To many outside the respective inner sanctums, some of the names slated to take to the field when the Sharks meet the Raiders on Saturday will be unrecognisable.
For the Sharks Josh Dugan, Sione Katoa, Toby Rudolf and Siosifa Talakai will be given a week off to rest up and recover prior to the finals getting underway, while halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend are missing due to injury and suspension.
As for their opponents, the Raiders will be without six of their regulars for the game at Kogarah’s Jubilee Stadium on Saturday, debutants and youngsters with limited top grade experience named in their place, but for the Sharks it about playing what’s in front of them and trying to take winning form into a potential Canberra re-match in week one of the NRL Finals.
“I don’t buy into who’s there or who’s not, everyone who plays first grade deserves to be there,” Sharks prop Andrew Fifita said. “I couldn’t care who they throw out there.
“But when you rest players, there are still 17 ambitious players who want to make their mark on the game.”
Back rower Scott Sorensen, one of the Sharks best in their loss to the Roosters last week, expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m sure Ricky (Stuart) wouldn’t give them the jersey if he didn’t think they could do the job. I’m sure the players coming in will want to do their team, themselves and their families proud,” Sorensen said.
“So for me it’s irrelevant if they’re resting players or not.”
The Sharks go into the contest with the experienced Nene MacDonald replacing Katoa, former Rabbitoh Mawene Hiroti in for Dugan, while in the halves it will be Connor Tracey and skipper Wade Graham who is set to play his first game at five eighth since round four in 2015.
The match will be MacDonald’s 98th in the NRL and first for the Sharks since round nine, Hiroti runs out for his second top grade game for the Cronulla club and although it has been a while since he has assumed a play making role, Graham has in fact played 62 of his 246 NRL matches in the halves.
In the forwards, local product Daniel Vasquez makes his debut, Teig Wilton moves into Talakai’s spot in the Sharks backrow, Sorensen is named to start at lock in Rudolf's absence, with the final make-up of the 17-man squad yet to be finalised.
For the Raiders, regulars Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, George Williams, Jarrod Croker, John Bateman, Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii have all been omitted, less familiar names such as Adam Cook, Jarrett Subloo, Matthew Timoko, Harley Smith-Shields, Darby Medlyn and the more experienced Sam Williams and Matt Frawley named amongst those to take their place.
Williams has been chosen as captain of the Canberra side.
In the 73 matches between the two clubs, the Sharks hold a slight advantage, having won 39 as opposed to the Raiders 34.
Canberra is however on a two game winning streak against the Sharks, taking out both games in 2019, 22-20 in round 14 in Canberra thanks to a late Croker penalty goal and in round 24 at PointsBet Stadium when the Raiders ruined Paul Gallen’s final home game with a 15-14 win in Golden Point.
If the Raiders and Sharks do meet in week one of the finals, which will be the case should the Cronulla side win or if the Raiders are successful and the Eels manage to beat the Tigers in their last game, it will be the eighth time in the NRL era teams have played each other in the final round and then in the first week of the finals.
This last happened to the Sharks in 2002, when they lost both the final regular season game and then week one finals match to the Roosters.
The Sharks v Raiders clash is scheduled for a 5.30pm kick off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday, with the two 19-man squads listed below.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Raiders is number 1 Adam Cook
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Nene MacdonaldWinger for Raiders is number 2 Semi Valemei
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Mawene HirotiCentre for Raiders is number 3 Matthew Timoko
Centre for Sharks is number 20 Bryson GoodwinCentre for Raiders is number 4 Harley Smith-Shields
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Raiders is number 5 Nick Cotric
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Wade GrahamFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Matt Frawley
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Connor TraceyHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Sam Williams
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-UeleProp for Raiders is number 8 Dunamis Lui
Hooker for Sharks is number 19 Braydon TrindallHooker for Raiders is number 9 Tom Starling
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Raiders is number 10 Iosia Soliola
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Hudson Young
2nd Row for Sharks is number 17 Teig Wilton2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Corey Harawira-Naera
Lock for Sharks is number 14 Scott SorensenLock for Raiders is number 13 Siliva Havili
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Kai O'Donnell
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Andrew FifitaInterchange for Raiders is number 15 Ryan Sutton
Interchange for Sharks is number 18 Billy MagouliasInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Darby Medlyn
Interchange for Sharks is number 21 Daniel VasquezInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Jarrett Subloo
- Referee: Ashley Klein
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Senior Review Official: Jared Maxwell