A Sharks side with six wins from their previous seven starts, against an Eels outfit which sits third on the ladder with 10 wins so far this season, points to a blockbuster round 13 clash.
Throw into the mix the Sharks rank second highest scoring team in the NRL, however coming up against a stingy Eels defence which has given up just 150 points in 12 matches to date and Kogarah Jubilee promises to be the place to be tomorrow afternoon.
The game also provides the Sharks with a chance to claim a big scalp, to better a top four opponent and to get the attention of the leading teams in this year’s Telstra Premiership.
Young gun Ronaldo Mulitalo, who missed the Panthers loss but has been on deck for the next three Sharks wins, recognises the importance of Sunday’s game.
“We’ve showed we can score the points, now it’s about defending them. It’s a true test for us this week and they’re sitting where we want to be,” Mulitalo said.
While seven wins and 14 competition points has the Sharks tracking nicely towards a finals berth, a recent thumping at the hands of the Panthers has them determined to prove they can mix it with the NRL’s best.
“We gave them too much ball, let them roll up the field and didn’t defend our line properly,” Josh Dugan said of the Penrith defeat. “The only positive thing we scored four tries and left four out there.
“We’re definitely disappointed in the way our defence has been, so for the rest of the year we’re looking to get back to our standards and to live up to them.”
In relation to the Sharks side, debutants Jackson Ferris and Braydon Trindall did an outstanding job for coach John Morris last week however they have made way for two of their more experienced teammates.
Ferris, who would have missed the game anyway due a suspension and also as a result of suffering a knee injury in the Broncos match, is replaced at right centre by Jesse Ramien, while Trindall goes back onto an extended bench with Matt Moylan coming into the five eighth position.
Sidelined since the Sharks round eight win over the Titans, Moylan makes a return from a hamstring injury and slots into the halves in partnering Shaun Johnson.
In the head to head statistics, in the 87 matches played between the two clubs the Sharks hold a slight advantage with 47 wins as compared to the Eels 40.
Since 2015 however the ledger has tipped heavily in the Sharks favour, with the Cronulla side winning six of the past seven, the one loss coming in round four last year when the Eels emerged victorious at ANZ Stadium by 24-12.
Despite the Sharks having a poor record at their home away from home in registering just 13 victories from 39 matches at Kogarah, Parramatta have an even worse record at the ground, winning just 13 of 47.
The Sharks are however last start winners at Kogarah, having beaten the Dragons 28-24 in a round 11 thriller and they will be aiming for two straight victories at the venue for only the third time in club history.
As previously mentioned, the game is something of a matchup between one of the leading attacking teams in the Sharks, against arguably the NRL’s best defensive side in the Eels.
Supporting that assumption are the stats which show the Sharks have scored the most tries and second most points through 12 rounds, while the Eels are conceding the fewest points and the equal second fewest tries.
The Sharks are aiming for four straight wins for the first time since 2018, with 2020 just the third time the Parramatta club have won 10 or more of their first 12 matches to start a season, 1977 being the most recent.
In terms of player matchups, the NRL’s leading try scorer Sione Katoa, who has 12 four-pointers to his name, marks up against Maika Sivo, the Eels Fijian flyer only one try behind and equal second on the season leaderboard.
Sunday is also significant for the 200-game milestone Dugan will achieve, with skipper Wade Graham to play his 200th top grade game for the Sharks and Jesse Ramien his 50th match in the NRL.
Graham becomes just the ninth player to reach the 200-game milestone for Cronulla.
For their opponents, Clint Gutherson will play his 100th match for the Eels. Gutherson joined the Parramatta club in 2016 after playing five games over three seasons at Manly.
Also planned for game day on Sunday afternoon is a minute silence and a tribute to former Sharks player, coach and administrator Kevin Hogan who passed away earlier this week aged 75.
The Sharks and Eels match kicks off at 4.00pm on tomorrow afternoon at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with the two 19-man squads listed below.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh DuganCentre for Eels is number 3 Michael Jennings
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Eels is number 4 Waqa Blake
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Eels is number 5 Blake Ferguson
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt MoylanFive-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-UeleProp for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Siosifa Talakai2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Marata Niukore
Lock for Sharks is number 18 Scott SorensenLock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown
Interchange for Sharks is number 13 Toby RudolfInterchange for Eels is number 14 Andrew Davey
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor TraceyInterchange for Eels is number 15 Ray Stone
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Teig WiltonInterchange for Eels is number 16 Kane Evans
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce HuntInterchange for Eels is number 17 Oregon Kaufusi