Locked in a battle with the Panthers, Broncos, Tigers, Knights, Warriors and now Bulldogs, for the remaining two places in the top eight, it’s not necessarily do or die, however anything but a win on Saturday afternoon could put paid to the Sharks chances of qualifying for the upcoming finals series.
Currently clinging to eighth place, the Sharks play the Warriors at PointsBet Stadium with the result set to shape their run into the NRL finals.
A win provides impetus for the remaining games, a loss and the Sharks season could be over. It’s a scenario coach John Morris is acutely aware of heading into tomorrow afternoon’s clash.
“I think we need to win all three, I wouldn’t like to drop one, but I don’t want to look past this game,” Morris said. “We don’t want to take our eyes off a really hungry Warriors team. If we don’t do the job this weekend, we make it real hard on ourselves.”
The Sharks pushed back into the top eight with a win over the Dragons in last Sunday’s local derby and while not pretty, it was a victory Morris hopes his team can improve on against the Warriors.
“We need to build on last week. We’ll take the two points but there’s parts of our game we got to fix and fix pretty quick,” he said. “We play a Warriors side desperate to keep their finals opportunities alive.
“It’s a crucial two points for both teams and shapes as a huge battle.”
The only Sharks loss to the New Zealand side in their last five encounters came just five weeks ago when beaten 19-18 by the Warriors in Wellington.
After giving up an early 12-2 lead a late field goal eventually sealed the result, with Morris looking for a focussed 80-minute effort.
“We got off to a good lead and played them back into it. This time we’ve got to play for 80 minutes,” Morris added.
While the result didn’t go their way across in New Zealand back in round 18, at PointsBet Stadium the Sharks boast a record which shows they have won four of the past five, the last Warriors victory coming back in 2015.
Ironically that win to the New Zealanders came courtesy of some last-minute Shaun Johnson brilliance when the Kiwi five eight crossed for the match-winning try.
Also giving the Sharks a level of confidence, they are seven of 10 at home this year, including their past three, while the Warriors away form is less-than-stellar, with their season record standing at three wins from 10 matches played.
In Sharks team news, Matt Prior plays his 250th NRL match on Saturday afternoon.
After debuting for the Dragons in Round 5, 2008, Prior played 120 matches over six seasons for St George Illawarra, including winning the 2010 Grand Final, before joining the Sharks in 2014.
He would go on to be an integral part of the Sharks premiership success in 2016, named the joint Monty Porter Medallist as player of the year during that season, while in 2018 he represented NSW in the State of Origin arena.
Prior and Aaron Woods have been listed to start in the Sharks front row, with Andrew Fifita set to return on the interchange bench after missing the game against the Dragons last Sunday.
In the backs Matt Moylan has been ruled out with a hamstring strain, his place at fullback to be taken by Josh Dugan. Josh Morris moves from the wing to right centre, with youngster Ronaldo Mulitalo coming into the side.
From the 21-man team as selected on Tuesday, Kyle Flanagan and Sione Katoa come out, with Blayke Brailey and Billy Magoulias retained on an extended reserves list.
The Sharks v Warriors match is scheduled for a 3.00pm kick off at PointsBet Stadium tomorrow, with a top of the table Jersey Flegg match between the Sharks and Roosters the curtain-raiser. That game gets underway at 12.35pm, with gates to PointsBet to open at 12.30pm.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 Josh DuganFullback for Warriors is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sosaia FekiWinger for Warriors is number 2 David Fusitu'a
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson XerriCentre for Warriors is number 3 Peta Hiku
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Josh MorrisCentre for Warriors is number 4 Patrick Herbert
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Warriors is number 5 Ken Maumalo
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun JohnsonFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Blake Green
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Aaron WoodsProp for Warriors is number 14 Lachlan Burr
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden BraileyHooker for Warriors is number 9 Issac Luke
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt PriorProp for Warriors is number 10 Leeson Ah Mau
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Adam Blair
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Isaiah Papali'i
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul GallenLock for Warriors is number 13 Jazz Tevaga
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Kurt CapewellInterchange for Warriors is number 8 Agnatius Paasi
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Sam Lisone
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Andrew FifitaInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Kodi Nikorima
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Warriors is number 22 Blake Ayshford