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NRL Preview – Sharks v Dragons

The Sharks face the Dragons in a vital round 11 match up at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, although unlike the other 38 times the teams have met at the venue, on this occasion the Cronulla side will be the hosts.

Earlier this year the two local rivals met in in the unfamiliar surrounds of Campbelltown Stadium, with this the second installment for 2020 returning to Kogarah, but with a twist.

However irrespective of who has use of the home dressing room facilities, the rivalry remains, maybe even jumps up a notch, in a game which will have a critical bearing on the finals aspirations of both clubs.

Coming into the game with five wins and five losses to sit ninth and two points ahead of St George, the Sharks showed what they are capable of in a last start victory over the Warriors, but consistency in their performance is what they seek.

“We can’t have these bounce back games like we did last week then play poorly the next week,” Sharks five eight Shaun Johnson said.

“As a team we’re not happy or satisfied to be sitting outside the top eight and while it is disappointing there are lots of positives in our game and if we can get a few of these other areas right we will certainly start climbing.”

As to the areas about which Johnson refers, despite having the second-best attacking record in the NRL, the Sharks have a times struggled in defence, with poor ball control on occasion compounding the problem.

“Defence is an attitude at the end of the day, (you need to) get your body in front, no matter who you’ve playing against,” Sharks forward Toby Rudolf offered.

While Aaron Woods pointed to his team’s less than impressive completion rates as an area which needed attention should they hope to beat the Dragons and the other leading contenders in the weeks that follow.

“We’ve got to play the footy we know we can play, we’ve got to complete and we’ve got to play for the full 80,” Woods said.

“The biggest thing is completing and letting our halves do their thing and play some footy. You’re not going to win games if you’re going to put yourself under pressure.”

The Sharks and Dragons have met once already in 2020, the St George team emerging 30-16 winners in a game Cronulla controlled for long periods but couldn’t add the finishing touches.

Both teams were desperate the last time around and while their positions on the ladder are a little more comfortable not a whole lot has changed, the Sharks and Saints desperate in their push for the top eight with 10 rounds remaining.

The Sharks have enjoyed some recent success through the work of Johnson who leads the NRL with 15 try assists, along with his halves partner Chad Townsend and the backline are reaping the rewards.

Heading into the weekend of matches Sione Katoa was the NRL’s leading try scorer, while Jesse Ramien, Ronaldo Mulitalo and Josh Dugan are also regulars on the score sheet.

As for the Dragons, the likes of Paul Vaughan, Josh Kerr and Tyson Frizell have been leading the way up front, with Woods and Rudolf aware they will need to win that battle if the Sharks are to come out on top.

“They’ve certainly got some experience in their side, NSW players, rep players, but we went away from what was working last time and we need to stick to the game plan,” Rudolf said.

In Sharks team news, Dugan was a late Friday afternoon withdrawal from a game which would have seen him reach the milestone of 200 matches in the NRL.

It was hoped Dugan's injury would prove to be short term with a return next week in the round 12 match against the Broncos.

However while the loss of the experienced Dugan was a blow, on a positive   youngster Teig Wilton has been named to run out for the time in the top grade.

Wilton comes in due to the suspension of Briton Nikora and the injury to Scott Sorensen, the talented Siosifa Talakai moving into the starting team, with debutant Wilton added to the interchange bench and set to become the Sharks 539th first grade player.

As for the head to head numbers the Sharks have played the joint-venture St George Illawarra Dragons on 45 occasions since 1999, the Dragons winning 23, the Sharks 21, with one match drawn.

The Sharks won both encounters in 2019 but went down to the Dragons earlier this year and the overall record at Kogarah reads heavily in favour of St George dating back to 1967, the Cronulla club taking the points just 12 times in 38 matches.

The Sharks and Dragons clash gets underway at 5.30pm at Kogarah Jubilee, with a moments silence planned prior to kick off to honour the memory of young Dragons under-20s player Stevenson Upulasi who was tragically killed in a car accident earlier this week.

The two team lists and all the game day information is listed below.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
    Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
  • Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
    Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jason Saab
  • Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
    Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Sharks is number 19 Bryson Goodwin
    Centre for Dragons is number 4 Zac Lomax
  • Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
    Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
  • Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
    Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
  • Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
    Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Adam Clune

Forwards

  • Prop for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
    Prop for Dragons is number 8 Blake Lawrie
  • Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
    Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Ben Hunt
  • Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
    Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
  • 2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Siosifa Talakai
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
  • 2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tyrell Fuimaono
  • Lock for Sharks is number 15 Jack Williams
    Lock for Dragons is number 13 Cameron McInnes

Interchange

  • Interchange for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
    Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Trent Merrin
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor Tracey
    Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Josh Kerr
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Teig Wilton
    Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Jacob Host
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce Hunt
    Interchange for Dragons is number 17 Jackson Ford