The Sharks will continue to walk the Finals tightrope when they face a resurgent Brisbane Broncos in a must-win match on Saturday.
After moving back inside the top eight with an impressive 50-point haul against the Tigers, the Sharks know nothing short of a victory tomorrow will be good enough to remain in the hunt for what would be a seventh consecutive Finals appearance.
Coach Josh Hannay was quick to praise his young group of players, with just two members of his 17 last week having played more than 70 NRL games, and was looking forward to this weekend and what the next two weeks might bring.
“I take my hat off to the playing group for the position they've got themselves in, to where we have a top eight spot to play for,” Hannay said. "Here we are, we've put in a lot of hard work to get here and I know they're up for the fight.
"I know strange things can happen if you get to the finals and if you get on a run, it doesn't really matter where you finish.
"We've got two big weeks ahead of us and I really want to make sure we finish the job and get to where we want to get to," he added.
For the game which is the first of a double-header at Suncorp tomorrow, the Sharks have made a forced change to the team which beat the Tigers, with Ronaldo Mulitalo suffering a broken jaw last weekend.
His place on the wing will be taken by the capable Mawene Hiroti, himself on the comeback after braking his hand some five weeks ago, while on the Sharks interchange bench, Aiden Tolman returns from a week’s suspension.
Hannay has shown his faith in his young halves pairing, with Braydon Trindall and Luke Metcalf to start the match, with Matt Moylan selected in jersey 14.
As Hannay alluded to, there are a number of reasons the Sharks certainly won’t be fooled by the Broncos position on the NRL ladder, especially after taking a look at the recent record against the Brisbane club.
Since the start of 2015, the Broncos have won eight of the 10 matches against the Sharks, with Cronulla’s lone victories coming in their premiership winning season of 2016 (30-28) and the 36-26 triumph last year.
In the overall head-to-head records, from the 59 meetings between the two clubs, the Sharks have 21 wins, the Broncos 38.
Despite floundering towards the bottom of the NRL ladder, Brisbane won the last encounter, a 26-18 victory in round 16 at Suncorp Stadium, the result snapping a four-game losing streak for the Broncos and ending a four-game winning streak for the Sharks.
At Suncorp Stadium, the Broncos have won four of the past five, and 15 of the 20 matches played against Cronulla and in taking advantage of the Queensland hub situation, this will be the ninth straight match for the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
While the Sharks managed to return to the winner’s circle to break a run of three consecutive losses with 50-20 win over the Wests Tigers last Saturday, for what was their fourth win of the season by 20 points or more, the Broncos were equally impressive in recording their sixth win of 2021, defeating the Warriors 24-22 and moving ahead of the Cowboys and into 14th position on the competition table.
Were they to win and keep their finals hopes alive, the Sharks will be looking for similar performances from Braydon Trindall who finished last week’s match with four try assists, Connor Tracey who has enjoyed success against Brisbane with three tries in two matches and Will Kennedy, who leads the Sharks in tries, run metres, line breaks and line break assists.
The Sharks have conceded the opening try in their past four matches and are yet to win when behind or level at the break this season, with the Broncos scoring the opening try in four straight matches but similarly losing all 11 games when trailing at halftime.
The Sharks v Broncos game is scheduled for a 5.30pm kick off at Suncorp Stadium, with the two 19-man teams listed below. The Sharks have retained the 17 as named on Tuesday, with newcomer Kai O'Donnell and rookie Jonaiah Lualua on the extended reserves list.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Broncos is number 1 Tesi Niu
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Broncos is number 2 Corey Oates
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Connor TraceyCentre for Broncos is number 3 Selwyn Cobbo
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Broncos is number 4 Herbie Farnworth
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Mawene HirotiWinger for Broncos is number 5 Xavier Coates
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Luke MetcalfFive-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Anthony Milford
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Braydon TrindallHalfback for Broncos is number 7 Albert Kelly
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Toby RudolfProp for Broncos is number 8 Thomas Flegler
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Broncos is number 9 Jake Turpin
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron WoodsProp for Broncos is number 10 Payne Haas
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Broncos is number 11 Alex Glenn
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Siosifa Talakai2nd Row for Broncos is number 17 TC Robati
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Jack WilliamsLock for Broncos is number 13 Kobe Hetherington
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Matt MoylanInterchange for Broncos is number 14 Danny Levi
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Broncos is number 15 Rhys Kennedy
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Aiden TolmanInterchange for Broncos is number 16 Ethan Bullemor
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Teig WiltonInterchange for Broncos is number 19 Brendan Piakura
Reserve for Sharks is number 18 Kai O'DonnellReserve for Broncos is number 18 David Mead
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Touch Judge: Wyatt Raymond
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy