Many of the names and faces of the players may have changed and there won’t be a fanatical home crowd attempting to get under the skin of Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith and his Storm teammates, however the intensity level is still sure to be high when round two kicks off for the Sharks on Saturday night.
The Sharks tackle the Storm in what will be their first game at their 2020 home ground of Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with only nine players between the two clubs remaining from the classic Grand Final confrontation of four years ago.
Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita and Chad Townsend, along with six Storm players, including Smith and Queensland Origin star Cameron Munster, were a part of that memorable Sunday in October of 2016, although Sharks Coach John Morris has no doubt the rivalry and mutual dislike is likely to be no different.
“It’s always a physical game, a lot of personal battles go on out on the field. It’s going to be 13 players on each side going at it, getting into each other,” Morris said.
“There’s a bit of history there, two sides who play similar styles. No doubt the fans will be tuning in watching on TV and we’ve got to perform for them.”
As for the prospect of a lack of crowd noise and atmosphere, Morris was of the opinion his team could still perform under what are currently exceptional circumstances.
“It’s always great for the players to play in front of a crowd, but my team need no excuse to get up for this game,” he said.
“We’re playing the Melbourne Storm, if we can’t get up for the Storm you don’t deserve to be out on the field. Our boys are keen to play them like we always are.”
The Sharks go into the game coming off a disappointing round one result, however they were still able to take a few positives from the Souths game, their second half revival being one, with the last minute forward pass the difference between winning and losing, while a couple of unheralded players stepped up and delivered strong performances on the night.
Sione Katoa crossed for two four-pointers, and a spectacular try-scoring double at that, the winger also accumulating 153 run metres, three tackle busts and two line breaks in an outstanding display.
Front rower Toby Rudolf was another to impress in his NRL debut, putting in a solid 30-minutes in his first game in elite company, with Scott Sorensen adding plenty of energy in attack during his time on the field.
Of the more established stars, Shaun Johnson contributed two try assists and was a constant menace to the Rabbitoh defence, while Aaron Woods ran for 191 metres in 18 carries in a wholehearted effort up front.
This week against the Storm the Sharks look likely to field the same 17 which took on Souths, with Billy Magoulias and Josh Dugan on the extended reserves bench.
The match is scheduled to get underway at 7.35pm and can be seen on Fox Sports, Kayo and via streaming on NRL.com.
Stay tuned to Sharks media and social channels for further updates tomorrow, including late mail and a pre-game preview show.
All the stats that matter and the Sharks 19-man squad list are following below.
The Stats that matter
Head to Head
Sharks 15 wins
Storm 24 wins
First meeting at Netstrata
Sharks at Netstrata
Sharks 12 wins – 24 losses
Last 8 matches Sharks v Storm
Sharks 5 wins
These teams met twice in 2019, the Sharks winning in Round 8 at PointsBet Stadium 20-18, while the Storm won 40-16 at AAMI Park in Round 17.
Six of the past eight matches have been decided by 10 points or less.
Cronulla has won the past two, and three of the last four matches as the home team.
In 2019 the Sharks won eight of 12 matches at home.
The Sharks loss to South Sydney in what was their ninth in their past 10 Round 1 matches. They have won three of their past four Round 2 matches.
The Storm have won 17 straight Round 1 matches under the coaching of Craig Bellamy. They have won three of their past four Round 2 matches.
Melbourne has won 12 of its past 13 regular season away matches, their last loss coming against the Sharks in Round 8 last year of 2019.
Wade Graham will become the ninth most capped Sharks player, playing his 189th match, passing former club captain David Hatch.