The Sharks will be looking to buck a worrying trend when they tackle Souths at ANZ Stadium in their season-opener tomorrow night.
Winless in their past six game one matches, the Sharks face a Souths side which added former Rooster Latrell Mitchell during the off-season, however following a full off-season under the guidance of coach John Morris, are confident of a strong first up showing.
“I think we’ve got a new-look squad, a youthful squad and all the players taking the field tomorrow night have earned their jumper,” Morris said. “Whoever worked the hardest has been rewarded, that’s been my theme all pre-season, the boys have trialled well, they’re fit, keen and ready to go.”
The Sharks head into their opening match unveiling a team with a different look to the one which bowed out of the race last year in the second week of the finals, with Jesse Ramien returning in the centres, Blayke Brailey at hooker and Jack Williams in the famous Cronulla 13 jersey a few of the team changes.
For Ramien it is a happy homecoming after a disappointing season in Newcastle in 2019, Brailey comes in for brother Jayden who has made the move to the Knights, while Williams has won the starting lock position following an outstanding pre-season campaign and solid form in the trials.
Also, for the Sharks, the game will represent a special milestone for prop Toby Rudolf, while Connor Tracey is back at the Sharks and is set to play his first top grade match in Cronulla colours.
“We’ve got some individual things to celebrate, Toby Rudolf making his NRL debut, Connor Tracey, a local junior, a De La junior, making his club debut and Jack Williams taking over the 13 jersey from Gal. I’m really excited about the team I’m putting on the park,” Morris added.
As for their opponents the Rabbitohs, Mitchell is a huge addition to their squad and is set to line up at fullback.
“He’s going to be primed for a big game, but we’ll be ready for him,” Morris said.
On the flip side, while Mitchell may be a positive, Souths have lost plenty of experience with the retirements of senior forwards Sam Burgess and John Sutton.
The Sharks have trimmed their originally selected 21-man squad down to 19, with Billy Magoulias and Jackson Ferris retained as shadow players for tomorrow night.
The Sharks and Souths kick-off at 5.30pm at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
At time of publishing, there had been no restrictions on spectator access due to the Corona virus. The NRL was to make a decision on the matter on Saturday morning.
See the updated Sharks team list and a few relevant stats ahead of the game tomorrow night.
The Stats that matter: Round 1
The Sharks have a reasonable record of late in matches against Souths, however they have recorded losses in their previous six round one games.
The head to head between the two teams gives the Sharks a slight edge, while Souths have been dominant in matches played against the Sharks at ANZ Stadium.
See the stats that matter.
Head to head
Played 88 – Sharks 46 wins, Souths 39, 3 draws
At ANZ Stadium
Played 8 – Souths 7 wins, Sharks 1
Last 10 matches - Sharks 1 win, 9 losses
Last 7 matches - Souths 5 wins, 2 losses
• The Sharks and Souths have played twice in round 1, with one win apiece
Past 8 matches between the clubs
Sharks 5 wins, Souths 3 wins
At ANZ – past 8
Souths 7 wins, Sharks 1 win
• Souths won 8 of 11 at ANZ Stadium in 2019
Sharks away record
The Sharks won 4 of 13 away matches in 2019
Biggest winning margins
Sharks 42 – Souths 0, Caltex Field, 1994
Souths 43 – Sharks 4, Redfern Oval, 1969
Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Latrell MitchellFullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Dane GagaiWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 James RobertsCentre for Sharks is number 3 Josh Morris
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Braidon BurnsCentre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Campbell GrahamWinger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody WalkerFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam ReynoldsHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Tevita TatolaProp for Sharks is number 8 Andrew Fifita
Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien CookHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 10 Thomas BurgessProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 Jaydn Su'A2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Cameron Murray2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Liam KnightLock for Sharks is number 13 Jack Williams
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Mark NichollsInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor Tracey
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Ethan LoweInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Hame SeleInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Toby Rudolf
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Alex JohnstonInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Scott Sorensen