After a disappointing run over the past month the Sharks have turned their attention to the Warriors, and in an unfamiliar venue in Wellington and Westpac Stadium at that, as they attempt to get their finals charge back on track.
Three narrow losses, followed by a defeat in Melbourne in a game where injuries both before and during the game proved too difficult to overcome, has given Friday night in Wellington extra importance for coach John Morris and his Sharks side.
However rather than be downcast and in panic mode when talking about recent weeks, Morris has seen enough to indicate a turn around and believes winning form isn't too far away.
“I felt like we really competed hard under some adversity,” Morris said in relation to the Storm loss. “It says a lot about our character, the boys are fighting right to the end. We probably conceded too many tries with players playing out of position but I like the way we competed and I saw some good signs.”
Putting last week, and the past four games behind them, the Sharks now shift their focus to a Warriors team which has been involved in some nail-biting finishes over their last four matches.
A draw last week was the culmination of a month where they showed they have plenty of resolve to go with the flair the Warriors are known for.
Morris is aware of the challenge that awaits and realises claiming the two points won’t be easy.
“They’re always a really dangerous side to play and they’re in good form too. It’s going to take an 80-minute performance to beat this team and it shapes as a good battle,” Morris added.
In relation to the Sharks team and the recent injury woes, Shaun Johnson who injured an ankle in Melbourne last week, managed to complete his teams Captain’s Run at Westpac Stadium on Tuesday and is expected to be good to go.
Johnson returns to New Zealand for his first NRL game since shifting to the Sharks, with the Kiwi international having played162 matches for the Warriors from 2011-18, scoring a club record 917 points for the Warriors.
Morris is expecting Johnson to take to the field and to have a strong impact on the result.
“He’s made some good progress this week, if he pulls up sweet (on the morning of the game), he’ll be good to go,” Morris explained.
Matt Moylan and Paul Gallen, both also arriving in New Zealand under an injury cloud after missing the Storm game, trained strongly earlier today and like Johnson are expected to be cleared to take to the field on Friday night.
The Sharks have had one withdrawal, with Aaron Gray ruled out out with a knee problem, replaced by youngster Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Despite the run of outs over recent matches, the Sharks will go into the game with a level of confidence considering their recent form against the Warriors, where the record shows four wins in a row and nine from the last 11.
However, before the Sharks get carried away with their run of success against the Warriors, the contests have traditionally been tight, with five of the past six matches decided by four points or less.
While in relation to close matches, the Warriors have an abundance of experience in recent weeks, with their two wins (Titans, Knights, two 4-point wins), a draw (Broncos) and a one-point loss (Panthers) all going down to the wire.
Overall the Sharks have won 22 of 38 against the Warriors, with this the first between these teams in Wellington.
The Warriors have a ordinary record playing in Wellington, winning just two of nine matches.
As for the Sharks, they will be looking to avoid a fifth straight loss in a season for the first time since 2014. Three of those past four losses have been by two points, before last week’s 24-point defeat by the Storm.
The Sharks and Storm kick off at 8.00pm (Local time - 6pm AEST) at Westpac Stadium.
From the Sharks 19-man team Gray and Kyle Flanagan omitted from the originally-selected 21-man squad.