The Sharks will be without Nicho Hynes and Toby Rudolf for the game against the Storm tomorrow night at PointsBet Stadium with the pair returning positive Covid PCR tests.
It is expected both players will be cleared to return well in advance of the Sharks next game, which is in Townsville the following Friday night.
All other players in the Sharks squad to play the Storm Covid tested prior to training today, with no further positive results recorded.
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon will keep his options open regarding a starting front row replacement for Rudolf, with Braydon Trindall confirmed as Matt Moylan’s halves partner.
While thinking Hynes may have been in NSW camp this week, rather than being unavailable because of the circumstances which arose earlier today, Fitzgibbon sent Trindall back to play for the Newtown Jets last weekend, where he starred in a 28-16 win over the Bulldogs.
“We played Brayden last week just to get a game under his belt in case Nicho was 18th man again,” Fitzgibbon said at his weekly media address, conducted prior to learning of Hynes’s situation.
The loss comes as something of a setback to a Sharks team looking for a fourth straight victory after consecutive wins over the Warriors, Titans and then Bulldogs in the mud at CommBank Stadium last week.
In softening the blow however, at least from a forwards perspective, will be the return of Braden Hamlin-Uele, the front rower passed fit to play his first game since round six when he suffered a pectoral injury, ironically in a game against Melbourne.
Although the Sharks will be without Hynes, Rudolf and Siosifa Talakai who is a member of the Blues team for Origin three, the Storm will also be missing some key personnel, with Cameron Munster and Harry Grant in the Queensland team and Felise Kaufusi unavailable due to family reasons.
Despite their stars being away, Fitzgibbon remains wary of a Melbourne side which will be determined to atone for an uncharacteristic loss last weekend.
“They’re a club built on a system that if someone leaves, someone else comes in and fills that role,” Fitzgibbon said.
Similarly, it will be next man up for the Sharks with Trindall to potentially take over the goal kicking and share the general playing kicking duties with Moylan, which as Fitzgibbon explained will be vital in what is predicted to again be inclement weather.
“I don’t think it will be as wet as last week, it will be damp and windy, making kicking huge but we just want to be physically committed,” he said.
“It will be an arm wrestle in the conditions, if you’re not physically there it will be a long evening. Kicking options are crucial, against an opponent like Melbourne we’ll need to build some pressure,” Fitzgibbon added.
In key statistics from previous games played between the two clubs, the Sharks have failed to score over 20 points in a match against Melbourne since 2005.
Overall, in the 43 games contested, the Sharks have won 15, the Storm 28, with Melbourne successful in the past five encounters. Since the 2016 Grand Final, the Storm have won seven of the 11 matches played.
Jesse and Kenny Bromwich for the Storm, Wade Graham and Andrew Fifita from the Sharks, are the only players running out tomorrow to have appeared in that 2016 competition decider.
Each team has won eight matches in games played at PointsBet Stadium, with Cronulla winning the past two and three of the most recent four matches. The Sharks have won five of six matches at PointsBet this year, with the only loss coming against the Roosters in Round 12.
The Sharks come into the game sitting fourth on the NRL ladder on 22 points, Melbourne, who lost 36-30 loss to Manly last round, are second with 24.
While Hynes will be missing, former Storm captain Dale Finucane tackles his former teammates for a second time after playing for the Sharks in the round six loss earlier this year. Finucane played 152 matches over seven seasons for the Storm, captaining the team in 17 games and winning two Premierships (2017, 2020).
The Sharks v Storm match is scheduled for a 7.50pm kick off, with the two 19-man squads listed below.
Match: Sharks v Storm
Round 17 -
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William KennedyFullback for Storm is number 1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione KatoaWinger for Storm is number 2 Dean Ieremia
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Jesse RamienCentre for Storm is number 3 Marion Seve
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Connor TraceyCentre for Storm is number 4 Justin Olam
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo MulitaloWinger for Storm is number 5 Grant Anderson
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt MoylanFive-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Nick Meaney
Halfback for Sharks is number 18 Braydon TrindallHalfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome Hughes
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Royce HuntProp for Storm is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke BraileyHooker for Storm is number 9 Brandon Smith
Prop for Sharks is number 17 Andrew FifitaProp for Storm is number 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Chris Lewis
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Dale FinucaneLock for Storm is number 13 Josh King
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Aiden TolmanInterchange for Storm is number 14 Tyran Wishart
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Cameron McInnesInterchange for Storm is number 15 Tui Kamikamica
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Teig WiltonInterchange for Storm is number 16 Alec MacDonald
Interchange for Sharks is number 21 Braden Hamlin-UeleInterchange for Storm is number 17 Jordan Grant
Replacement for Sharks is number 19 Jesse ColquhounReplacement for Storm is number 21 Jayden Nikorima
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Peter Gough
- Senior Review Official: Chris Butler