Every week in the NRL is a rivalry of sorts, but whenever the Sharks and Storm come together there seems to be that extra spice.
Expect nothing different when the two teams clash at PointsBet Stadium on Friday night.
Grand Final opponents in 2016, the on-field battles have been fierce, both before that premiership decider and certainly since, the personal confrontations intense.
Many observers of the game reason the two teams have similar playing styles, making for close and hard-fought contests, with five of their last six encounters decided by 10-points or less.
However, John Morris, who played against Melbourne for over a decade and is now setting a game plan against them as Sharks head coach, wasn’t so sure of the similarities between the two but he was certain his team while up for the fight, had a difficult assignment awaiting them.
“Anyone who’s played each other in a Grand Final I think the rivalry is there forever,” Morris said. “Whether we have a similar style, or different, I don’t know but we like to play physical and so do they.
“They’re not going to give you much, they’re not going to beat themselves. We’ve got to get off to a good start, get into the battle and give ourselves every chance to get a win.”
With a number of his key personnel unavailable due to injury, a win would be a major boost to the confidence of his team as well as to their position on the ladder, with Morris more concerned about who was in his team on Friday night, rather than who wasn’t.
“Out of adversity comes great opportunity. I’m over talking about who’s on the sideline, I’d prefer to talk about the 17 on the field and the opportunity they’ve got,” he said.
“It’s been tough to watch. I feel sorry for the boys who’ve been injured. About 15 per cent of our squad I think and 30-40 per cent of our salary cap.
“But Melbourne aren’t going to worry about the guys sitting on the sidelines. We’ve got to get into them, do a job now and not worry about the boys coming back in a few weeks.”
As for the personal match-ups, youngster Bronson Xerri comes up against the aggressive Will Chambers in what will be another step in the learning process for the 18-year-old local junior.
While presenting a considerable challenge, it was one Morris believes young Xerri is up to.
“(He just needs to) worry about himself. So far since his debut he’s played against Michael Jennings, Latrell Mitchell and on the weekend Jack Bird,” Morris said.
“Throw Will Chambers in, but it’s the NRL, that’s what you’ve got to expect and I’ve got belief in him and confidence in him that he’ll handle the personal battles.”
In other Sharks team news, Kyle Flanagan comes into the side in place of Shaun Johnson, with Will Kennedy retained at fullback.
Sosaia Feki comes out of the team with injury, his place is taken by Aaron Gray.
Josh Dugan, named in jersey 21, has been included on an extended reserves bench and will be given up until game day to prove he has overcome a hamstring issue. Whether he would come into the team if fit at fullback, wing or centre, is also unknown.
“He’s a chance, but we’ve got to be really careful with that one,” Morris explained. “He hasn’t done much during the week and while it wasn’t as bad as we first thought it’s a big call to make sure he’s 100 per cent right.
“We’re not going to risk him considering the other hamstring problems we have. He did a little bit of running (Thursday) but we’ve got to make a decision on him tomorrow,” Morris added.
In the head to head statistics, past results make it difficult to predict a winner.
The Sharks may have won four of the past six matches against Melbourne, included amongst those the 2016 Grand Final, however the Storm have a good record at PointsBet Stadium having claimed victory eight times in 15 games.
The Storm comes into the contest with six wins from their seven games in 2019, with the Sharks sitting mid field with three wins and four losses.
The Sharks v Storm match is scheduled for a 7.50pm kick off at PointsBet Stadium, with a Sharks v Victorian Thunderbolts the curtain-raiser getting underway at 5.20pm.
Gates to PointsBet Stadium open at 5.00pm.
The Sharks 19-man squad is listed below, with Dugan and Scott Sorensen on the extended reserves bench.
NRL Team List – Round 8
Sharks v Storm
Friday, May 3
Kick-off – 7.50pm
1. Will Kennedy
20. Aaron Gray
3. Bronson Xerri
4. Josh Morris
5. Sione Katoa
6. Kyle Flanagan
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. Braden Hamlin-Uele
18. Scott Sorenson
21. Josh Dugan