NRL Preview – Sharks v Titans

It will be important to do the skipper proud on the day when Paul Gallen catches Andrew Ettingshausen and equals the mark for most games played at the Cronulla club.

It was also be a significant day for local junior Chad Townsend when he becomes just the second genuine number seven to play 100 NRL games for the Sharks.

But what might be most crucial, will be the Sharks notching a win when they host the Gold Coast Titans at Shark Park tomorrow, one that would be the first of 2019 and also the first since John Morris took over the reins as head coach.

Gallen reaches 328 games in what has been a remarkable career, matching the record of the man who brought great excitement to Sharks fans over 18 seasons at the club.

In his final year in the NRL, it will be another notch in the belt for Gallen, who after representing NSW and Australia with distinction, then becoming the first captain to lift the Premiership trophy for the Sharks, has ticked all the boxes since debuting for the club way back in 2001.

However, if not equally noteworthy, certainly worth recognising, will be Townsend’s 100th as a Shark, the club he aspired to represent when a local junior playing for the Yarrawarrah Tigers.

While Mitch Healey (223 games) and Adam Dykes (183) gave outstanding service to the club over many seasons, both played large chunks of their careers in a five eighth role, with Townsend only the second traditional half back in Sharks history after Brett Kimmorley (140) to chalk up a century of games played.

Along with his present-day captain a member of the Sharks title-winning team of 2016, Townsend is resilient, ready to put last week’s game in Newcastle behind him and to focus on the next job at hand.  

“All I can control is what happens next,” Townsend told the Telegraph at a mid-week media call. “Straight after the moment I move on straight away. I can guarantee I’ll make more mistakes this season, it’s what you do next (that matters).”

Morris is also confident, in this milestone match, that Townsend will be ready to go come 3.00pm on Saturday.

“He doesn’t shy away from those big moments. He’s won us plenty of games in the past. Against the Titans last year, he kicked two field goals to win us that game,” Morris said.

“He wasn’t happy with how it ended last week but he’s been professional as ever, he’ll bounce back and have a big one in his 100th game.

“It will be a great day for Chad and a big occasion for his family. He’s such an important part of our squad and I’m really stoked he’s been able to play 100 games. He’s into that top ranking of half backs to have played for this club and he’s an integral part of our team.”

For just the second time in Sharks colours, Townsend will partner new recruit Shaun Johnson in the halves, up against the unlikely pairing of Riley Jacks and AJ Brimson, with the two Titans deputising for the injured Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts.

But while the halves battle will be critical to the outcome, the Sharks will need to firstly control the ball better than they did in their round one loss, as well as getting over the top of a big and physical Gold Coast forward pack.

Well beaten in their first-round match, the Titans will be hoping a recent good record in games against Cronulla, one which has seen them register two wins and a draw in their previous four encounters, continues at Shark Park this week.

The Sharks are set to run out 1-17 for tomorrow’s game, with Bronson Xerri and Braden Hamlin-Uele dropping off the 21-man squad list as selected on Tuesday.

The NRL clash between the Sharks and Titans kicks off at 3.00pm, with a Dance Spectacular, featuring 1,500 young dancers, set to thrill the crowd at half time.

The curtain raiser will feature the Newtown Jets against Mounties in the NSWRL Canterbury Cup, that game getting underway at 12.45pm, with gates to Shark Park opening at 12.30pm.

The Sharks 19-man squad is listed below

 

NRL Team List
Sharks v Titans
Saturday, March 23
Shark Park

 

1. Matt Moylan
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Josh Dugan
4. Josh Morris
5. Sione Katoa
6. Shaun Johnson
7. Chad Townsend
8. Andrew Fifita
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Matt Prior
11. Briton Nikora
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Paul Gallen
14. Blayke Brailey
15. Jayson Bukuya
16. Aaron Woods
17. Jack Williams
18. Scott Sorensen
19. Kyle Flanagan