The Sharks will attempt to put a tumultuous week off the field well and truly behind them when they line up to take on the Knights on Friday evening.
Head coach John Morris has departed, his position filled by Josh Hannay, with the challenge now for a Sharks team despite being somewhat depleted by injuries, to arrive in Newcastle with a positive mindset and to get a win which would dispel any theories that the 2021 season is already a write off for the Cronulla club.
The new man in charge fronted the media on Thursday in his first official role as head coach, Hannay explaining to those gathered that he had every confidence in the playing group and their ability to move forward, beginning with the game against the Knights tomorrow night.
“In the first five weeks as a group, we’ve shown there is a decent football team here. We could easily be sitting 4-1 and we’ve got to make sure all the hard work we’ve done to this point, doesn’t come undone and that we make the most of the year,” Hannay said.
“It’s important to be respectful to the situation and the individual involved, which is the head coach who has departed, you can’t pretend what’s happened, hasn’t happened, but an important element to it is we have to move on as quickly as we can.
“We’re at two and three, could easily be four and one. We need to go up there and get the job done,” Hannay added.
Getting that ‘job done’ against a Newcastle team that welcomes back strike centre Bradman Best and versatile playmaker Kurt Mann, is set to be no easy task, especially considering the absence of skipper Wade Graham and experienced outside back Josh Dugan, the pair missing due to recent concussions.
Aaron Woods will take over the captaincy in his first run-on appearance in that role at the Sharks, while Briton Nikora returns from suspension to somewhat off-set the loss of Graham in the back row.
The extremely capable Connor Tracey fills the void in the Sharks backline and in another positive addition to the Sharks side, physical forward Siosifa Talakai is back on deck for his first game of the 2021 season.
Talakai had been sidelined following off-season shoulder surgery.
When looking at the head-to-head record from games played between the two clubs, the Knights hold the advantage, with 29 wins as opposed to 24 from the Sharks, with one draw.
Newcastle has won the past two encounters, with the Sharks having enjoyed a streak of eight straight prior to that, while the Knights have won each of the past two games in Newcastle.
The teams both come into the game on the back of losses, the Knights after starting the season winning their opening two games have now lost three on the trot, with the Sharks squandering an 18-4 lead before going down to the Roosters at their most recent encounter.
The match also sees Jesse Ramien take on the club he represented in 2019, the year in which he played 17 games for the Knights, while brothers Jayden and Blayke Brailey will face off against each other for the first time in the NRL.
The Brailey’s played 14 games together for the Sharks in 2019, with Jayden starting all 14 and Blayke featuring from the bench.
The Sharks and Knights match is scheduled for a 6pm kick off at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night, with the two 19-man squads listed below.
Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn PongaFullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
Winger for Knights is number 2 Brayden MusgroveWinger for Sharks is number 2 Mawene Hiroti
Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari TualaCentre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Centre for Knights is number 4 Bradman BestCentre for Sharks is number 12 Teig Wilton
Winger for Knights is number 5 Hymel HuntWinger for Sharks is number 3 Connor Tracey
Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kurt MannFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt Moylan
Halfback for Knights is number 7 Blake GreenHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Knights is number 8 David KlemmerProp for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Hooker for Knights is number 9 Jayden BraileyHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel SaifitiProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Tyson Frizell2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett2nd Row for Sharks is number 16 Jack Williams
Lock for Knights is number 13 Connor WatsonLock for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
Interchange for Knights is number 14 Sauaso SueInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Billy Magoulias
Interchange for Knights is number 15 Jacob SaifitiInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Aiden Tolman
Interchange for Knights is number 16 Josh KingInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Siosifa Talakai
Interchange for Knights is number 17 Brodie JonesInterchange for Sharks is number 18 Braydon Trindall
Reserve for Knights is number 18 Simi SasagiReserve for Sharks is number 20 Franklin Pele
- Referee: Matt Cecchin
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Darian Furner
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein