Sharks v Dragons matches are traditionally played with plenty of intensity while creating a huge amount of interest and rivalry amongst fans of both clubs.
This weekend, with two teams at the cross roads sitting on the edge of the top eight, coming off disappointing last start losses and looking to capture the competition points before the Origin period kicks in, the importance goes up an extra notch.
The local derby, played for the Monty Porter Cup in honour of the former Sharks and Dragons stalwart and for the sports foundation which now bears his name, again promises to be a match not to be missed.
Sharks coach John Morris, having played in local derby matches and now set to coach his first, was confident his players, both young and not-so-young, would appreciate the occasion and the rivalry.
“Blokes like Matty Prior, Josh Morris, Josh Dugan, who have been on the other side of the camp, they know what it’s about,” Morris said of Sharks-Dragons derby matches.
“Then our senior boys in Gal, Fifita, Townsend, they’ve played in a lot of these. But the rivalry has been there for our young kids too, the Braileys, Flanagans, Xerris, it’s a rivalry that runs through the grades. They understand the local derby and understand it’s a game you really want to win.”
While wanting to win is one thing, getting a result in Wollongong, which has been a unhappy hunting ground for Sharks teams in the past, is a difficult task.
Only twice since 1989 have the Sharks been successful at WIN Stadium, the most recent victory in 2013 coming as a result of some last-minute heroics from Andrew Fifita.
As a merged entity the St George-Illawarra Dragons have won six of seven games played at the venue, while the Sharks have a six out of 21 record in all games dating back to matches played against the now-defunct Illawarra Steelers.
In some Sharks milestones Chad Townsend will play his 150th NRL match, the local product having made his debut for Cronulla in Round 13, 2011, with the versatile Kurt Capewell to run out for his 50th NRL game.
In team news, Matt Moylan has been retained in the Sharks 19-man squad, indicating a return to the field is a possibility following seven weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Andrew Fifita, after battling a hamstring issue of his own in the lead up to the Manly game last week, has enjoyed a strong week on the training paddock and will take his place in the Cronulla side.
The Sharks v Dragons match is scheduled for a 4.05pm kick off at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
The Sharks 19-man squad, with Billy Magoulias and Sione Katoa omitted from the 21 as selected on Tuesday, is listed below.
NRL Team List – Round 11
Sharks v Dragons
Sunday, May 26
Kick-off – 4.05pm
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
21. Matt Moylan