A 12-day break has the Sharks rested, refreshed and ready for a crucial clash with the Parramatta Eels at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday.
With their last game coming at WIN Stadium in what was a strong victory over local rivals the St George Illawarra Dragons, the subsequent break for the bye round has enabled the Sharks to get over some of the bumps and bruises of the first 11 matches and as a bonus they start to welcome back some of the stars who have been missing through the early rounds this year.
Matt Moylan slotted seamlessly into the Sharks backline in the match in Wollongong and this week he is set to be joined by Wade Graham in what will be the backrower’s first outing since suffering an ACL tear in his teams’ final game of the 2018 season.
While the news on Graham and Moylan is good, unfortunately Shaun Johnson will be sidelined for a further week, but rather than dwell on the negative, Sharks Coach John Morris preferred to get excited about the prospect of his Co-Captain’s return.
“Wade Graham will make his long-awaited comeback,” Morris declared at his Friday weekly media call. “It’s been nearly nine months since he hobbled off the field in that semi-final against the Roosters last year.
“It’s been a really good recovery for him, he’s worked super hard to get himself fit and ready to play and he’s looking forward to it.”
As for Moylan, the former Panther showed what he was capable of in the win over the Dragons, with Morris confident his fullback has a lot more improvement in him.
“He showed what he can do in that first game back when he was almost man-of-the-match for us and every game he’ll get better, get his fitness back and hopefully his best if yet to come,” Morris said.
However, despite slowly welcoming back some of their more experienced campaigners, the Sharks still face a formidable challenge tomorrow night.
Against an Eels side sitting two points and two places behind them on the ladder, Morris was aware of the importance of Saturday’s game.
“We enter a period, Parramatta and Canberra, teams around similar points to us, where all these wins are vital,” he said.
“We played (the Eels) earlier in the year at Homebush and they got us, so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go and we aim up. It should be a really good game.”
In the head to head statistics, the Sharks have won five of the past six games against the Eels, the one loss coming back in round four this season.
In the overall numbers, the two clubs have faced off 86 times since the Sharks inception in 1967, the Cronulla side having won on 46 occasions compared to 40 wins from Parramatta. In games played at PointsBet Stadium it is 23 to 14 again in favour of the Sharks.
The Eels arrive in the Shire on Saturday having broken a three-game losing streak last week with a 26- 14 win over Souths. They will however be looking to turn around their form on the road, having lost their last four after having gone down in all 12 away games during the 2018 season.
In a player milestone, skipper Paul Gallen will move into equal eighth place on the NRL list for most appearances ever, equalling Brad Fittler on 336 games. The Sharks captain, currently tied on 63 tries with Ray Corcoran, requires just one try to move into outright sixth place on the Sharks all-time try scoring list.
The Sharks v Eels match is scheduled for a 5.30pm kick-off at PointsBet Stadium.
Prior to the NRL game the Sharks Jersey Flegg side, currently sitting on top of competition ladder, takes on Parramatta at 3.05pm, with a local A Grade fixture between Como and Menai the first of three games at PointsBet Stadium tomorrow, getting underway at 1.00pm.
The Sharks 19-man squad is listed below, with Morris retaining Scott Sorensen on his extended reserves bench and needing to find a place for Graham is his final 17. The Sharks team will be confirmed tomorrow one hour prior to kick off.
NRL Team List – Round 13
Sharks v Eels
Saturday, June 8
Kick-off – 5.30pm
1. Matt Moylan
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Bronson Xerri
4. Josh Dugan
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
20. Wade Graham