The Cronulla Sharks will welcome back retiring hero Luke Lewis for what's being billed as a semi-final preview against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Lewis, who has been sidelined since round 15 with a calf injury, is an enormous inclusion for a Sharks side that is just one win behind the competition lead despite sitting in fifth position on the ladder.
Co-captain Wade Graham looks set to join Lewis in the second-row, seemingly having overcome the niggling groin complaint that saw him miss the second-half of last Friday's controversial home victory over the Canberra Raiders.
The duo's experience will be invaluable tomorrow, as Cronulla attempts to halt a motoring seventh-placed Brisbane team that smacked the Penrith Panthers 50-18 a week ago and beat the Sharks 20-16 a month earlier.
While Shane Flanagan is anticipating a tough affair, the Sharks coach is keen to see where his troops are at heading into the play-offs.
"We're expecting a real physical game. It's getting close to semis, so it's probably getting close to semi-final intensity tomorrow night," said Flanagan.
"[We're] really looking forward to it, excited. The players are excited; it's always a big crowd up there even though it is a Thursday night, and [it's] coming to the pointy-end of the season.
"If you don't get excited about these games, you never will."
Five-eighth Matt Moylan appears as an integral figure in the Sharks' quest to leave the cauldron of Suncorp with two competition points and extend their current winning streak to four matches.
Moylan has steadily grown in the No.6 jersey since the start of the season and is now among the form pivots in the NRL. The 27-year-old is confident the Sharks can make a deep run into the finals – provided they start producing complete 80-minute efforts.
"We've showed in patches pretty much every game that we're a side that can threaten. We've just got to string those patches into a full game and a full performance," said Moylan.
The three-time NSW Origin player stressed that the Sharks cannot afford any more second stanza lapses like the one that almost cost them the game against Canberra last week.
"It's the sort of inconsistency we want to get out of our game if we want to give it a fair crack.
"We've got to try to string long periods of game together, and if we can do that for 80 minutes I think it gives us every chance to win them big games."
Meanwhile, Moylan's scrum-base partner, Chad Townsend, branded the challenge of taking on the Broncos in their own backyard as "our biggest test for a long time".
"The Broncos were super impressive on the weekend to score over 50 points. To go up there and play at Suncorp is going to be a big clash, and a clash that we're looking forward to," said Townsend.
The halfback went on to name Brisbane playmakers Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford as the danger men in the opposition line-up.
"I still think they're some of the most dynamic, fast halves in the competition, to be honest. You look across both of their games – Kodi Nikorima's got one of the best show-and-go's in the game, he's ultra-quick, and Milford on his day can carve up anyone.
"We're going to have our hands full."
Kick-off between the Sharks and Broncos tomorrow night is at 7:50pm. For those not travelling, the match will be broadcast live on Channel Nine and Fox League.
Played 53; Sharks 20 wins, Broncos 33 wins
Previous result: Broncos won 20-16 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 15
Points per game: Sharks 20.2; Broncos 21.3
Points conceded per game: Sharks 17.7; Broncos 21.0
(Above statistics via NRL.com)
NRL Team List – Round 20
Sharks v Broncos
Thursday, July 26
Kick off – 7.50pm
1- Valentine Holmes
2- Sione Katoa
3- Jessie Ramien
4- Ricky Leutele
20- Sosaia Feki
6- Matt Moylan
7- Chad Townsend
8- Andrew Fifita
9- Jayden Brailey
10- Matt Prior
11- Luke Lewis
12- Wade Graham
13- Paul Gallen
14- Scott Sorensen
15- James Segeyaro
16- Aaron Woods
17- Jayson Bukuya
18- Joseph Paulo
19- Ava Seumanufagai