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NRL preview – Sharks v Broncos

Often during the State of Origin period, club football is somewhat forgotten, the Telstra Premiership continuing but taking a backseat while NSW and Queensland slug it out in the three-game series.

The assembled media at coach Shane Flanagan's weekly press conference failed to ask one question about his team's game against the Broncos on Saturday night, midseason player transfers rather than Origin two the hot topic, but largely ignored was one of the most crucial encounters for the two teams so far this season.

Sharks v Broncos is a clash matching the seventh-placed Cronulla side, only one win out of the top four, against a Brisbane team clinging to eighth place and with the chasing pack breathing down their necks.

It's a vital two points, with the winner positioned nicely for the run home, the loser under pressure heading into the back end of the season.

While the Broncos managed to win both games in 2017, the Sharks have enjoyed a reasonable run of success against their northern rivals, with the 30-28 victory in 2016 one of the highlights matches in their premiership winning season.

The two teams will take on a similar look to the last time they met, with Matt Moylan at five eighth a notable inclusion for the Sharks, however for the Broncos, the return of Jack Bird will have to wait for another time.

Out with a sternum injury, Bird misses the chance to come up against his old Sharks teammates in what would have been his first game back at Southern Cross Group Stadium since joining the Brisbane club this year.

Joining Bird on the sidelines will be Broncos international back rower Matt Gillett, along with prop Korbin Sims, with the Sharks again without NSW and Australian fullback Josh Dugan.

However, it's more about who is there, than who isn't, with Ricky Leutele given the task of controlling NSW centre James Roberts, Andrew Fifita is set to lock horns with his old mate Matt Lodge up front and plenty of fireworks can be expected when Sharks skipper Paul Gallen comes into contact with Brisbane enforcer Josh McGuire.

The Sharks team is fit and likely to take the field as selected, with young forward Jack Williams to play his fourth NRL match after impressing in the win over the Tigers last weekend.

Flanagan has omitted Scott Sorensen and Sosaia Feki from his originally-named 21-man squad, with Sorensen to turn out for the Newtown Jets in the Intrust Super Premiership and Feki to sit out this weekend with injury.

The team will be trimmed back from 19 to 17 one hour before the kick off tomorrow night. 

Adding to the excitement tomorrow night will be the annual Dance Spectacular, with 1800 young performers, representing 36 dance schools from around Sydney, to entertain the crowd at half time of the main game.

A Jersey Flegg match between the Sharks and Mounties will kick off the afternoon at 5.05pm, with the NRL fixture getting underway at 7.30pm.

NRL Team List – Round 15
Sharks v Broncos
Saturday, June 16
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Kick-off – 7.30pm

1- Valentine Holmes
2- Sione Katoa
3- Jesse Ramien
4- Ricky Leutele
5- Edrick Lee
6- Matt Moylan
7- Chad Townsend
8- Andrew Fifita
9- Jayden Brailey
10- Matt Prior
11- Luke Lewis
12- Wade Graham
13- Paul Gallen
Interchange
14- Joseph Paulo
15- James Segeyaro
16- Jack Williams
17- Jayson Bukuya
18- Kurt Capewell
19- Ava Seumanfagai

Tale of the tape
Head to Head
Played 53
Sharks 20 wins
Broncos 33 wins

At Southern Cross Group Stadium
Played 23
Sharks 12 wins
Broncos 11 wins

Last 10 matches
Sharks 4 wins
Broncos 6 wins

Biggest head to head margins
Sharks 46 Brisbane 12, Toyota Stadium, 2009
Brisbane 40 Sharks 2, Lang Park, 1991