Riding high after three consecutive wins, the Sharks came crashing back to earth when soundly beaten by the Panthers last Saturday afternoon in a result few at the club saw coming.
The Panthers were exceptional with the ball and piled on the points, the Sharks disappointing on the defensive end in conceding 10 tries in what was an out of character display.
However, while the three wins were somewhat erased by the loss, the Sharks now have the chance to prove the theory one week in the NRL can be a long time when they travel to the Central Coast to tackle the Warriors in looking to immediately bounce back.
Sharks halfback Chad Townsend didn’t hide from the fact that the performance against the Panthers wasn’t good enough and that there had been a major focus on defence as they try to turn it around as quickly as possible.
“We know where we need to improve and we need to do it this weekend,” Townsend said. “We were pretty disappointed after the game on the performance. The way we started the game we dug ourselves a big hole. After 20 minutes we were 24-0 down and the game was lost.
“It was a little bit embarrassing and we need to go out and show with our actions that it’s not acceptable. We know the areas where we have to improve, which is our start and our defence.”
While Townsend was blunt in his assessment of the Sharks last up effort, in team news, they will be boosted the return of Ronaldo Mulitalo, with the young outside back promising to bring plenty of enthusiasm and energy to what will be his first game in six weeks.
“I need to be myself and do what I do,” Mulitalo said at the midweek media call. “I need to put in the work every week be energetic, be young, talk up and add more energy to help lift us to another level.
“I feel good, I was probably good to go last week, but they held me back and took the safe approach to it all. This week I’m definitely ready to go.”
If the addition of Mulitalo is a bonus, the absence of Andrew Fifita with a hamstring strain is a loss, with coach John Morris also making the difficult call to omit Jack Williams from his 17-man squad.
Braden Hamlin-Uele has been named in the starting side in Fifita’s number eight jersey, while Toby Rudolf comes in for Williams at lock.
Morris still has some decisions as to the makeup of his interchange bench, Connor Tracey and Scott Sorensen currently listed in the 17, with Will Kennedy and Williams retained on the extended reserves list.
In relation to the head to head stats between the two clubs, the Sharks recent form against the Warriors has been strong, winning five of the past six with the one loss coming in round 18 last year in a match played in Wellington.
While Central Coast Stadium is a long way from their home in Auckland, the Warriors boast a good record in Gosford, winning all three games played there this season.
The Sharks have also enjoyed some success at the venue, winning three of five games played on the Central Coast, including at their most recent visit when they beat Manly 40-22 in round seven this season.
If they do hope to build on that win-loss ratio, both against the New Zealand side and in terms of matches played also on the Central Coast, the Sharks will need to improve on the last-start loss to the Panthers to which Townsend earlier referred.
The 56 points was the equal second most conceded by Cronulla in its 53-year history and the most points given up since the Wests Tigers defeated them 56-10 in 2009.
As Morris continually stressed, the Sharks need to get off to a fast start, with the statistics supporting that theory, the numbers showing the Cronulla side is yet to win a match in 2020 when trailing at half-time, losing all three so far this year.
They have however won four of six games when level or leading at the break.
In relation to the teams that will take to the field, the game sees Shaun Johnson up against his former club. Johnson played 162 games over eight seasons from 2011 to 2018 with the Warriors, scoring 917 points (63 tries and 326 goals) for the club. He is still the Warriors leading points scorer of all time.
In season 2020 Johnson leads the NRL with 13 try assists.
As for their opposition, Gerard Beale, a member of the Sharks 2016 premiership-winning team, will suit up for the Warriors against his former club. Beale played three years and 70 games for the Sharks, scoring 14 tries, the versatile outside back coming off the bench in the Grand Final win over the Storm.
The Sharks v Warriors match is scheduled for a 2.00pm kick off at Central Coast Stadium on Sunday, with the two 19-man squads listed below.
Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-SheckFullback for Sharks is number 20 William Kennedy
Winger for Warriors is number 2 David Fusitu'aWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
Centre for Warriors is number 3 Patrick HerbertCentre for Sharks is number 1 Josh Dugan
Centre for Warriors is number 4 Peta HikuCentre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Winger for Warriors is number 5 Ken MaumaloWinger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Kodi NikorimaFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Blake GreenHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Warriors is number 8 Jamayne Taunoa-BrownProp for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde EganHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Warriors is number 10 Adam BlairProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Tohu Harris2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Warriors is number 13 Karl Lawton2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
Lock for Warriors is number 15 Jack HetheringtonLock for Sharks is number 15 Scott Sorensen
Interchange for Warriors is number 11 Eliesa KatoaInterchange for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Agnatius PaasiInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor Tracey
Interchange for Warriors is number 16 Isaiah Papali'iInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Siosifa Talakai
Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Jazz TevagaInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce Hunt