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4:05pm Sun June 30, 2019
Round 15 - Accor Stadium - Crowd: 8358

Round 15: Bulldogs v Sharks preview

Sharks look to consolidate spot in the top eight against struggling Dogs

It has been well over a month since the Bulldogs won their last game.

And unfortunately for Dean Pay's men, instead of improving with each performance, they seem to be drifting further away from a breakthrough victory.

Their most recent loss to the Roosters, by the tune of 38 points to 12, was their sixth defeat this year by 20 points or more.

It marks a concerning trend for the last-placed Bulldogs.

While they weren't considered much a threat in this year's competition on talent alone, many still expected they would be thereabouts because they are traditionally a very gritty team.

A side that is hard to break down.

They may not have the flair but their determination in defence was enough.

This year, however, they aren't just scoring the least points in the competition. They are also conceding the most.

Nothing is going right.

They also lose livewire Jeremy Marshall-King (knee) at hooker, with Michael Lichaa his replacement.

Lichaa has been impressive in reserve grade, only recently setting up five tries in one single game.

Chris Smith is also promoted to lock in place of Raymond Faitala-Mariner while Jack Cogger (concussion) is back partnering Kieran Foran in the halves.

The Sharks were also on track for a heavy defeat when they trailed the Raiders 20-0 a fortnight ago.

Unlike the Bulldogs, they were able to fight back and only fall short 22-20.

It means that their position in the top eight is still under threat, with the men from the shire sitting just one win in front of the ninth-placed Tigers.

While a game with the lowly Bulldogs may be the perfect way to bounce back, things aren't as simple as they seem.

Sometimes complacency can creep in and tempt the Sharks to play to the level of their opposition.

They will also be without rampaging front rower Andrew Fifita (suspension), replaced in the starting side by Braden Hamlin-Uele.

Wade Graham, who has been excellent since returning from a torn ACL, moves onto the edge with Kurt Capewell reverting back to the bench.

Jayden Brailey (knee) also makes his comeback in the number nine jersey.

Last meeting: Round 25 2018 - Bulldogs 18 Sharks 30

Who to watch: Michael Lichaa finally has his chance to impress, making his first NRL appearance since Round 7. He has certainly made the most of his time in Canterbury Cup, managing nine try-assists and 10 line-break assists in six games.

Marshall-King has been one of Canterbury-Bankstown's most dangerous players in recent weeks with his running game in particular proving a danger. Lichaa brings a similar spark out of dummy-half and could have a crucial role in helping the Bulldogs get over the line on Sunday.

It is no coincidence that the Sharks have looked a more potent side in attack with the return of Wade Graham. And his inclusion in the starting side this week could pose a serious threat to Canterbury.

While the Bulldogs have always had a strong forward pack, much has been made of their creativity being stifled. Hard and fast running will only get you so far. Graham, however, brings something different.

He has a deft short kicking game and knows when to pop a late offload to create space. The Bulldogs will need to shut him down or risk the likes of Bronson Xerri tearing them apart on the edge.

The favourite: Cronulla are well-backed here.

My tip: You just can't tip the Bulldogs here. The Sharks are always strong in defence and have more points in them. Sharks by 16.