The message to the Sharks side in the lead up to the Saturday’s match will likely be to beware a Bulldogs side which is winless so far this season.
The Bulldogs have shown glimpses of their best through the opening six rounds and perhaps found their rhythm when a man short and down and out at their last start against the Cowboys.
However as explained by centre Josh Dugan, complacency won’t be an issue for a Sharks team equally desperate for the two points in a bid to stay in touch with the leading teams.
“They (the Bulldogs) showed some really good signs after going do to 12 men in the second half on the weekend,” Dugan said at a midweek media session. “I think they are finding some cohesion and starting to string some plays together in attack and we’ve got to be ready for anything.
“They’re starting to get desperate and looking for that first win of the season.”
Just as the Bulldogs have endured a rough beginning to the 2021 season, so to have a Sharks team that has let winning opportunities slip through their fingers over the past two weeks.
“The more games we play and we come off and say the effort was there but we’re not coming away with the two points, we’ve got to be disappointed with that as well,” Dugan added.
“We’re getting to that pointy end where we need to win and we need to get our season back on track.”
While last week was a tumultuous one with the change of coach and Josh Hannay stepping into the head coaching role, this week was an emotional one for another reason, with local junior and club stalwart Chad Townsend announcing his decision to move to the Cowboys from 2022.
With 141 NRL games for the Cronulla club to his name, one of those being the 2016 Grand Final against the Storm, Townsend is looking no further ahead than the job at hand, which is helping the Sharks climb back into finals contention, starting this weekend.
“It was a tough decision to leave this club and it was difficult to tell the playing group. (But) I’ve still got a very important job to do this year and I’m extremely focused on my role this season,” Townsend said. “I’m just happy to get it out of the way and now it’s done I can focus on the footy.”
Sometimes the target of criticism outside the confines of the Sharks inner sanctum where his ability to manage and direct the team is certainly appreciated, without Shaun Johnson by his side Townsend has shouldered much responsibility this season and it shows in his personal stats sheet.
Townsend has 11 try assists through six rounds, equal most alongside Jarome Luai, with seven of those coming from kicks, an NRL high in 2021. The Sharks number seven also leads the league in kick metres with just under 3,000.
This week an interesting name on the Sharks bench is that of Johnson, with the role the Kiwi international is expected to play still somewhat unknown. Johnson has been sidelined since rupturing an Achilles tendon in the Sharks second to last game of the 2020 season.
Another new addition to the Sharks 21 has been that of former Storm premiership-winning centre Will Chambers however at this stage it appears unlikely he will make his Cronulla debut this weekend.
The Sharks 19-man squad will be finalised later today, 24-hours prior to the kick-off to the Bulldogs game.
In the history of matches played between the two teams dating back to 1967, the Bulldogs hold the advantage, having won 55 games as opposed to 36 wins from the Sharks, with two draws.
The Cronulla side has won six of the past seven clashes dating back to 2015, however most have been evenly contested, with five of those games decided by two points or less.
And in relation to home games and venues, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium will become the 11th different ground to host this fixture, after Belmore Sports Ground, Central Coast Stadium, Stadium Australia, Sydney Showgrounds, Pirtek Stadium, SCG, SFS, Bankwest Stadium, Sutherland Oval and PointsBet Stadium.
The Sharks have won five of their past seven matches at Kogarah.
Canterbury has not scored over 18 points in a match against the Sharks in their past seven games, dating back to 2014, while the Bulldogs are currently on a seven-game losing streak, with all seven losses coming by a margin of 12 points or more.
The Sharks v Bulldogs match is scheduled for a 5.30pm kick off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with the two 19-man teams listed below.
Match: Sharks v Bulldogs
Round 7 -
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Bulldogs is number 21 Nick Meaney
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Mawene HirotiWinger for Bulldogs is number 2 Nick Cotric
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh DuganCentre for Bulldogs is number 3 Will Hopoate
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Bulldogs is number 4 Corey Allan
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Connor TraceyWinger for Bulldogs is number 5 Tuipulotu Katoa
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 15 Shaun JohnsonFive-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Jake Averillo
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Kyle Flanagan
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-UeleProp for Bulldogs is number 8 Dylan Napa
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Sione Katoa
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Bulldogs is number 10 Luke Thompson
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Adam Elliott
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Teig Wilton2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Chris Smith
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Toby RudolfLock for Bulldogs is number 13 Corey Waddell
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Billy MagouliasInterchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Bradley Deitz
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Renouf Atoni
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Siosifa TalakaiInterchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Ava Seumanufagai
Interchange for Sharks is number 18 Braydon TrindallInterchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Matt Doorey
Reserve for Sharks is number 20 Franklin PeleReserve for Bulldogs is number 25 Brandon Wakeham
- Referee: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Touch Judge: Jon Stone
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall