Sunday is almost now or never for two desperate teams when the Sharks meet the Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium.
Sitting towards the bottom of the NRL ladder equal on two points with just one win each to show for their efforts through five rounds of the 2020 competition, the winner can re-join the race for a finals berth while the loser will be left languishing amongst the also-rans.
The seriousness of the situation and the importance of the game this weekend wasn't lost on those Sharks players who fronted up for media interviews earlier this week.
“It’s a must win game this week,” Andrew Fifita said.
Centre partner Jesse Ramien expressed similar sentiments.
“We’ve got to get it right,” Ramien offered. “We’ve probably only put together one solid game this year and we thought we still had a lot to improve on from that Cowboys game.
“It’s going to be a tough game and considering the circumstances, both teams are going to be up for it. It’s a matter of us turning up and playing the way we know we can,” Ramien said.
Also weighing in on their slow start to the season, half back Chad Townsend was critical of his team’s recent efforts and clear in what needed to change if they wanted to start winning games.
“We’re doing it to ourselves to be honest. We’re the most ill-disciplined team in the competition, we have the lowest completion rates in the competition and those two areas I mentioned are things we are doing to ourselves and it’s making a big difference,” Townsend said.
“If we can fix those two areas it’s going to give us a chance to win footy games. We’ve got to turn it around quickly.”
While Aaron Woods agreed with Townsend’s assessment in adding, “we’ve all got so much to improve on.”
As identified by all the Sharks were their own worst enemies in going down to the Dragons just a week ago in a game where they had every chance, lost opportunities at crucial times letting them down and tipping the momentum in favour of their opponents.
A 10-6 lead in the first half could have been greater only for a dubious video bunker decision and a lost chance out wide and from there two Dragons tries saw them take a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Sharks coach John Morris has limited the changes, although he has named front rower Royce Hunt in the 17-man squad, putting the former Raider in line to make his debut in Cronulla colours.
Siosifa Talakai earns his second game of the 2020 season taking om the bench utility role and Matt Moylan remains a chance to return, his name added to the Sharks extended reserves bench, with the final squad to tackle the Bulldogs to be revealed one hour prior to tomorrow’s 6.30pm kick off time.
As mentioned, the Sharks go into the contest on the back of a disappointing loss, however similarly their opponents enter the game with their proverbial tail between the legs after suffering a 42-6 hiding at the hands of the Roosters in the game that was shifted from Sunday afternoon to Monday night.
In the head to head between the two clubs, despite the Bulldogs having the positive record against the Sharks with 55 wins from 92 matches, Cronulla has hit a recent purple patch in claiming victory in five of the past six encounters.
That five-match win streak was broken in Round 15 last year at ANZ Stadium, the Bulldogs taking an early 14-0 lead before hanging on for a 14-12 victory the last time the teams met.
Of those most recent clashes, five of the six have been decided by six points or less, including four by a margin of two points or fewer.
This will be the first meeting between these teams at Bankwest Stadium, the Sharks losing their only match played at the venue when they went down to the Tigers 28-16 in Round 3.
The Bulldogs have won three of five games played at Bankwest Stadium
The Sharks and Bulldogs game is scheduled to get underway at 6.30pm tomorrow night at Bankwest Stadium, the match televised on Fox Sports.
The two 19-man squads are listed below.
Fullback for Sharks is number 21 Matt MoylanFullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Will Hopoate
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Bulldogs is number 2 Christian Crichton
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh DuganCentre for Bulldogs is number 3 Reimis Smith
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Bulldogs is number 4 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Winger for Sharks is number 20 Bryson GoodwinWinger for Bulldogs is number 5 Jake Averillo
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun JohnsonFive-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Kieran Foran
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Bulldogs is number 20 Brandon Wakeham
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Bulldogs is number 8 Renouf Atoni
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Prop for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-UeleProp for Bulldogs is number 10 Dylan Napa
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Josh Jackson
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Jack WilliamsLock for Bulldogs is number 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange for Sharks is number 8 Andrew FifitaInterchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Kerrod Holland
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Toby RudolfInterchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Dean Britt
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Siosifa TalakaiInterchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Sauaso Sue
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce HuntInterchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Ofahiki Ogden
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Video Referee: Beau Scott
- Senior Review Official: Steve Clark