Full Time
7:35pm Sat March 4, 2023
Round 1 - PointsBet Stadium, Woolooware / Dharawal - Crowd: 12757

Round 1: Sharks v Rabbitohs preview

Semi Final vengeance looms for injury-hit Sharks.

Leave no doubt that Cronulla's capitulation to a powerful South Sydney side in the second week of last year's finals series will still be burning in the belly of many of the players - and fans - in the Shire.

And in news that no Sharks fan will enjoy hearing, they'll have to do it without Dally M medallist and LeagueUnlimited.com's 2022 Player of the Year Nicho Hynes. A calf injury keeps the #7 out of this contest, with fringe half Braydon Trindall once again deputising.

There hasn't been a whole lot of roster movement at Pointsbet Stadium - 16 of the 17 in Saturday night's lineup were at the club in 2022, with former Eels bench forward Oregon Kaufusi the sole new face in the black-white-and-blue.

Their opposition on Saturday are similar calm in terms of gains and losses - all 17 players named for the Rabbitohs this week are 2022 returnees.

Historically, this is set to be a tricky proposition for Cronulla, who - despite their success in the last decade - have only won once in the opening round since 2014.

Souths are looking at history of a different kind this season themselves, with prolific winger Alex Johnston just 15 tries away from jumping up to third place on the all-time try scorers list in NRL/NSWRL/ARL/SL history since 1908.

In further team news, the Sharks will also be missing prop Royce Hunt (elbow), so Braden Hamlin-Uele starts up front in his absence. South Sydney are missing both Taane Milne (suspension) and Hame Sele (calf). Taaffe and Shaq Mitchell are named on the bench.

Last meeting: Finals Week 2 2022 - Sharks 12 Rabbitohs 38

Who to watch: Until the Hynes injury was confirmed, he would've taken this slot as the Sharks' player to watch. Attention will now turn to Braydon Trindall at halfback. Trindall made 15 appearances last season, 11 of those from the bench. In the four matches where he started in the halves (deputising for either Hynes or five-eighth Matt Moylan), the Sharks were winners on three of four occasions, losing only to Canberra in Round 10. In addition to his halves work, Trindall is also likely to assume goalkicking duties in Hynes' absence as well.

Latrell Mitchell player the majority of available games for the Roosters in his four seasons at that club from 2016 til 2019 - but in the three seasons since he has yet to play more than three-quarters of any year at South Sydney. His 2020 season cut short by a hamstring injury, a mix of injury and suspension saw him miss a big chunk of the 2021 season, then a knee injury took out a large part of the start of his 2022 campaign. Ready and raring to go at the start and on the back of some solid trial form, expect ‘Trell to make a statement early in 2023 - starting with Saturday night against Cronulla.

The favourite: The Hynes injury sees Souths with strong backing from the bookmakers.

My tip: The loss of Hynes is immense for Cronulla, make no mistake. On the basis of that and the relative strength the Bunnies' roster holds, I have to back South Sydney here. Rabbitohs by 10.