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NRL Preview: Crunch time for Sharks and Tigers

Two teams on 18 competition points, two points behind the eighth-placed Titans and still with hope of making the upcoming Finals series, it’s now or never for both the Sharks and their opponents this week when they face off in the first-ever NRL game to be played in Rockhampton.

The Sharks may be the better placed than the Tigers when it comes to points differential, but anything short of a victory and that will count for little with only three rounds remaining in the 2021 season. 

Acutely aware of the situation they find themselves in, five-eighth Connor Tracey was expecting a fired up Sharks team to put the disappointment of their narrow loss to the Knights, as well as the serious injury to Andrew Fifita behind them by turning in a strong performance in tomorrow's game. 

"I think we'll get a big response," Tracey said. "We need to win all three to make the finals and I'm sure the boys will be up for it." 

As for Matt Moylan, who is expected to make his return after battling a calf issue, the experienced playmaker realises the challenge the Tigers pose but is confident his team can get the required result. 

"They're coming off the back of a couple of good wins and we're going to have to try to halt their momentum," Moylan said. 

"I think the boys made a good step forward with the way they attacked the game last weekend, the result didn't go our way, but we can take a few positives out of it. If we can back that performance up and hone in a few more of our skill components, I think we can get the job done."

As for the venue for tomorrow's game, Browne Park in Rockhampton, Tracey for one was ready to embrace the experience of playing at a ground set to host it's first NRL fixture. 

"I always love playing at the regional grounds and getting the different fans in. They're always nice and loud, it should be an awesome crowd, somewhere new and I'm looking forward to it," Tracey added. 

In the head to head statistics, the Tigers have won 18 of the 32 games played between the two clubs, with the Sharks successful in 13 and one match drawn. 

The Sharks have won eight of the past 11 meetings, the Tigers ending a six-match losing streak against Cronulla with a 28-16 win in round three last year.

In relation to matches played in Queensland since 2019, the honours have been somewhat shared evenly, with both recording seven wins, the Sharks from 14 matches, the Tigers from 12.  

The Wests Tigers come into the game on the back of a 24-16 win over North Queensland, the victory just the second time this season where they have won consecutive matches.  

As for the Sharks, they suffered a third straight loss last week in losing 16-14 to Newcastle and since Round 15 only have wins over the Warriors and Bulldogs to show for their efforts.

In their past two matches the Sharks have been beaten by just two points, with six of their games this season decided by two points or less.

In team news, Moylan is tipped to return to the Sharks side but is likely to start the match from the interchange bench, with youngster Luke Metcalf added to the run-on side. 

Tracey reverts to the centres with Mawene Hiroti coming out as he continues his recovery from a broken hand, while Will Chambers has also been omitted from the originally-named 21-man squad. 

In another boost to the Sharks, Teig Wilton returns after being sidelined with a hamstring injury. 

The Sharks and Tigers match gets underway at 3pm on Saturday, with the two 19-man squads listed below. 

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Moses Mbye
    Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
  • Winger for Wests Tigers is number 2 David Nofoaluma
    Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
  • Centre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Tommy Talau
    Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
  • Centre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Michael Chee Kam
    Centre for Sharks is number 6 Connor Tracey
  • Winger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Ken Maumalo
    Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
  • Five-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Adam Doueihi
    Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 14 Luke Metcalf
  • Halfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Luke Brooks
    Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Braydon Trindall

Forwards

  • Prop for Wests Tigers is number 8 Stefano Utoikamanu
    Prop for Sharks is number 8 Toby Rudolf
  • Hooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Jake Simpkin
    Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
  • Prop for Wests Tigers is number 14 Joe Ofahengaue
    Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
  • 2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Shawn Blore
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
  • 2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Luciano Leilua
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Siosifa Talakai
  • Lock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Alex Twal
    Lock for Sharks is number 13 Jack Williams

Interchange

  • Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Kelma Tuilagi
    Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-Uele
  • Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 16 Tukimihia Simpkins
    Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Teig Wilton
  • Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 18 Billy Walters
    Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Billy Magoulias
  • Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 19 Tom Amone
    Interchange for Sharks is number 18 Matt Moylan

Reserves

  • Reserve for Wests Tigers is number 21 Zac Cini
    Reserve for Sharks is number 20 Kai O'Donnell

Match Officials

  • Referee: Gerard Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
  • Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins

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