With the Monty Porter Memorial Sports Foundation Cup on the line, bragging rights will be one thing, however more important for the Sharks and Dragons, who face off in the second instalment of the local derby this season, will be the crucial two competition points.
The Sharks have lost their previous six matches, the Dragons winning just one of their most recent five, therefore anything other than a victory on Friday night will see the loser fall into a hole in 2021 from which there may be no escape.
Completing preparations on Thursday with an address from former skipper Paul Gallen, who emphasised to the Cronulla team the significance of this twice-yearly fixture, meant even the younger members of the Sharks squad such as Blayke Brailey were acutely aware of the significance of the match.
“The local derby is a special game for the Club, for the fans and for our community,” Brailey said. “We definitely lift for these games.”
And lift is what the Sharks side will need to do, coming into this contest on the back of a defeat at Magic Round in a game against Souths where a poor first 40 minutes cruelled their chances.
As coach Josh Hannay explained, his team needs to play more consistently throughout the 80 minutes, and it needs to start this Friday night.
“There’s desperation through the group. There’s also plenty of resolve, energy and positivity, which is critical when you go through times like this,” Hannay said. “We need to start this week the way we finished last week.”
In relation to their most recent outing, the Sharks fell behind 20-0, went to half time 20-6, and only for a decision against Chad Townsend when trailing by just four points late in the contest, a call which has been widely criticised since, the Cronulla side may have stormed home to claim a famous come-from-behind win.
But it wasn’t to be and now it’s onto the Dragons and the Derby, with Hannay not taking anything for granted despite the much-publicised suspension and injury toll facing their opponents.
“I know they’ve got some guys out, we’ve had up to seven players out for most of this year, that’s been our existence and it no excuse, just a reality. We know what that’s like but we expect it to be a real genuine derby, it always is between these two clubs, regardless of who they’ve got missing and who we’ve got missing. It’s going to be a cracking derby and it always is,” Hannay said.
While the local derby in one form has been going on since 1967, before changing tact somewhat when St George Illawarra became a merged entity a little over 20 years ago, beginning in 2021 the teams have been playing for the Monty Porter Cup, named in honour of the first Sharks captain and former long-time administrator, who also played for the Dragons during their 11 in a row premiership run.
Of the 19 games played for the Porter silverware, the Dragons hold a narrow advantage, having registered 10 wins, with the Sharks keen to level the ledger and record a third consecutive victory over St George Illawarra.
Overall, in showing just how close the games tend to be, both the Sharks and Dragons have won 23 of 47, with one draw, with tomorrow’s winner to take bragging rights.
As mentioned, Cronulla has won the past two, and four of the past five between the two teams, while looking for a third straight for the first time since 2007-08.
In team news, although the Dragons have stolen the headlines when it comes to players unavailable, the Sharks report two big outs for tomorrow night’s game, with Andrew Fifita and Shaun Johnson omitted from the 21-man squad.
Both players have minor hamstring complaints and are likely to be back on deck for the Sharks following match. Billy Magoulias has been added to the Sharks 17, with youngsters Jensen Taumoepeau and Franklin Pele on the extended reserves list.
The Sharks v Dragons game is scheduled for a 7.55pm kick off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with the two 19-man squads listed below, along with the list of results from past Monty Porter Cup matches.
MONTY PORTER CUP RESULTS
2012 – Round 6 – Sharks 12 – Dragons 0
2012 – Round 19 – Dragons 18 – Sharks 10
2013 – Round 4 – Dragons 25 – Sharks 12
2013 – Round 23 – Sharks 22 – Dragons 18
2014 – Round 3 – Dragons 14 – Sharks 12
2014 – Round 13 – Dragons 30 – Sharks 0
2015 – Round 12 – Dragons 42 – Sharks 6
2015 – Round 18 – Sharks 28 – Dragons 8
2016 – Round 2 – Sharks 30 – Dragons 2
2016 – Round 23 - Dragons 32 – Sharks 18
2017 – Round 3 – Dragons 16 – Sharks 10
2017 – Round 10 – Sharks 18 – Dragons 14
2018 – Round 2 – Dragons 20 – Sharks 16
2018 – Round 6 – Dragons 40 – Sharks 20
2019 – Round 11 – Sharks 22 – Dragons 9
2019 – Round 22 – Sharks 18 – Dragons 12
2020 – Round 5 – Dragons 30 – Sharks 16
2020 – Round 11 – Sharks 28 – Dragons 24
2021 – Round 1 – Sharks 32 – Dragons 18
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Dragons is number 1 Cody Ramsey
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Mawene HirotiWinger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan Pereira
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh DuganCentre for Dragons is number 3 Jack Bird
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Will ChambersCentre for Dragons is number 17 Talatau Amone
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Connor TraceyWinger for Dragons is number 5 Max Feagai
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt MoylanFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Aiden TolmanProp for Dragons is number 8 Blake Lawrie
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Dragons is number 9 Andrew McCullough
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Dragons is number 13 Poasa Faamausili
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Dragons is number 4 Billy Burns
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Josh Kerr
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Toby RudolfLock for Dragons is number 12 Jackson Ford
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Braydon TrindallInterchange for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Teig WiltonInterchange for Dragons is number 14 Kaide Ellis
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Dragons is number 15 Jaiyden Hunt
Interchange for Sharks is number 19 Billy MagouliasInterchange for Dragons is number 18 Adam Clune
Reserve for Sharks is number 20 Franklin PeleReserve for Dragons is number 16 Daniel Alvaro
- Referee: Ben Cummins
- Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
- Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara