The NRL shutdown for the Covid virus is over and the season is set to resume, with the Sharks, on the end of a tumultuous week, to tackle the Wests Tigers in an attempt to get their 2020 campaign underway.
An off-field issue during the days leading up to this weekend’s clash offered up a significant speed bump, however coach John Morris was confident he would have his squad focused and ready to go come kick-off time on Saturday night.
“The boys want to do the best job they can,” Morris said. “We need to put our focus back on the footy field. Getting out on the field and back to training on Wednesday was good for them. It cleared their heads.
“They bounced into training today and they know the best thing they can do going forward is to go out there and put in a strong performance which would help the Club.”
The last clash between these two teams saw a spot in the 2019 Finals Series go on the line when they came together in Round 25 last year at Leichhardt Oval.
It was to be the final match for either Robbie Farah or Paul Gallen, with Farah under an injury cloud up until the warm-up. Cronulla went on to win 25-8 in a one-sided match, Gallen had his farewell in an elimination final the week following, while Farah retired from the NRL after the Leichhardt Oval loss.
This time around the teams take on a slightly different look, with many faces remaining the same and a handful of significant changes.
For the Sharks youngster Will Kennedy has retained the fullback position after playing in the number one jersey in the opening two rounds of the season, while Josh Dugan comes into the side in place of the suspended Bronson Xerri.
The forward pack takes on a familiar look, while Morris has some options in terms of his interchange bench with Matt Moylan named in jersey 19 and ready to go should he receive the call-up.
As for the Tigers, Melbourne Storm recruit Harry Grant has been rushed in at hooker, Luke Brooks returns after missing the first two games before shutdown and the enigmatic Josh Reynolds is in the squad as a reserve should he be required.
This will be Cronulla’s first ever match at Bank West Stadium, while the Wests Tigers have won just one of five games at the new facility in Sydney’s west, losing three of those matches by 12 points or more.
Also giving the Sharks plenty of encouragement will be the fact they have won the past six matches against Wests Tigers, which is a club record.
In looking back on the opening two games of the season, the Sharks come into this one winless on the year, losing in both round one and round two by four points or less (Rd 1 v Rabbitohs 22-18, Rd 2 v 12-10 v Storm). They will be looking to avoid three straight losses to start a season for the first time since 2015.
Tracing back to 2015 the Sharks lost their opening four matches but still went on to finish sixth however with the season cut back to 20 rounds a win this weekend becomes vital.
The Tigers started their season with an away win in Wollongong (24-14) against the Dragons, before suffering a big loss to Newcastle (42-24) at Leichhardt Oval in Round 2.
The Sharks have revealed their 19-man squad, with Connor Tracey and Royce Hunt dropping out of the originally selected 21, meaning Moylan is still rated a strong chance of making his return to the field in tomorrow night’s game.
Morris will finalise and announce his 17-man team one hour prior to tomorrow’s 5.30pm kick off.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Adam Doueihi
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Wests Tigers is number 2 David Nofoaluma
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh DuganCentre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Joseph Leilua
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Moses Mbye
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Robert Jennings
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun JohnsonFive-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Benji Marshall
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Luke Brooks
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Wests Tigers is number 8 Josh Aloiai
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Harry Grant
Prop for Sharks is number 16 Toby RudolfProp for Wests Tigers is number 10 Thomas Mikaele
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Luke Garner
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Luciano Leilua
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Jack WilliamsLock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Alex Twal
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 14 Oliver Clark
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Scott SorensenInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Billy Walters
Interchange for Sharks is number 18 Billy MagouliasInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 16 Chris Lawrence
Interchange for Sharks is number 19 Matt MoylanInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 17 Alex Seyfarth