NRL Preview – Finals Week 1

Last Sunday the Sharks played for their 2019 premiership life in front of a sell-out crowd at Leichhardt Oval.

The Sharks emerged 25-8 winners over the Wests Tigers, qualifying for the top eight and progressing to a Finals match up against the Manly Sea Eagles.

Now heading into another hostile environment and potentially a second full-house in as many weeks, the Sharks will need to get the better of a fired up Sea Eagles team and a certain-to-be raucous home crowd should they hope to keep their title prospects alive and to progress to week two of the 2019 NRL Finals.

It’s a daunting task, especially considering Cronulla’s ordinary record over the years at Brookvale Oval, now Lottoland, but the current crop of players aren’t so much about what has gone before, rather what lies ahead on Saturday night.

“We’re not worried about that past, it’s about what’s happening on the weekend,” Josh Morris said at a mid-week media call. “A fair few of us haven’t played there in a Sharks jersey, for us we’ve got a zero and zero record, so we’ve got to go there and get the win.”

Half back Chad Townsend was singing a similar tune when asked about playing on the northern beaches and in relation to the Sharks-Manly rivalry.

“The record doesn’t phase us to be honest. It’s a new game, a new competition, we’re a new team and we have a new coach,” Townsend said.

“We’re just focused on this week and what we need to do.”

What the Sharks, who come into the contest having won five of their past seven matches, need to do is beat a Manly side which finished sixth at the end of the home and away season.

They also need to overcome a statistical hoodoo which shows the Sharks haven’t won at Brookvale since 2008 and have been successful in just five of 39 games at the venue.

Also making ordinary reading for Sharks fans is the fact that of the past nine games between the two clubs, Manly have won eight times, Cronulla’s last victory coming in their premiership winning season of 2016.

Overall in the 91 matches since Cronulla entered the competition in 1967, the record stands at 65 Sea Eagles wins, 24 by the Sharks, with two draws.

In Finals, the Sea Eagles have won seven (and drawn one) of nine games, including each of the past five games, with Cronulla’s only win coming in the 1978 major preliminary final.

Manly also won the 1973 Grand Final 10-7, drew 11-all in the initial Grand Final in 1978 and then three days later won 16-0 against the Sharks in the replay.

The Sharks and Sea Eagles have met once in 2019, with Manly coming out on top 24-14 at PointsBet Stadium in Round 10, a win which was coincidently their last this year without NSW and Australian star Tom Trbojevic in their 17. Manly has won just four of 12 matches without Trbojevic in 2019 compared to 10 of 12 with him at the back.

The Sea Eagles will be without their inspirational fullback on Saturday night, with Trbojevic ruled out for the season with a ruptured pectoral muscle, while the home side will also be missing suspended prop Martin Taupau as well as injured forwards Curtis Sironen and Joel Thompson.

As for Sharks team news, coach John Morris has been forced to make one change, the experienced Aaron Gray coming into the side on the wing in place of Ronaldo Mulitalo, with the youngster suspended for one week due to a shoulder charge.

Otherwise they are expected to run out 1-17, with Matt Moylan omitted from the 21-man squad as selected on Tuesday. Moylan has yet to overcome his hamstring issue.

The game, which kicks off at Lottoland at 7.50pm on Saturday night, marks the fifth straight Finals appearance for the Sharks, which is a club record for most consecutive years in the Finals.

The winner of this match will advance to a Semi Final against the loser of the Roosters and South Sydney match. The loser on Saturday night is eliminated.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Brendan Elliot
    Fullback for Sharks is number 1 Josh Dugan
  • Winger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Jorge Taufua
    Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sosaia Feki
  • Centre for Sea Eagles is number 3 Brad Parker
    Centre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson Xerri
  • Centre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Moses Suli
    Centre for Sharks is number 4 Josh Morris
  • Winger for Sea Eagles is number 5 Reuben Garrick
    Winger for Sharks is number 5 Aaron Gray
  • Five-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Dylan Walker
    Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
  • Halfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
    Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend

Forwards

  • Prop for Sea Eagles is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
    Prop for Sharks is number 16 Andrew Fifita
  • Hooker for Sea Eagles is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden Brailey
  • Prop for Sea Eagles is number 10 Sean Keppie
    Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt Prior
  • 2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 11 Corey Waddell
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
  • 2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 Jack Gosiewski
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
  • Lock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Jake Trbojevic
    Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul Gallen

Interchange

  • Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 14 Manase Fainu
    Interchange for Sharks is number 8 Aaron Woods
  • Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 15 Haumole Olakau'atu
    Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Kurt Capewell
  • Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 16 Lloyd Perrett
    Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Jack Williams
  • Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 17 Toafofoa Sipley
    Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-Uele