After a disappointing performance last weekend, added to the fact they were beaten by the Bulldogs the last time the two teams met, there is little to no chance of the Sharks taking this week’s opponents lightly.
Despite sitting on the bottom of the NRL ladder with just two wins to show for their efforts this season, one of those coming in round seven against the Sharks, the Bulldogs have been competitive in recent weeks without getting a result.
That being the case and carrying the hurt of a below-par effort against the Raiders a week ago, the Sharks have no illusions about the challenge that awaits them at Cbus Super Stadium as they look for plenty of improvement this Sunday.
“We were disappointing last week,” Sharks hooker Blayke Brailey said. “Our defence wasn’t up to par, we missed too many tackles, leaked too many points, so we’re looking to fix that this week.
“They beat us last time and we’re not going to take them lightly. We know they’re dangerous, they’ve got a few players back, a lot of strike players.
“They’ve been really consistent the last few weeks, been in a lot of tight games with the top teams and we’re planning on it being a tough game,” Brailey added.
The Sharks have made two changes to last weekend’s team, with Aiden Tolman unavailable due to suspension and Teig Wilton sidelined with a minor hamstring strain.
Coming into the 17-man squad the Sharks welcome back one of the unheralded stars from their 2020 season in Royce Hunt, while Andrew Fifita has been recalled to the interchange bench.
After 10 months on the sideline Hunt makes his return from a knee injury and although coach Josh Hannay has indicated his minutes will be limited, the hard-running front rower is ready to go in this his comeback game.
“It’s been pretty frustrating, my feet were itchy the whole time not being able to get out there to run with the boys, but I’m definitely in on Sunday and I can’t wait to rip in,” Hunt said.
With Tolman missing, Hannay has made the decision to move Toby Rudolf from lock to prop, with Jack Williams elevated into the starting side and taking over in the 13 jersey. Briton Nikora move back in the starting side in place of Wilton.
The halves partnership will again be Shaun Johnson and Braydon Trindall, with Matt Moylan to potentially be available for selection for the Sharks match against Manly next week.
In highlighting the statistics from games played between the two clubs, in 94 matches dating back to 1967, the Bulldogs hold the advantage, having won 56, compared to 36 from the Sharks, with two games drawn.
Despite the Sharks winning six of the past eight matches against the Bulldogs, Canterbury has the better record in the most recent encounters, winning two of the past three, including the 18-12 upset win earlier this season.
In that particular loss the Sharks enjoyed 60 per cent of possession, ran for 400 more metres than their opponents, made three more line breaks and missed just 14 tackles, with the result coming down to several squandered try scoring chances as the Bulldogs hung on to win.
This will be the first match played between these teams outside of NSW and the numbers indicate this should give the Sharks some confidence, with the Canterbury side having lost its past nine straight matches played in Queensland.
Prior to this season, the Sharks were on a four-match winning streak north of the border, but have won just one of their four matches played in the state this year.
The Bulldogs come into the match having suffered their fourth straight loss last week, losing 32-24 to Souths, while the Sharks have won five of the past seven.
And again highlighting the importance of the Sharks starting the match strongly, they have won seven of nine when leading at half-time, but are yet to win a game in 2021 when level or trailing at the break.
In relation to the players, Aaron Woods is searching for his 100th win in what will be his 227th NRL match, with the Sharks prop also a former Bulldog, having played 14 matches for the club in 2018 after a 146-game career at Wests Tigers. He joined the Sharks mid-season of 2018.
The Sharks v Bulldogs match is scheduled for a 4.05pm kick off at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on Sunday, with the two 19-man squads listed below.
Wilton and youngster Joniah Lualua come out of the originally named 21-man squad.
Fullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Nick MeaneyFullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
Winger for Bulldogs is number 2 Corey AllanWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
Centre for Bulldogs is number 3 Will HopoateCentre for Sharks is number 3 Connor Tracey
Centre for Bulldogs is number 4 Aaron SchouppCentre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Winger for Bulldogs is number 5 Jayden OkunborWinger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Five-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Lachlan LewisFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Braydon Trindall
Halfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Jake AverilloHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Shaun Johnson
Prop for Bulldogs is number 8 Ava SeumanufagaiProp for Sharks is number 8 Toby Rudolf
Hooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-KingHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Bulldogs is number 10 Jack HetheringtonProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Corey Waddell2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Siosifa Talakai
2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Josh Jackson2nd Row for Sharks is number 16 Briton Nikora
Lock for Bulldogs is number 13 Luke ThompsonLock for Sharks is number 13 Jack Williams
Interchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Bailey Biondi-OdoInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Mawene Hiroti
Interchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Dylan NapaInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Royce Hunt
Interchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Joe StimsonInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Braden Hamlin-Uele
Interchange for Bulldogs is number 23 Renouf AtoniInterchange for Sharks is number 20 Andrew Fifita
Reserve for Bulldogs is number 21 Falakiko ManuReserve for Sharks is number 18 Billy Magoulias
- Referee: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall