The Sharks will be sweating on the fitness of Andrew Fifita for their Steve Rogers Cup match against Manly at PointsBet Stadium tomorrow, with the big front rower racing the clock to be fit for the crucial round 10 clash.
Fifita has again displayed his ability to recover and overcome what can appear to be serious injuries and is rated a 50-50 chance of taking the field on Sunday.
He participated in some of the captain’s run session earlier today and now needs to wake up on game day with no lingering soreness if he hopes to given the all-clear from Sharks medical staff.
His potential inclusion would provide a boost to the Sharks chances however coach John Morris expressed his satisfaction in those who have come into the his NRL side in recent weeks to replace his long-list of injured stars.
“One thing we’ve done well over the past month is not focus too much on who’s on the sideline, but to put all our energy into the 17 who are taking the field and they’ve shown they can perform well,” Morris said.
“One person out the next one comes in and gets an opportunity, but given the forward pack we’re up against, (Martin) Taupau, (Addin) Fonua-Blake and Jake Trbojevic, that’s where the battle is going to be won.
“Our boys in the middle need to have a big game whether Andrew is there or not.”
Should Fifita be cleared to play, it will be his 200th NRL match and his 161st since joining the Sharks in 2012 after debuting for the Wests Tigers in Round 2 back in 2010.
Fellow prop Matt Prior appears to have overcome his shoulder issues and is likely to take his place in the Sharks side, while Josh Dugan, after a couple of strong outings, again takes over the fullback duties.
The Sharks will also be hoping the outstanding form from half back Chad Townsend continues, with his partnership alongside youngster Kyle Flanagan developing with every outing.
However if the statistics are anything to go by the Sharks will have their hands full whoever takes to the field against a club they have beaten just 24 times out of the 90 games played, the 26 per cent success rate their worst record against any opponent.
The Sea Eagles also boast success in the Shire, winning 22 of 36 matches played at PointsBet Stadium, including the past two, and nine of the last 11 matches.
In their most recent encounter, in Round 21, 2018, an 81st minute Daly Cherry-Evans field goal decided the match as the Sea Eagles scored a 33-32 victory.
At PointsBet this year the Cronulla side are three wins from four, having emerged victorious in the past two, against the Storm and Panthers.
In addition to the potential Fifita 200-game celebrations, the Sharks and Sea Eagles will also play for the Steve Rogers Cup, a trophy named in honour of the late Cronulla Immortal.
The captain of the Sharks in both the 1978 Grand Final and the subsequent replay, Rogers played 202 First Grade games at the Cronulla club, while forging friendships with a number of Manly players when a teammate in the various representative teams.
In trimming his squad down from 21 to 19, Morris has omitted Will Kennedy and Billy Magoulias, while retaining Scott Sorensen and Sione Katoa on his extended reserves bench.
The Sharks and Sea Eagles match kicks off at 4.05pm at PointsBet Stadium, with a Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership game between the Sharks and Souths, the curtain-raiser getting underway at 1.35pm.
NRL Team List – round 10
Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sunday, May 19
1. Josh Dugan
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Bronson Xerri
4. Josh Morris
5. Aaron Gray
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
19. Sione Katoa