Roosters v Sharks preview - 2017 Round 17

Sydney Roosters v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Saturday 3:00pm at Central Coast Stadium

Competition heavyweights face off among the palm trees.

For the second straight week the Roosters are playing a home fixture on the road - after pipping premiership leaders Melbourne by a golden point last week in Adelaide, they're a bit closer to home this Saturday when they host premiers Cronulla at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford.

With the Storm returning to their clinical best against Brisbane on Friday night and putting a four-point gap on the Roosters again, the Bondi boys will be keen to ensure they don't let the 2016 runners-up get away from them in the race for the minor premiership. After scraping home last week the Roosters have made no changes to the starting side from last week (at least not at the time of writing this preview), meaning Boyd Cordner and Sio Siua Taukeiaho are still a week away from taking the field again.

The Sharks on the other hand are in a spot of bother. They sit just outside the eight coming into this round, level with Manly and the Broncos, and with the latter's loss on Friday they are a real chance of jumping back into the top four with a win in Gosford. Their last-start loss to the Sea Eagles was of significant concern and they'll need to lift several gears to match it with an opposition who is firmly in the race for the J.J. Giltinan Shield.

Cronulla's playing stocks have taken a hit as well with hooker Jayden Brailey out for up to ten weeks with a fractured jaw and backup option Daniel Mortimer en route to Leigh in the UK. They've signed Raiders' utility Adam Clydsdale but he won't don the black white and blue for at least another week - so this weekend Fa'amanu Brown will deputise at hooker.

Last meeting: Round 25 2016 - Sharks 37 Roosters 12

The last time these two met the circumstances were vastly different - Cronulla were in cruise mode en route to their maiden NRL title, while the Roosters were engaged in a battle to avoid the spoon. How different things are less than a year on...

Overall these sides have met on 97 occasions across all competitions with the Roosters winning on 58 occasions. This will be their first encounter underneath the palm trees adjacent to Brisbane Water.

Who to watch: With Mitchell Pearce stealing the limelight in recent weeks, Luke Keary has flown very much under the radar after dominating headlines for the Tricolours early in the 2017 campaign. With Pearce doing the walking and talking, Keary's been able to go about his business without too much fuss. Questions remain over his defensive abilities but he's managed to lend a hand to 12 tries this season - more than Pearce or any of his teammates - and score three of his own meat pies.

It's not Nu Brown's first game this year, but the Bulldogs-bound Cronulla utility will come into this game with a fresh role. Assuming dummy half duties after Jayden Brailey's horrific jaw injury, there will be a short adjustment period for the premiers. He'll be hoping it goes smoothly, and he'll have some old hands in James Maloney and Chad Townsend to ensure just that.

Speaking of - Maloney vs Pearce in the days leading up to Origin III selection? Yes please.

The favourite: Last start winners, better form, less disrupted lineup? Roosters have the backing here.

My tip: I'm expecting the Sharks to bounce back and make this a grinding contest but the Roosters just seem to be in the right headspace at the moment. They had no right to the two competition points after Melbourne dominated them last Saturday but still claimed the win, and that tips it for me. Roosters by 2.

1. Michael Gordon 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Aidan Guerra 14. Isaac Liu 15. Zane Tetevano 17. Connor Watson 18. Kane Evans

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Gerard Beale 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Fa'amanu Brown 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Chris Heighington 17. Joseph Paulo 18. Sam Tagataese

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Chris James; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Rohan Best; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea;

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