Round 19: Canterbury v Cronulla preview
Sunday Slog set to shape team's seasons
The Bulldogs and the Sharks face off on Sunday afternoon at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast after biosecurity protocols have forced the NRL to move to Queensland. The match looks set to be a slog-fest between two teams that are traditional grinders. It also looms as a crucial game for both sides, as the Bulldogs look to claw their way to 8 competition points and get that little bit closer to leapfrogging the Broncos out of last place.
For the Sharks, they are clinging on for dear life in 8th spot on the ladder and a loss to the Bulldogs here would really hurt their finals chances. It was in fact the Sharks who first tasted defeat at the hands of the last-placed Bulldogs this season way back in round 7. They can't afford to drop another game to opposition below them on the table and this game could ultimately decide whether Cronulla make it or don't.
Canterbury coach Trent Barrett has made a few changes to his side that went down to the Rabbitohs last week. Jeremy Marshall-King is back and replaces Sione Katoa as the hooker. Ava Seumanufagai has been promoted the starting line-up at prop, with Luke Thompson shifting to lock, pushing captain Josh Jackson into the second row and Matt Doorey dropping out of the side. Joe Stimson comes onto the bench.
Josh Hannay has also made a handful of changes to his side that too suffered a defeat last week, this time at the hands of the Raiders. Prop Aiden Tolman is out, which means Toby Rudolf will move to the front-row from lock. Jack Williams is promoted into the starting 13 at lock to cover. This sees Royce Hunt come onto the bench.
Who to watch: Five-eighth Lachlan Lewis has struck a bit of form as of late and has been told he will not be re-signed at Belmore after this season. Lewis playing for a new contract elsewhere in the NRL and has a chance to prove his credentials if he can continue to maintain his form. This game is seemingly also an important one for the Bulldogs if they are to climb from the bottom of the ladder come the end of the season. Look for Lewis' kicking game to trouble the Sharks if the Bulldogs are to have a chance of pulling off an upset.
The Sharks must win this game and as Gus Gould said, "cometh the hour, cometh the champion". Following criticism this week for looking "uninterested", Shaun Johnson must live up to his huge pay packet and produce a good performance for the Sharks this week. The halfback has shown glimpses of being a great halfback at Cronulla but has never really fully hit his straps week-to-week whilst being at the Shire. This is the sort of game Johnson must step up in and guide his team to a valuable two points.
My tip: I definitely would not be writing Canterbury off. It was spirited performance against a top four Souths team last week and they weren't really completely out of that game until late on. That being said, the Bulldogs often struggle to put two weeks of decent footy together in a row and their best games are few and far between. The Sharks have something more to play for too, a spot in the finals. Cronulla should just simply be too good for Canterbury in a tight affair. Cronulla by 8.