NRL preview – Sharks v Raiders

Both Southern Cross Group Stadium and GIO Stadium in Canberra are regarded throughout the NRL as difficult arenas for visiting teams to play.

The Canberra cold, the Viking clap, added to parochial home ground support, always makes the trip to the National Capital a tough road trip.

Similarly, with the close proximity of the crowd and the atmosphere that Shark Park provides, not to mention the local knowledge involved with managing the swirling winds blowing in off Woolooware Bay, and the Sharks home turf can be a fortress and one near impossible to penetrate.

But for whatever reason, the Sharks and Raiders have refused to follow the script, with Cronulla's win in round 10 over the Canberra side earlier this year the 10th consecutive occasion the visiting team has claimed the points in matches between the two clubs.

Canberra have registered four straight wins at Southern Cross Group Stadium, with 2013 the last time either home team was successful.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is aware of the statistics, the players know how the record against the Raiders stands, but he refuses to believe what has gone on before will have any bearing on the result tomorrow night.

"We're a different team, they're a different team, there have been different circumstances over that length of time," Flanagan said. "We've got a lot to play for and they probably do as well. We've done really well at looking forward and not looking back to past seasons and we can only concentrate on what we can control."

What Flanagan and his team intends to control is not only their own destiny in relation to their top four aspirations, but also the quality of their football over the next period of the season heading into finals.

While 11 wins from 17 starts, including back-to-back victories against fellow finals candidates at their previous two matches sounds impressive enough, the coach hopes there is more to come in the weeks ahead.

"There's a good feel around the place, but the next 6-7 weeks is when you start building momentum," Flanagan said.
"We've had moments and halves and a game here and there we've played really well but we haven't done it week after week. That's what we have to do in this next block of football."

Perhaps the catalyst to the Sharks finding the form that can turn them into genuine contenders is the continued improvement of five eighth Matt Moylan, with the former Panther outstanding against his old club last week.

Moylan controlled much of his team's attack, with the likes of Valentine Holmes and the Sharks outside backs benefitting from his influence on the match.

Opposite Moylan, with an apparent injury likely to rule out regular half Aiden Sezer, looks set to be the unpredictable Blake Austin, with the Sharks needing to shut the Canberra utility down if they are to claim the points.

The game will also represent the third for Aaron Woods in Sharks colours and his first in front of the home fans.

For the Raiders, Englishman Josh Hodgson is the lynchpin to much of their attack, while big forwards Josh Papalii, Junior Paulo and Dunamis Lui will attempt to assert their authority through the middle of the ruck, in giving what is a potent Canberra backline, room to move.

It is match in which the result is hard to forecast, with the Sharks aiming to continue their push for the top four, the Raiders hoping to keep alive their chances of forcing their way into the eight.

The Sharks v Raiders clash is scheduled for a 6.00pm kick off at Southern Cross Group Stadium, with a Jersey Flegg curtain raiser between the Sharks and Eels getting the afternoon underway at 3.35pm.

The Sharks have trimmed their squad list from 21 to 19, however there are now injury concerns surrounding those selected to play.

The 19-man Sharks squad is listed below.

NRL Team List – round 19
Sharks v Raiders
Friday, July 20
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Kick-off – 6.00pm

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 Scott Sorensen
12 Wade Graham
13 Paul Gallen
Interchange
14 Joseph Paulo
15 James Segeyaro
16 Aaron Woods
17 Jayson Bukuya
18 Ava Seumanufagai
19 Sosaia Feki

Tale of the Tape
Head to Head
70 games played
Sharks 38 wins
Canberra 32 wins

At Southern Cross Group Stadium
Sharks 20 wins
Canberra 12 wins

Past 10 matches
Sharks 6 wins
Canberra 4 wins

Biggest margins
Sharks 44 Canberra 5, Seiffert Oval, 1982
Canberra 56 Sharks 12, Bruce Stadium 1994