There will be a number of intriguing back stories, the first game for Valentine Holmes against his former club, the Sharks debut of Jets cult hero Siosifa Talakai and the cameo halves appearance for Matt Moylan, however the result in Townsville is really what it’s all about on Saturday night.
After an 0-3 start and coming off a disappointing loss to the Tigers last weekend, tomorrow night’s match against the Cowboys takes on extra significance in this abbreviated 2020 schedule.
This is the first time the Sharks have started with three consecutive losses since 2015, a year in which they began 0-4, but it was also a season where they fought back to finish in sixth position.
Having been at the Club in 2015, albeit in a different capacity, armed with knowledge gained from those past experiences Sharks coach John Morris rejected the assertion that it was already a must-win game at this early point of the season.
However, while not believing his team’s hopes hinge on getting the points in Townsville, Morris did emphasise the importance of improving on last week’s effort and of trying to notch that first victory of the year.
“I don’t know about a must win,” Morris said in answer to his first question at today’s Zoom media conference. “I still think it’s a bit early to be talking about that.
“Admittedly, it’s not a great spot to be none-from-three in a shortened season, but as far as focussing on the outcome and result, it’s the wrong thing to focus on going into the game. We need to talk about our performance and what part of our game we need to go up there and improve on to bring back the two points, which certainly are crucial,” Morris added.
The three most pertinent talking points ahead of Saturday’s game were brought up during the coach’s weekly media call, that being the Sharks tackling Holmes for the first time in a Cowboys jersey following his departure for the NFL at the end of 2018, Moylan filling in for the injured Chad Townsend in the halves and the Club debut of Talakai in what will be the former Souths junior’s first game in the NRL since 2017.
Of all the storylines though, Holmes against his old club has attracted the most media attention in the lead up, with Morris acknowledging the man who played 105 matches and scored 66 tries for the Sharks from 2014 to 2018, including the Grand Final victory in 2016, will need to closely watched.
The Townsville native last week had his best game since returning from his NFL sojourn in contributing three try assists and six goals in the Cowboys win over the Titans.
“A player of Val’s ability, he’s certainly going to be on the radar, let alone for us who know what he’s capable of. We’ve seen it firsthand,” Morris said.
“He’s really hit form quicker than I expected. He looks nice and fit and he’s bounced straight back to where he left off.”
Also needing plenty of attention from the Sharks defence will be winger Kyle Feldt who has scored five tries in the past seven matches between the two clubs. Rangy backrower Gavin Cooper is another to enjoy success against the Sharks, crossing the stripe 10 times, his highest try tally against any team.
For the Sharks Josh Dugan enjoys a positive try scoring rate against the Cowboys, with seven tries in 10 matches against the North Queensland team.
In breaking down the head to head statistics, the Sharks go into the game having won the past three and seven of the last nine matches played against the Cowboys.
The Sharks record in Townsville is also a reasonable one, with Cronulla winning two of the past three in North Queensland, one of those victories seeing them record their second highest points total playing away to the Cowboys in a 42-16 round three triumph last year.
If they are to break their 2020 win drought the Sharks will be intent on improving on their attacking output having failed to score over 18 points so far this season.
In team news, Morris has omitted Billy Magoulias and Braydon Trindall from his originally named 21. The squad is 1-17 as selected, with Royce Hunt and Teig Wilton set to make the trip to Townsville in remaining on the extended reserves bench.
The Sharks v Cowboys clash is scheduled for a 7.35pm kick off at Country Bank Stadium, with the game to televised live on Fox Sports.
Match: Cowboys v Sharks
Round 4 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
SHARKS TEAM LIST
1. William KENNEDY - Sponsored by Shore Hire
2. Sione KATOA - Sponsored by WED Group
3. Josh DUGAN - Sponsored by Waterwize Services
4. Jesse RAMIEN - Sponsored by Vinyl Room Gymea
5. Ronaldo MULITALO - Sponsored by Australian Hammer Supplies
6. Matt MOYLAN - Sponsored by Infrastructure Nation
7. Shaun JOHNSON - Sponsored by Vox Law
8. Toby RUDOLF - Sponsored by Stewart Toyota
9. Blayke BRAILEY - Sponsored by Shire Steel & Fabrications
10. Aaron WOODS - Sponsored by Sydney Mutual Bank
11. Briton NIKORA - Sponsored by John Ryan Freight Management
12. Wade GRAHAM - Sponsored by White Wolf Constructions
13. Jack WILLIAMS - Sponsored by Sharp
14. Connor TRACEY - Sponsored by Gecko
15. Braden HAMLIN-UELE - Sponsored by Dacca Group
16. Siosifa TALAKAI - Sponsored by Triple H
17. Scott SORENSEN - Sponsored by Green Options
20. Royce HUNT - Sponsored by Minespec Parts
21. Tieg WILTON - Sponsored by Sarraf Strata