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6:15pm Sun March 31, 2024
Round 4 - PointsBet Stadium, Woolooware / Dharawal - Crowd: 12692

Round 4: Sharks v Raiders preview

Kelly takes a look at this weekend's battle between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Canberra Raiders at PointsBet Stadium, Woolooware / Dharawal.

The Cronulla Sharks had a night they'll be hoping to forget after going down 32 - 6 to the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval in their first loss of the 2024 season. After scoring in the 13th minute, not much else went right for the side from the Sutherland Shire, making 16 errors, conceding more penalties than the home side and watching the Tigers run in 5 unanswered tries.

Coach Fitzgibbon has needed to make several changes to the 17 named to take on the Raiders this weekend. Due to injury, Dale Finucane, Toby Rudolf, and Royce Hunt are all set for a stint on the sideline. As a result, Tom Hazleton will move into the starting side alongside Oregon Kafusi in the front row, and Siosifa Talaki will shift from centre to the second row. This sees Kayal Iro move into the starting side alongside Jesse Ramien in the centres. Tuku Hau Tapuha has been called onto the bench for his second NRL match as a Shark alongside Jack Williams. Versatile player, Daniel Atkinson has also been added to the bench. 

The Canberra Raiders also suffered their first defeat of the season after travelling to Christchurch to take on the New Zealand Warriors. The stats sheet showed that the Raiders should have walked away with the 2 points; however, with the home-ground advantage, the Warriors finished stronger in the end.

Ricky Stuart has also named a number of changes to his side, with Sebastian Kris returning after missing Round 3 due to concussion protocols. An unfortunate cooking accident will hand James Schiller his first NRL game of the season, replacing Albert Hopoate on the wing. Ata Mariota will also return to the NRL team to replace Emre Guler, who has been relegated to NSW Cup. Several experienced players have also been named on the extended bench, including Corey Horsborough, Kaeo Weekes and Zac Woolford, so Sticky's team could look very different come Sunday afternoon. 

Round 4 sees these two teams return to PointsBet Stadium again, where the Sharks beat the Raiders by 18 points in Round 27 of 2023. This is the only win the Sharks have had over the Raiders since 2018. On average, though, the games between these two sides don't usually end up as a blowout - so it should be a nice and close one!

Last meeting: Round 27 2023 - Sharks 24 Raiders 6

Who to watch: Although he has been a regular starter in the Newtown Jets' Knock On Effect NSW Cup side, Kayal Iro is only set to play his second NRL game this weekend. Named the 2022 NSW Cup Player of the Year, the 24-year-old Cook Island international will play to impress Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon with the aim of cementing himself a regular starting spot in the side. 

22-year-old James Schiller gets his first start of the year, replacing Albert Hopoate on the wing. After debuting in 2022, Schiller has pulled on the green jersey just ten times in the last two seasons. His most notable performance was in the Raiders' loss to the Newcastle Knights in the 2023 elimination final, where he scored a double. The rugby league blood runs deep in his veins as he is the cousin of Knight's player, Jack Hetherington, nephew of former Raider Brett Mullins, and grandson of former Eastern Suburbs winger Bill Mullins.   

Favourite: This is a tricky one, given the history of these two clubs. Both sides will be coming off a loss, so they will be hungry to get back into the winner's circle. The Sharks are currently slight favourites, but this may change if Ricky makes the changes he could make to his side. 

My tip:  Sharks at home is always a good bet, so let's go with them, but I think it will be close. Sharks by 6