Round 16: Sharks v Broncos preview
'Fin'-ishing off our truncated round of football is a trip to the Shire! Cronulla will want to put last week's horror show behind them as they host an out-of-sorts Brisbane side on Sunday afternoon.
The Sharks, unable to complete the comeback last round against the rock bottom Bulldogs, head back to home comforts with a 4-2 record at Pointsbet/Remondis/SouthernCross/Toyota/whatever-its-called-now this season, and a lineup still solid despite Origin. Former NSW stars Matt Moylan, Aaron Woods and Paul Gallen all feature in the starting side.
Much of the pre-season hype for Cronulla has begun to fade. They have failed to string together anything more than back-to-back victories - which the Shire side have achieved three times this season. Headed into the final nine weeks of the season, and with representative duties over after next Wednesday, it's time for a jaws-esque rampage from the Sharks.
Well, where to start for Brisbane? One of the glamour sides of the competition wallow in 14th
position, clinging onto their finals chances due to the metronomic nature of the bottom eight sides. Add in injuries to key playmaker Anthony Milford and their Origin absences, the grip has loosened ... and let's not mention their form. ###>
Rugby league sides are strange beasts though, and usually perform with their backs to the wall. This is the classic 'between a rock and a hard place'. Rookie halves pairings, veterans out of favour and form - but victory is a soothing balm.
One thing the Broncos can count on to aid that grip is their success against the Sharks earlier this season. The Broncos rampaged out of the blocks at Suncorp and never gave the visitors a sniff. Can they repeat the dose at the Sharks' home ground? Maybe. Origin rounds are strange beasts and the boys in the black, white and blue could fall foul of the fabled ‘just one of those days' syndromes that Football Manager players know so well.
Who to watch: After their clunky performance against Canterbury, Cronulla has a chance to rectify that against a struggling Broncos side. That comes down to the play of Shaun Johnson. The Kiwi half was a bright spot in the defeat with his running game, so a repeat of that against a side that has lost on average by 15 points, could be a sweet spot for 'SJ'.
This might not be the vintage Baby Broncos but Sunday's line-up goes close. Their backline average less than a dozen NRL games so veteran and under siege Darius Boyd needs to find answers to the nagging questions. He has been pilloried for his lack of effort in some phases of the game this season, but has to turn back to the clock to help the Broncos back into the top eight chase.