The Sharks and Eels will honour the memory of the late Johnny Mannah when they face off on Saturday night, with a trophy named after the former Cronulla and Parramatta star always adding a bit of additional incentive to the annual clash.
An Eels junior who joined he Sharks in 2009, Mannah returned to Parramatta ahead of the 2012 season, before sadly passing away after losing his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma in January of 2013, aged just 23.
Since his passing, the two clubs have played for the Johnny Mannah Cup in their first meeting each season.
A no-nonsense type, who would play 24 NRL games for the Cronulla club, Mannah was a former teammate of John Morris, with the Sharks coach having fond memories of his days playing alongside the popular front rower.
“I think Johnny only scored a couple of tries in the NRL and I remember throwing the last pass for one of them,” Morris recalled. “He was popular amongst all the boys and a much-respected player here at the Sharks. The way he fought back and returned to the Eels NRL squad after his first bout of cancer, was an inspiration to all those who knew him.
“It means a lot to us to be playing for the Johnny Mannah Cup and I’m sure it’s a special occasion and an important game for the Parramatta club as well,” Morris added.
Of the current playing group, Paul Gallen, Chad Townsend, Jayson Bukuya and Wade Graham all played alongside Mannah during his career at the Sharks.
The two clubs have contested the Johnny Mannah Cup on six occasions, most recently in round three last year, a game won 14-4 by the Sharks. The trophy has in fact enjoyed something of a permanent home at Cronulla over the past few years, the Sharks having won it the last four times after the Eels claimed the trophy in the first two matches back in 2013 and 2014.
The Sharks head into Saturday’s match full of confidence following a strong second half showing in Townsville last week, while the Eels will be looking to rebound after going down to the Roosters after an impressive start which saw them win their opening two games of the 2019 season.
The Sharks v Eels match, for the Johnny Mannah Cup, is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick off at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.