Sharks immortals Andrew Ettingshausen, Gavin Miller and Tommy Bishop are set to be in the crowd on Old Boys reunion day, but the big question will be whether or not future immortal and 329-game player Paul Gallen will be on the field or watching on with them from the sidelines when the Sharks play the Roosters on Saturday night.
Missing last weekend when the Sharks went down to the Eels, Gallen’s training has been modified during the week, but with his toughness unquestioned, coach John Morris will be giving his skipper every chance to prove his fitness.
“If anyone can handle (the pain of the injury) it’s Gal. He knows his body best and we’ll see how he pulls up tomorrow and make a call then,” Morris said.
The injury issues surrounding Gallen have been off-set somewhat with the likely return of Shaun Johnson in the halves, while Josh Dugan has been given a clean bill of health after receiving a couple of knocks last weekend and will resume his duties at fullback.
Like Gallen, Johnson will be monitored and assessed by medical staff on the day of the game, however the Kiwi international is expected to take his place in the Sharks side.
But with or without two of their most experienced stars, the Sharks will have their hands full against a Roosters team riding high confidence after the first four rounds of the 2019 competition.
“They’re leading the way at the moment and have talent right across the park, a big physical forward pack and Keary, Tedesco and Cronk doing a really good job for them,” Morris said.
“Defensively we’ll have to be really good and we’ll need to get them into an arm wrestle and hopefully wear them down.”
The two teams go into Saturday night’s clash having won the past three matches between the two clubs, two of those victories in 2017 and 2018 coming at PointsBet Stadium.
While the Sharks improved their ball control considerably in the loss to the Eels, discipline was still an issue, with the Cronulla side the most penalised in the NRL through the opening four rounds with 9.3 given away per game. Should they hope to beat the defending premiers, that is one area of their performance the Sharks will need to rectify.
Having won 10 of the past 14 matches at home, the Sharks will be aiming for five straight victories at PointsBet Stadium for the first time since 2015-16. The Roosters on the other hand will be looking for a fourth win in a row on the road.
A team with a number of attacking threats, the Roosters have scored the most points and tries coming into the Round 5 clash.
As for the Sharks team list, Dugan takes over the number one jersey in the absence of Matt Moylan, with young gun Bronson Xerri retaining his place at right centre.
Johnson and Chad Townsend will be reunited in the halves this week, while without Aaron Woods, the Sharks have named a mobile interchange bench which includes three versatile performers in Jayson Bukuya, Jack Williams and Scott Sorensen.
Injured by a late shot in their win over the Broncos, Cooper Cronk has been named and is expected to take his place in the Roosters team.
The game between the Sharks and Roosters is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick off at PointsBet Stadium with a Jersey Flegg match between the same two teams the curtain-raiser beginning at 5.15pm.
Gates to PointsBet Stadium open at 5.00pm.
The Sharks 19-man squad, with Will Kennedy and Aaron Gray omitted from the originally selected team, is listed below.
NRL Team List – Round 5
Sharks v Roosters
Saturday, April 13
Kick-off – 7.30pm
1. Josh Dugan
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Bronson Xerri
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 (c)
14. Blayke Brailey
15. Jayson Bukuya
16. Jack Williams
17. Scott Sorenson
18. Kyle Flanagan
20. Braden Hamlin-Uele