Five Key Points - Sharks v Souths

1 Lee warms to the task
While he did spend some time there during pre-season, as it turned out Edrick Lee only had two training sessions to get his head around the fact he might be playing fullback against the Rabbitohs, however after a slow start in the first half, the lanky Shark certainly became more comfortable in the role the longer the game went.

Like the rest of his Sharks teammates, the first half was hard work, with Souths spending the majority of the opening 40 minutes on the front foot, but few could argue in the second period Lee's work improved considerably in the unfamiliar position.

He made an outstanding try-saver on Jason Clark, while his effort to get hold of a short drop out, then run 40 metres downfield, was one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing match for the Sharks.

While Edrick will admit he has a lot to learn as a fullback, he did a commendable job and certainly wasn't the reason the Sharks came away on the wrong end of the scoreline at ANZ on Friday night.

 

2 Welcome Back Sione 
After an outstanding Holden Cup career, highlighted by becoming the leading try-scorer and recording the most tackle breaks in 2017, then backed up by a spectacular pre-season, and Sione Katoa thoroughly earned his NRL debut in round one this year.

Unfortunately it wasn't the fairytale he had hoped for, with Katoa breaking his jaw in the game against the Cowboys in Townsville.

He rehabbed, recovered and reappeared at the Newtown Jets some five weeks later but for the time being at least, couldn't win his way back into the Sharks top grade side.

In the meantime he has been devastating for the Jets, propelling them to a number of wins with his elusive and aggressive style of running, then an injury to Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes gets the call up into the Queensland Origin side and Katoa runs out for his second NRL game. 

It didn't all go his way, on a tough night for the Sharks, but there were glimpses of the future, displays of the special athleticism Katoa possesses and there was the try, his first in the big leagues, which left nobody in doubt as to his ability to finish in style. 

Val will return, Dugan will get over his current injury concern and the coach will have some selection decisions to make, but in just two games Katoa has shown he could well be the future and for Sharks fans its an exciting one they will be looking forward to seeing. 

 

3 Can't take a trick
So far, the 2018 season has been a frustrating one for Sharks back rower Wade Graham.

Graham enjoyed an injury free 2017, a season in which he achieved some personal goals with selection in NSW and Australian teams, however this year has seen a couple of mishaps derail his progress.

Just two weeks back after recovering from a hamstring strain, Graham's bad run continued, his head accidentally striking the knee of a Souths opponent midway through the first half, with the knock seeing him ruled out for the rest of the match.

The good news was that Graham was feeling no serious ill effects after the game and pending passing his concussion protocols during the week is likely to be declared fit to take on Tigers.

He just can't take a trick at present, but hopefully the worm will turn, Graham will get some consistent footy under his belt and the remainder of the season will see him back to his best.

 

4 Can't take a trick 2

If Graham has battled bad luck with injury in 2018, spare a thought for Josh Dugan.

The Sharks fullback missed a handful of games early in the season, a broken bone in his foot sidelined him for a few more, then after two strong performances on return, scans revealed what was described by club medicos as a "stress reaction in his lower leg", something akin to stress fractures, meaning another stint away from the game.

A month ago the Sharks had an embarrassment of riches with three quality fullbacks, then with Matt Moylan excelling at five eighth in recent weeks, Valentine Holmes away on State of Origin duty and Dugan unavailable, a fourth player was used, and while Edrick Lee capably filled in, it wasn't an ideal situation.

Again, like Graham, it has been a frustrating season to date, but Dugan is a determined character, he came back from the foot injury in two weeks when it was estimated he would be out for four, and he is busting to get back on the field and to contribute. Once back on deck will become a key component of the Sharks second half of the 2018 season.

 

5 It's about who's in, not who's out

Well documented was the fact that Souths had four high profile players missing from Friday night's match, with two away in Queensland camp, two more with the NSW Blues.

Without them, the Rabbitohs were supposed to struggle.

While undermanned, at least on paper, the stand-ins did an outstanding job, complementing the Burgess boys and the regulars in the Souths side. Adam Doueihi at fullback, looked like he'd played there all his life.

Another of those replacements in Robbie Farah is a man with a wealth of experienced, and it showed as he delivered a polished performance.

Coach Shane Flanagan said it immediately after the win in Newcastle, that in relation to the Souths game it was going to be more about who was in, than who was out, and that's the way it panned out, with those getting the call up doing the job and leaving the Sharks licking their wounds.