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NRL Preview - Sharks v Sea Eagles

The Cronulla Sharks will be near full strength when they take on the Manly Sea Eagles at Southern Cross Group Stadium this Sunday afternoon.

After going down 12-10 to the Brisbane Broncos in contentious circumstances last week, a win over Manly in the Steve Rogers Cup is imperative if the Sharks are to challenge for the top-four.

Some big names return to the Sharks' line-up to bolster their hopes against the 14th-placed Sea Eagles, who have been valiant without winning recently.

Marquee outside back Josh Dugan has been named on an extended bench and is expected to play his first game since round 12, when he inflamed a foot injury.

Co-captain Wade Graham is set to line up in the second-row after missing the Brisbane trip with a slight groin complaint. Unless Graham's heavily pregnant partner goes into labour close to kick-off, he will be a certain starter.

Along with Luke Lewis – who made his comeback from injury last round – the star pair will add another dimension to Cronulla's attack.

Graham confirmed his fitness and said he can't wait to run out before a home crowd tomorrow.

"I was close to playing against Brisbane but with the year I've had [with injury] it was better to be put on ice for one week and be 100% this week," said Graham.

"I've missed a lot of footy. I feel like I've played well when I've come back [from previous injuries] and that probably makes it harder to not play.

"I'm keen to get back out there. There's nothing better than 2 o'clock at Shark Park on a Sunday arvo to come back and play some good footy."

Despite the Sea Eagles' wretched season so far – which included giving up an 18-point lead in the last 12 minutes against the Panthers last week – Graham brushed away suggestions that the Sharks would underestimate their opponents.

"It's a confidence thing. I watched that game on [Saturday] against Penrith. I sort of couldn't believe what was going on there in the back-end of that half," said Graham.

"They played really well for the 70 minutes beforehand ... NRL's hard and when you're not quite where you want to be, it makes it even harder.

"There are still quality players across their whole team, representative players. The Trbojevic boys, Marty Taupau, Daly [Cherry-Evans] back in the Origin arena played really well.

"We know there's strike there and we have to play well. They're just going through a really tough patch at the moment."

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan echoed Graham's thoughts, pointing to the Broncos' shock loss to the 13th-placed Bulldogs on Thursday night as proof that there are no easy wins.

"You saw [on Thursday] night that if you don't prepare you'll get beaten. So if we're any chance of making the top-four, we've got to win on the weekend," said Flanagan.

With a nine-day turnaround since Cronulla played Brisbane, Flanagan said his players had a couple of days off to reset and refocus.

Meanwhile, Lewis talked up Dugan's addition for this weekend.

"He's been excellent, 'Duges'. He's been training pretty hard in rehab, he's been back with [the full squad] on Monday training pretty hard," said Lewis.

"[He's] definitely a big inclusion for us. He's a big game player as well, he's played in big arenas. He brings some sort of X-factor to your side; something always happens around him.

"Fingers crossed he's at his best on the weekend."

However, Lewis remained tight-lipped on where Dugan would slot into the backline, with in-form flyer Valentine Holmes a certainty to remain at fullback.

"He's just sort of jumped in and had a bit of fun [at training], filling in where the coach wants him to fill in. I think he played a little bit of centre, a little bit of wing, a little bit of fullback. Jumped in at left centre as well.

"He's sort of been all over the park at the moment but wherever he fits in our side, he's come back and said whatever's best for the team, he's willing to do.

"To have that mentality and that attitude, that's perfect for our club at the moment."

Kick-off between Cronulla and Manly in the NRL is scheduled for 2 pm, with a Jersey Flegg under-20s curtain-raiser between the junior Sharks and Sea Eagles starting at 11:35 am.

NRL Team List 
Round 21 vs Sea Eagles
Kick-off: 2pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium

1. Valentine Holmes
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Jesse Ramien
4. Ricky Leutele
5. Sione Katoa
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. Scott Sorensen
15. James Segeyaro
16. Aaron Woods
17. Jayson Bukuya
18. Josh Dugan
20. Joseph Paulo

Head-to-head: Played 89; Sea Eagles 63 wins, Sharks 24 wins, 2 draws
Previous result: Sea Eagles won 35-18 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 16, 2017
Points per game: Sharks 19.7; Sea Eagles 19.9
Points conceded per game: Sharks 17.4; Sea Eagles 24.8
Televised: Live on Fox League