Penrith had six players take the field in what was a typically brutal Origin encounter, five for the victorious Blues and former Shark Kurt Capewell who turned out for Queensland, meaning the make up of their team to tackle the Sharks in a prime-time Friday night clash at Netstrata Jubilee shapes as something of a mystery.
While set to trim their 23-man squad as named on Tuesday back to 19 later tonight, who is likely to run out for the Panthers is still yet to be clear, however for Sharks coach Josh Hannay its more about what his team can produce, rather than the opposition they face.
“The focus primarily is always about us, really nailing down the individual preparation of our guys and that hasn't changed leading into Penrith. As good as they are, the focus has been on ourselves,” Hannay said.
"In regards to the players playing Origin and who may or may not back up, that's not something I can control."
The Sharks preparations for the Panthers began almost two weeks ago, following their strong win over the Titans in a match played in Coffs Harbour.
As Sharks forward Toby Rudolf explained, the performance against the Gold Coast was close to their best of the season and with something similar tomorrow night he believes they will be well and truly in the contest.
“It’s the first time we’ve put back-to-back performances together,” Rudolf said. “If we can get a bit more consistency throughout our games, build on what we did against the Titans, play our game and hold the ball, we’ll be very competitive and I think we can win.”
The teams faced each other just over a month ago, with Penrith defeating Cronulla 48-0 back in Round 9 in what was the largest winning margin in matches between the two clubs.
The loss was the second largest defeat in the Sharks history, and the first time Cronulla had been held scoreless since the second week of the 2015 Finals when beaten 39-0 by North Queensland. It was also the Panthers biggest win against any opponent since 2013 thrashing the Warriors 62-6.
Experienced prop Aiden Tolman expressed his confidence that his team has moved on from that earlier loss to Penrith, while identifying the areas the Sharks needed to improve.
“Ball control number one,” Tolman began. “We gave them too much ball early in that game and we were just defending our try line.
“Penrith are a top team for a reason and they can put teams away really early. That’s one of our focusses, if we control the ball and go 50-50 possession, we’re confident we can beat any team in this competition.”
In the head-to-head matchup, the Sharks have won 51 of the 96 matches played, the Panthers 42, with three draws.
The win in Round 9 was the Panthers fourth straight against Cronulla, while tomorrow night they aim for five straight victories for the first time since the initial five matches between the clubs in 1967-1969.
As for the Penrith, their depth was tested in a 26-6 loss to the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval last Friday, a match where they were missing eight players, the seven Origin representatives and prop Moses Leota who was sidelined due to suspension.
The loss snapped a Premiership record 27 straight regular season wins, a run which dated back to Round 5 of the 2020 season. The loss to the Wests Tigers also snapped a club record 13 consecutive wins away from home.
In relation to the players, skipper Wade Graham will play his 217th match for the club to move past Dane Sorensen into outright fifth for most first-grade games at Cronulla.
Should Graham play the majority of remaining matches in 2021 he is in line to surpass Mitch Healey (223), while closing in on David Peachey (232) who currently sits in third place on the matches played list.
For the opposition, Charlie Staines with seven tries in two games against the Sharks will be one to watch, the young winger scoring a hat-trick in Round 9 and four tries on debut against them last season.
The Sharks have trimmed their originally named 21-man squad back to 19, with Franklin Pele and Teig Wilton retained on the extended reserves list.
The Sharks and Panthers match is scheduled for a 7.50pm kick off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium tomorrow night.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Connor TraceyWinger for Panthers is number 2 Charlie Staines
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Will ChambersCentre for Panthers is number 3 Stephen Crichton
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Panthers is number 4 Paul Momirovski
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Panthers is number 5 Robert Jennings
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt MoylanFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Matt Burton
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Tyrone May
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Aiden TolmanProp for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Scott Sorensen
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Toby RudolfLock for Panthers is number 15 J'maine Hopgood
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Braydon TrindallInterchange for Panthers is number 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Siosifa TalakaiInterchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack WilliamsInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Izack Tago
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Andrew FifitaInterchange for Panthers is number 20 Liam Martin
Reserve for Sharks is number 18 Teig WiltonReserve for Panthers is number 26 Brent Naden
- Referee: Ashley Klein
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Jon Stone
- Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara