The likelihood of a big crowd, on a sunny Sunday, is set to deliver another memorable local derby clash between the Sharks and Dragons.
Playing for the Monty Porter Foundation Cup, on a day where skipper Paul Gallen runs out as Sharks captain for the 200th time, almost guarantees an intense contest between the two local rivals.
Coach John Morris, disappointed in the outcome of their previous game, a loss to the Panthers last Friday night, is one person eagerly anticipating what Sunday might bring.
“It’s the one our supporters and all the Sutherland Shire look forward to. Sunday afternoon, at PointsBet Stadium, I couldn't think of a better place to be,” Morris said of the big round 22 match up.
“We probably took a little step back last week after two good wins against the Cowboys and Souths, but the good news is, we win and we’re back in the eight and we control our own destiny from there.”
Again against Penrith, as has been the Sharks habit in 2019, the Cronulla side were slow out of the blocks, conceding a 20-4 half time lead, that score blowing out to 26-4, before they mounted a rousing fightback in eventually going down by 26-20.
“We’ve only led at half time four times this year,” Morris lamented. “It wasn’t until the 50th minute when we got the ball where we wanted, got some fatigue into them and put them under pressure. But we have to build pressure from the first minute, not the 50th minute.”
This week while facing a St George Illawarra side out of finals calculations, the Cronulla side will certainly need to start the game on the front foot, with the Dragons more than capable of spoiling the Sharks finals aspirations.
Boasting a forward pack with Origin and International forwards, and a backline including Englishman Gareth Widdop, the skilful Corey Norman and Queensland rep Ben Hunt, Morris realises his team is in for a fight on Sunday afternoon.
“While they haven't had the results they wanted, I’m sure they want to get a bit of credibility out of the back end of their season and I’m sure they want to inflict some pain on some teams like ourselves,” he said.
The Dragons snapped a five-game losing streak with their win over the Titans last weekend.
The Sharks will go into the game with no Andrew Fifita, his niggling knee injury seeing him miss this weekend’s derby, with his place on the bench taken by youngster Billy Magoulias.
In the backs Matt Moylan is back on deck after a head knock in the Souths game kept him out of the Panthers match. His return results in a backline reshuffle, one that has Josh Dugan going back into the centres, Josh Morris moving onto the wing.
Fans could be led to believe that the Sharks have a distinct advantage in matches played against the Dragons at their home base of PointsBet Stadium however the recent record might indicate otherwise.
The Dragons have won the last two matches played in the Shire and six of the past 10 in an indication the venue holds few fears for the visitors.
Overall, since 1999 when St George and Illawarra merged to become one, the Dragons have won 22 of 43, the Sharks victorious on 20 occasions, with one draw.
At PointsBet, the Sharks record is 11 wins from 19 matches.
The two teams have met once this season, back in Round 11 at WIN Stadium, with Bronson Xerri crossing for a hat trick of tries in the Sharks 22-9 win.
The Sharks and Dragons match is scheduled for a 4.05pm kick off at PointsBet Stadium, with a Jersey Flegg game between the same two clubs to feature as the curtain-raiser at 1.35pm.
Gates to PointsBet Stadium open at 1.30pm.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 Matt MoylanFullback for Dragons is number 1 Corey Norman
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sosaia FekiWinger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson XerriCentre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Josh DuganCentre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Josh MorrisWinger for Dragons is number 21 Zac Lomax
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun JohnsonFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Gareth Widdop
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Aaron WoodsProp for Dragons is number 8 James Graham
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden BraileyHooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnes
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt PriorProp for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Patrick Kaufusi
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Luciano Leilua
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul GallenLock for Dragons is number 13 Tyson Frizell
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Kurt CapewellInterchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy Latimore
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Dragons is number 15 Korbin Sims
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Billy MagouliasInterchange for Dragons is number 16 Blake Lawrie
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Dragons is number 17 Jackson Ford
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Referee: Jon Stone
- Touch Judge: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Video Referee: Bryan Norrie
- Senior Review Official: Jared Maxwell