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Classic Clash Preview - Sharks v Cowboys, 2013

The First Elimination Final of the 2013 Telstra NRL Finals Series saw the fifth-placed Cronulla Sharks up against a North Queensland Cowboys side which snuck into the eighth position in what promised to be a classic clash.

For very different reasons, few predicted the Sharks and Cowboys would contest the Finals n the first match of a double-header at Allianz Stadium, Cronulla seemingly dealing with one drama after another in what was at the time quite possibly their worst year off the field in the clubs history. Their list of dramas included but weren’t limited to an ongoing ASADA investigation.  

The Cowboys were also written off throughout 2013 despite possessing a roster most critics considered to be one of the best in the competition, their team including the likes of Matt Bowen, Brent Tate, Johnathan Thurston, James Tamou, Matt Scott and Tariq Sims. 

Few expected the Cowboys to qualify for finals football after winning just six matches from the opening 20 rounds of competition, with only a six-game winning streak from Rounds 21-26 saving their season. 

Following victories against the Rabbitohs, Panthers, Titans, Knights, Sharks and Tigers, North Queensland entered the finals in outstanding form, perhaps better than any other side in the competition.

In the elimination final the Sharks made a raft of changes to the side that beat the Raiders 38-18 in Canberra on Monday night in their last regular season match. 

Coach Shane Flanagan had rested a number of his stars, with all returning, while skipper Paul Gallen was also available after serving a one game suspension.

Todd Carney, Wade Graham, Jayson Bukuya, Anthony Tupou and Gallen were back in the 17-man squad, with Chad Townsend, Tyrone Peachey and Tupou Sopoaga returning to the NSW Cup. Tupou and Bukuya were named as a part of a six-man bench that also included Isaac De Gois, Chris Heighington, Bryce Gibbs and Ben Ross.

For the Cowboys, co-captain Scott was in line to make an earlier-than-predicted return from injury, the Origin prop originally expected to be sidelined for three weeks after breaking his middle finger against the Sharks in Round 25. 

Scott’s inclusion in the starting pack pushed Scott Bolton to the interchange bench in the only change to the Cowboys side that beat the Wests Tigers the previous Saturday as they attempt to equal the club record of seven consecutive victories, set in 2007.

Not since 2002 had the Sharks won a finals fixture at a venue other than Shark Park, and history shows 83 per cent of teams this century that qualified for the finals on the back of six successive wins won in the opening week. 

Cronulla did however have reason for optimism after what had been their best finish to a regular season since 2008.

In the history of matches played between the two clubs, the Sharks had won 20 of the 32 games played.

Below are team lists, with the Sharks v Cowboys Classic Clash kicking off at 5.30pm on the Sharks website.


Sharks Team List - 2013 Elimination Final

1 Michael Gordon
2 Sosaia Feki
3 Ben Pomeroy
4 Jonathan Wright
5 Beau Ryan
6 Todd Carney
7 Jeff Robson
8 Andrew Fifita
9 John Morris
10 Sam Tagataese
11 Luke Lewis
12 Wade Graham
13 Paul Gallen


14 Isaac De Gois
15 Chris Heighington
16 Jayson Bukuya
17 Anthony Tupou
18 Ben Ross
19 Bryce Gibbs


Cowboys Team List - 2013 Elimination Final

1 Matthew Bowen
2 Wayne Ulugia
3 Brent Tate
4 Kane Linnett
5 Antonio Winterstein
6 Johnathan Thurston
7 Robert Lui
8 Matthew Scott
9 Rory Kostjasyn
10 James Tamou
11Gavin Cooper
12 Glenn Hall
13 Joel Riethmuller


14 Jayden Hodges
15 Tariq Sims
16 Scott Bolton
17 Jason Taumalolo