The Sharks need a win on Sunday to remain in the fight for a top eight berth while the Raiders would love a victory to not only spoil the party at PointsBet Stadium but to press their top four claims.
Adding to the excitement Paul Gallen is set to play his last home game, with tickets sold out as of Tuesday and a full house guaranteed, making the Sharks v Raiders clash on Sunday the game of the round across the NRL and almost the match of the season for the two teams involved.
The Sharks are primed to send their skipper out a winner, but at the same time the focus is on claiming the crucial two competition points to ensure their place in the upcoming NRL Finals.
“The big picture is Gal’s last home game, but the real picture for us it to consolidate our spot in the eight and it’s a good opportunity too to test ourselves against a really good opposition,” Sharks Co-Captain Wade Graham said.
“There’s a lot on the line, especially for us, so it should be a good one on Sunday.”
Teammate Aaron Woods was sprouting a similar sentiment.
“The big thing Gal mentioned specifically this week, its not about him, it’s about the team. We’re fighting for a position in the top eight. He just wants to get to get the job done and to go out and do the business,” Woods expressed.
“The Raiders and Manly are two of the form sides of the competition and had a really good game last week. (The Raiders) defend well and when they’ve got the ball they’ve got a lot of energy.’”
The Sharks 588th match at their Woolooware base, now PointsBet Stadium but known by a number of other names over the past 50-plus years, is potentially one of the most important considering the circumstances of the top eight implications and the skipper’s farewell festivities.
Of those 588 games the Sharks have won 348 and while coach John Morris has preferred not to do the calculations as to the other finals’ contenders, what he does know is that his team holds their destiny in their own hands and win number 349 at home would be one of the clubs more significant.
A victory over the Raiders almost certainly cements a Finals berth, however a loss would set up a last round shootout at Leichhardt Oval with an equally desperate Wests Tigers outfit.
In relation to the third placed Raiders, if they are able to take the points, they wold almost certainly lock up a top four berth.
Giving the Sharks some confidence in their ability to get the job done on Sunday, the Cronulla side has won the past four at home, and eight of 11 matches at PointsBet Stadium this season.
As for the head to head, the Sharks have won six of the last nine matches against the Raiders, with the most recent three games decided by eight points or less.
Back in round 14 at GIO Stadium in Canberra, the Raiders snuck home 22-20 after leading 20-0 some 25 minutes into the game. The Sharks scored four straight tries to level the match 20-all until a Jarrod Croker penalty goal proved the difference.
Overall the Sharks have won 21 of 33 matches at home against the Raiders, however Canberra has a strong recent record at Shark Park, winning four of the past five matches. In the head to head tally at all venues, the Sharks have won 39 of the 72 games played, the Raiders 33.
In adding to the statistics surrounding the game, the game will be Gallen’s 167th at home, on the ground where he made his debut in round 15 back in 2001 against the Eels.
He has won 91 of those 167 matches (54.8%), scoring 28 tries, while Sunday will be the 101st time Gallen has captained the Sharks at the venue. Gallen has scored seven tries against the Raiders during his 345-game career, his equal highest tally against any team in the NRL(Cowboys, Roosters).
In team news for Sunday, the Sharks are set to run out with the 17 as selected on Tuesday.
Matt Moylan is another week away as he continues his recovery from a hamstring strain, with Josh Dugan, up against his old club in the Raiders, set to again assume the fullback duties.
Dugan began his career in Canberra, debuting for them in Round 4, 2009, before going on to play 70 matches for the club.
Young bench forward Jack Williams will also miss the match, his place to be taken by Jayson Bukuya who plays his first game in the top grade since round 17.
Blayke Brailey and Moylan come out of the Sharks 21-man squad, with Billy Magoulias and Kyle Flanagan retained on the extended reserves list.
The Sharks v Raiders NRL match kicks off at 2.00pm, with a Sharks Legends League Touch game the curtain-raiser, starting at 12.35pm.
Gates to PointsBet Stadium open at 11.30pm.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 Josh DuganFullback for Raiders is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Raiders is number 2 Bailey Simonsson
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson XerriCentre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod Croker
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Josh MorrisCentre for Raiders is number 4 Nick Cotric
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan Rapana
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 20 Kyle FlanaganFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Aidan Sezer
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Aaron WoodsProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papalii
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden BraileyHooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh Hodgson
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt PriorProp for Raiders is number 15 Dunamis Lui
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 John Bateman
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul GallenLock for Raiders is number 13 Ryan Sutton
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Kurt CapewellInterchange for Raiders is number 10 Iosia Soliola
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Siliva Havili
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Andrew FifitaInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Corey Horsburgh
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Jayson BukuyaInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Hudson Young