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Five Key Points - Sharks v Bulldogs

1 The boys are back - at least some of them
No question youngsters such as Jack Williams, Scott Sorensen, Braden Uele and Kurt Dillon have done an outstanding job in their absence, the likes of Kurt Capewell, Joseph Paulo and Ava Seumanufagai have played expanded roles, however some of the Sharks key personnel are starting to return and that can only be a positive as the season approaches the half way point.

At some stage of the 2018 season the Sharks have been without Paul Gallen (4 matches), Josh Dugan (4), Matt Moylan (2), Wade Graham(4), Luke Lewis (4) and Jayson Bukuya (6). Players when its all added up with well over 1400 games of NRL experience between them.

Against the Bulldogs three came back, Moylan is now finding his feet in the six jersey, with Luke Lewis and Wade Graham a huge chance of being fit to play on Sunday in Newcastle.

Five wins in a row, largely with a patched up team, has been a commendable effort, now with the potential of all of the above mentioned being available, the boys are back and the sky is the limit.

2 Moylan set to become a fantasy favourite
A few weeks ago, Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan explained his sees Josh Dugan at fullback and Matt Moylan at five eighth, as being his best line up.

Injuries had derailed their progression in regards to working on the necessary combinations, but with Dugan back on deck on Sunday, Moylan had arguably his best game in Sharks colours in the win over the Bulldogs.

The perfectly weighted kick for the Valentine Holmes try, the clever touches, the fact he ran the ball more often and more effectively, were all pointers that Moylan's confidence is starting to return.

Add to that the Bulldogs tries were scored on the Sharks right, not on the left where Moylan is stationed in defence, and that aspect of his game, one often questioned, was also up to scratch.

And in the most telling evidence that his form is starting to improve, the fantasy football expert in the office, after expressing disappointment in Moylan's numbers through the early part of the season, is now firmly on board and confident the Sharks number six can improve even further and continue to to deliver in the weeks to come.

3 Paulo an unsung hero
Every team has them, the players who earn tremendous respect from their teammates and coaches, but who are often ignored by the headline writers and those reporting on the games.

Joseph Paulo might just be one of those players at the Sharks.

With a back row over the past few seasons featuring the likes of Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Luke Lewis, all international players, Paulo's role has been more as a utility and someone to fill in where needed.

However with the injury crisis affecting the club in recent weeks, Paulo's number has been called more often by coach Flanagan, with his the trust in his abilities emphasised by his starting role on Sunday.

More comfortable in the middle of the field, where his footwork and skill can be an asset, Paulo was shifted to the right edge to start the game against the Bulldogs, after also playing that role the week previous.

Paulo also played some minutes in the middle during the game, was safe, effective and did the job wherever he was required. It was another professional display from one of the Sharks unsung heroes.

4 The real James Segeyaro stands up
Last season was a frustrating one for James Segeyaro, who just when it appeared he would play an influential role for the Sharks, broke an arm and endured a long stint on the side line.

This year it has also taken him a few weeks to find his feet as the Sharks 'super-sub', coming off the bench in place of Jayden Brailey, however in the last two matches everyone is starting to see exactly what Segeyaro has to offer.

With both games on the line, the scores close and the result in the balance deep into the second half, Segeyaro has been the point of difference with his explosive running game and attacking intuition.

A hit on a rampaging Bulldog forward yesterday late in the contest also allayed any fears of his defence not being up to the required level.

Its seems to be working, tradesman-like youngster Brailey makes all his tackles, offers faultless service out of dummy half, then when the defence is starting to get tired, on comes Segeyaro with his special brand of football.

The real James Segeyaro is starting to stand up and opposition defences had best beware.

5 Five wins on the trot but have we seen their best?
Five consecutive victories, with key players missing, is nothing to be sneezed at, with the Sharks nicely placed in fifth position on the NRL ladder some 11 rounds into the season.

The question must be asked though is have we seen the best of the Sharks so far in 2018.

After going two-and-four following a second loss to the Dragons, a few soul-searching conversations took place between coaches and players and while yet to fire on all-cylinders, five wins on the trot has been the result since that disappointing night in Wollongong.

The six point victory over the Bulldogs must have seemed like a 'blow-out' to the coach after the Raiders game was decided by an 80th minute intercept, coming after wins by two, one and four points at their previous three outings.

The challenge now will be to see if they can find that next gear, because we're hoping we haven't seen the Sharks best in 2018 by any means.

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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