The Sharks managed to get their proverbial 2020 monkey off the back with their fist win last weekend, while the Dragons are still searching for victory number one of the year, with the two local derby combatants both desperate for success at Campbelltown Stadium tomorrow night.
While much speculation has centred around the future of the Dragons coach and the critics have been out in force concerning their slow start to the season, the Sharks are refusing to be lulled into any false sense of security and are anticipating a typically intense local derby clash.
Josh Dugan. who played for the Dragons before shifting to the Sharks in 2018, has experienced the rivalry which exists between the two neighbouring clubs and has no illusion as to how difficult the task will be on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re not worried about how they’ve started the year, we’re worried about their strike players and how good a team they actually are,” Dugan said.
“Local derbies, I’ve been on both sides of them and any sort of form goes out the window. Local derbies are always tough and we’re expecting nothing less,” Dugan added.
While Dugan has been in the caldron of a Sharks v Dragons match up a number of times in the past, for teammate Connor Tracey, Sunday will be his first.
However rather than be intimidated, the 24-year-old De La Salle Caringbah junior is excited about what lies ahead.
“I grew up around the Shire, watched the local derbies and played in a few in the juniors, so its going to be good to play in one at a senior level,” Tracey said.
“Everyone talks about how the intensity lifts.”
With the Dragons being winless and the Sharks only two competition points ahead after the opening four rounds, the intensity about which Tracey alluded to is certain to be high.
Much rests on the result, with the winner off and running in 2020 and the loser under pressure to remain in touch with the top eight in what is a shortened season.
The Sharks come into the contest with the superior form, having beaten the Cowboys 26-16 at their most recent start, while the Dragons were left licking their wounds after a disappointing loss to the Bulldogs in their round four match.
However as Tracey said, form counts for little and the stats from previous matches will show the result could be anyone’s guess.
Since the Dragons joined Illawarra an became a joint venture, the two clubs have met on 44 occasions, the Dragons winning 22, the Sharks 21, with the lone drawn match in 2001.
While the team teams have never met at Campbelltown, the St George Illawarra club boasts a two from three record in matches played at the south western Sydney venue, with the Sharks winning six and losing six, to go along with one draw against the Magpies back in 1987.
The Dragons have lost their opening four games for just the second time in club history.
The season shut down, then the two matches played since the NRL’s return, means it has been 80 days since the Dragons last scored a try, which not surprisingly equates to them also having scored the fewest points, just 11 per game through the opening four rounds.
The Sharks broke their three game losing streak to start the season with their win over North Queensland, and all four Cronulla matches this season have been decided by 12 points or less.
A Sharks win would see them start at 2-3 for the third consecutive season, while a loss would see equal the worst start since 2015 when they went 1-4 before going on to finish sixth.
In team news, Mawene Hiroti has been named to start his first game for the Sharks.
The 21-year-old made his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs in 2018 and has played five games in the top grade.
Hiromi was a standout in the Canterbury Cup last year for the Bunnies, scoring 17 tries and kicking 70 goals in 19 games in finishing the year as the competition’s leading point scorer.
Matt Moylan had been named to play his first game at fullback in 2020, was a late withdrawal after experiencing hamstring tightness late in the training week.
Will Kennedy, who has played solidly in the fullback position in Moylan's absence, comes back into the team for tomorrow's game.
Chad Townsend and Andrew Fifita return for the Sharks, Fifita for what will be his first outing of 2020, with Townsend back after missing the win in Townsville a week ago.
Sharks coach John Morris has trimmed his squad from the originally named 21 back to 19 ahead of tomorrow’s game, with Moylan and Royce Hunt omitted.
The Sharks and Dragons match kicks off at Campbelltown Stadium at 6.30pm tomorrow (Sunday) night.
Fullback for Dragons is number 17 Matthew DuftyFullback for Sharks is number 19 William Kennedy
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan PereiraWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan AitkenCentre for Sharks is number 3 Josh Dugan
Centre for Dragons is number 4 Zac LomaxCentre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele RavalawaWinger for Sharks is number 5 Mawene Hiroti
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 1 Corey NormanFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Adam CluneHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Dragons is number 8 Josh KerrProp for Sharks is number 8 Andrew Fifita
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnesHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul VaughanProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tyrell Fuimaono2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
Lock for Dragons is number 14 Trent MerrinLock for Sharks is number 16 Toby Rudolf
Interchange for Dragons is number 6 Ben HuntInterchange for Sharks is number 13 Jack Williams
Interchange for Dragons is number 13 James GrahamInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor Tracey
Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Blake LawrieInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Interchange for Dragons is number 18 Jacob HostInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Scott Sorensen
Sharks Team List
19 Will Kennedy
2 Sione Katoa
3 Josh Dugan
4 Jesse Ramien
5 Mawene Hiroti
6 Shaun Johnson
7 Chad Townsend
8 Andrew Fifita
9 Blayke Brailey
10 Aaron Woods
11 Briton Nikora
12 Wade Graham
13 Jack Williams
14 Connor Tracey
15 Braden Hamlin-Uele
16 Toby Rudolf
17 Scott Sorensen
18 Siosifa Talakai
21 Jackson Ferris