A full house, two highly rated opponents, Indigenous Round and a special milestone for one of the very best to have worn the Sharks jersey, points to a huge night at PointsBet Stadium tomorrow.
The sold-out sign went up earlier today, the Sharks boys have experienced a number of cultural activities throughout the week, while Andrew Fifita becomes just the 10th player in Club history notch 200 top grade games in Cronulla colours.
All indications are that the game tomorrow is one not to be missed, either by those in possession of a ticket or the fans of both clubs watching on from afar.
Up against the club where he played and later learnt his trade as a coach, if the match had any extra significance for Craig Fitzgibbon, who meets the Roosters for the first time while at the Sharks, you wouldn’t know it.
Fitzgibbon preferred to talk about what promises to be a special night recognising Indigenous players and the contribution they have made to the game.
“It’s really significant, not only for the Sharks, but for the game in general,” Fitzgibbon said of the Indigenous celebrations. “I think it’s become better each year, it’s more of an event each time it comes around and it’s a little bit more exciting.
“Every club is in the same boat in that they look forward to the weekend.”
As for facing the Roosters, Fitzgibbon certainly didn’t want to weigh into any verbal battles and was happy to praise this week’s opponent for preparing him for the challenges of coaching at an NRL level.
“I’m not standing here as the coach of the Sharks if not for the opportunities afforded to me at the Roosters, both as a player and as a coach. I need to acknowledge that,” Fitzgibbon expressed.
As for having inside information relating to the Roosters playbook, Fitzgibbon played down any suggestions of an advantage he might have.
“I might know some of the traits of the players but knowing them and stopping them are two entirely different things,” he added.
While the coaching match up will likely attract a handful of headlines pregame, also of note is the 200-game milestone for Fifita, the 50th NRL match to be played by Ronaldo Mulitalo and the top-grade debut for rangy young front rower Tom Hazelton.
Sharks members and fans will be aware of the exploits of Fifita and Mulitalo, but less is known of Hazelton, a Goulbourn product, developed through the Sharks system, who has endured the frustrations of injury and the Covid affected NSW Cup seasons of 2020 and 2021 to earn an NRL debut.
A solid work ethic and after some eye-catching performances for Newtown, Hazelton has been elevated into the Sharks 17, with Wade Graham a late withdrawal due to a foot injury. (CLICK HERE to see a Sharks Media interview and profile of Hazelton).
The omission of Graham aside, the Sharks will run out as selected earlier in the week, with Teig Wilton shifting into the starting 13, Hazelton filling the vacant bench position.
In some of the key stats ahead of tomorrow’s match, the Sharks will need to end a six-game Roosters winning streak in matches played between the two, in a match where rookie Sharks coach Fitzgibbon will face his mentor Trent Robinson for the first time.
Following an illustrious on-field career, with Fitzgibbon playing 228 of his 263 NRL matches for the Roosters, captaining them on 71 occasions, Robinson employed him as their defensive coach in 2013. Fitzgibbon remained as an assistant at the Roosters until joining the Sharks this season.
In the head-to-head numbers, the two clubs have met on 98 occasions, the Sharks winning 34, the Roosters 62, with two matches drawn.
The teams last played in Round 5 last year at the SCG, the Roosters winning 26-18, with Saturday night the first match between these teams at PointsBet since 2019.
The Sharks come into the game on the back of a 25-18 victory over Gold Coast last week, their first interstate win this season, while the Roosters arrive following a 32-12 loss to Penrith.
Cronulla has won all five matches at home this year, with the last time the Sharks were victorious in the first five games at PointsBet to start the season, coming in the Premiership year of 2016.
That year the Sharks won the opening 10 home matches and only losing to Canberra in Round 22
The Roosters are currently seventh on the ladder with 12 competition points, the Sharks fourth with 14.
In other team news, Will Kennedy returns after serving a two-week suspension for a high tackle in the match against the Warriors. He replaces Lochy Miller who was outstanding on debut against the Titans last weekend.
The Sharks v Roosters match is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick off, with all tickets sold for tomorrow night’s game.
See below the two 19-man squad lists, with the Sharks retaining Miller and Mawene Hiroti on an extended reserves list.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Connor TraceyCentre for Roosters is number 3 Paul Momirovski
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Siosifa TalakaiCentre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Roosters is number 5 Joseph Suaalii
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt MoylanFive-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Sam Walker
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Nicholas HynesHalfback for Roosters is number 7 Luke Keary
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Toby RudolfProp for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Roosters is number 9 Drew Hutchison
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Royce HuntProp for Roosters is number 10 Lindsay Collins
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Angus Crichton
2nd Row for Sharks is number 16 Teig Wilton2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Nat Butcher
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Cameron McInnesLock for Roosters is number 13 Siosiua Taukeiaho
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Aiden TolmanInterchange for Roosters is number 14 Connor Watson
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Braydon TrindallInterchange for Roosters is number 15 Fletcher Baker
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Andrew FifitaInterchange for Roosters is number 16 Sitili Tupouniua
Interchange for Sharks is number 19 Thomas HazeltonInterchange for Roosters is number 17 Terrell May
Replacement for Sharks is number 18 Lachlan MillerReplacement for Roosters is number 18 Lachlan Lam
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Touch Judge: Jon Stone
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein