A reasonable start to the 2021 season has come unravelled to an extent, with the Sharks now heading to Melbourne desperate for a change of fortune on the back of three consecutive losses.
After a strong win in round four over the Cowboys, the Sharks dropped the points with the Roosters and Knights in games where they squandered winning opportunities, before a disappointing loss to the Bulldogs last weekend.
The Sharks had numerous chances to claim a victory over the Bulldogs, six disallowed tries hardly helping their cause, but rather than dwell on what has gone on before, coach Josh Hannay is looking for his team to take the lessons learned in those narrow defeats on the road to Melbourne for the crucial round 8 clash tomorrow night.
“We’re under no illusions about what is required of us. We need to start well, get ourselves in the contest and hopefully in the back end of the game there’s a game to be won, we’ve learnt our lessons and can go on with it,” Hannay said.
“We’ve shown enough through the opening parts of the year, for us it’s about putting together an 80-minute performance.”
And a complete performance is what will be needed against a Storm outfit which is sitting towards the pointy end of the competition ladder through the opening seven games of the season.
In team news, Hannay made some tough selection decisions during the week in an effort to turn the tide and claim his first victory as the man in charge.
Newcomer Will Chambers after one game at the Sharks NSWRL partner club the Newtown Jets has been rushed into the side, at the expense of Josh Dugan who is named on the extended reserves list.
Sharks centre Jesse Ramien is a late withdrawal after a training mishap on Wednesday, with Hannay at this stage preferring youngster Teig Wilton to Dugan in the centres. Dugan has travelled to Melbourne and could yet be a late call-up into the 17-man squad.
The Ramien injury is to his glut muscle, however the issue doesn’t appear overly serious and a quick recovery is expected.
Matt Moylan will also miss the match, again with the quad strain which kept him out of the game against the Bulldogs last week.
In a positive, Shaun Johnson is in the halves alongside Chad Townsend, with the Kiwi international better for the run last weekend in what was his first game of the 2021 season.
The experienced and reliable Aiden Tolman is also back in the Sharks line-up and will make his run-on Sharks debut, meaning Braden Hamlin-Uele drops back to the interchange bench.
In the head-to-head statistics from matches contested between the two clubs, of the 40 games played Melbourne have won 25, Cronulla 15.
Since the 2016 Grand Final, the honours have been shared, with each team winning four, the Storm narrow 12-10 victors last time they met in Round 2 of the 2020 season in a match played at Netstrata Jubilee.
Storm has won 15 of 21 matches played in Victoria against the Sharks, including the past two, both wins coming by 16 points or more.
In emphasising the challenge the Sharks face, Melbourne are scoring the most points, have the most offloads, are ranked second for most tries and linebreaks and third for run metres and tackle busts.
Defensively they are conceding the fewest metres and post contact metres, the second fewest points and the third fewest tries and line breaks.
In individual player stats, two Sharks stand out, Chad Townsend who is second behind Panther Jarome Luai for try assists (11) and Will Kennedy who’s 10 line break assists also sees him in second position in that statistical category.
The Sharks and Storm match is due to kick-off at 6.00pm at AAMI Park, with the two 19-man squads listed below. Moylan and Ramien come out of the originally-named Sharks 21.
Match: Storm v Sharks
Round 8 -
Fullback for Storm is number 1 Nicholas HynesFullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
Winger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-CarrWinger for Sharks is number 2 Mawene Hiroti
Centre for Storm is number 2 Reimis SmithCentre for Sharks is number 3 Will Chambers
Centre for Storm is number 4 Justin OlamCentre for Sharks is number 14 Teig Wilton
Winger for Storm is number 19 Dean IeremiaWinger for Sharks is number 5 Connor Tracey
Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron MunsterFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome HughesHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse BromwichProp for Sharks is number 8 Aiden Tolman
Hooker for Storm is number 14 Harry GrantHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Storm is number 10 Christian WelchProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
Lock for Storm is number 9 Brandon SmithLock for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
Interchange for Storm is number 3 Tom EisenhuthInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Braydon Trindall
Interchange for Storm is number 13 Tui KamikamicaInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack Williams
Interchange for Storm is number 15 Dale FinucaneInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Interchange for Storm is number 16 Chris LewisInterchange for Sharks is number 19 Billy Magoulias
Reserve for Storm is number 17 Ryley JacksReserve for Sharks is number 21 Josh Dugan
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Jon Stone
- Touch Judge: Wyatt Raymond
- Senior Review Official: Matt Noyen