game day festivities tomorrow, will be the official Great White's Annual reunion, with over 150 past Sharks players, coaches and officials getting together on the night.

The former players will do a lap before the game gets underway, then form a guard of honour for the players running out for the NRL clash.

The afternoon will begin with a NSWRL Women's match, featuring Cronulla Caringbah against North Sydney at 5.05, before the NRL clash at 7.30pm. Gates to Southern Cross Group Stadium open at 5.00pm.

The Sharks have trimmed their team list back from 21 to 19, with Braden Uele and Trent Hodkinson dropping out. The the Sharks team below. 

NRL Team List – Round 9 
Sharks v Eels
Saturday, May 5
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Kick-off – 7.30pm
1- Valentine Holmes
2- Sosaia Feki
3- Jessie Ramien
4- Ricky Leutele
5- Edrick Lee
6- Matt Moylan
7- Chad Townsend
8- Andrew Fifita
9- Jayden Brailey
10- Matt Prior
11- Kurt Capewell
12- Wade Graham
13- Joseph Paulo
Interchange
14- Jayson Bukuya
15- James Segeyaro
16- Ava Seumanufagai
17- Scott Sorensen
18- Kurt Dillion
19- Jack Williams

Tale of the tape
Head to Head
Played 84
Sharks 45 wins
Eels 39 wins

At Southern Cross Group Stadium
36 games
Sharks 22 wins
Eels 14 wins

Past 8 clashes
Sharks 5 wins
Eels 3 wins

Biggest margins
Sharks 48 Eels 18, Parramatta Stadium, 1995
Eels 74 Sharks 4, Parramatta Stadium, 2003