Sharks v Raiders preview

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Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Canberra Raiders Friday 6:00pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium

Contrast in styles set to clash again in the latest chapter of this intriguing rivalry.

It's a rivalry that hit fever pitch during the Sharks run to the 2016 Premiership when then-hooker Michael Ennis infamously mocked the Raiders fans and their Viking clap after a come from behind victory in week one of the finals, but the intrigue stretches further back than that.

In a ten game span dating back to the penultimate round of the 2013 season, the away team in this fixture has emerged victorious on each occasion including four straight from the Raiders at Friday night's venue, Southern Cross Group Stadium.

As far as playing styles goes, these two teams are polar opposites. If you looked up grinding victories in the dictionary, the Sharks emblem would be front and centre, whilst the Raiders play a far more expansive form of footy looking to gain their advantage out wide.

Both teams have as much to play for as each other in this one and have each one three out of their last five.

The Raiders are sitting four points outside the top 8 and desperately need a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive, whilst the Sharks are stuck in a log-jam of teams fighting for a top 4 birth and an all-important two bites at the cherry come September.

The Sharks welcome back boom rookie Jesse Ramien for the contest who will slot back in at right centre in place of Kurt Capewell in their only change this week.

The Raiders meanwhile have been hit hard with injury with Captain and goal-kicking centre Jarrod Croker suffering a dislocated kneecap last week to end his season. Michael Oldfield has been named as his replacement in a reshuffled backline which sees Brad Abbey return at fullback and Nick Cotric on the wing. In a cruel twist of fate at training during the week, Aidan Sezer suffered a hamstring strain putting in some extra goal-kicking practise and is highly doubtful to run out on Friday night.

Last meeting: Round 10 2018 - Raiders 16 Sharks 24

The Sharks notched up their sixth straight victory at GIO Stadium 24-16 coming from 8 behind at halftime. Valentine Holmes scored a double but Andrew Fifita was the star, churning out a damaging 80 minute performance in the absence of Luke Lewis, Wade Graham and Paul Gallen from the Sharks pack.

Who to watch: In his best performance in Sharks colours, five-eighth Matt Moylan proved the difference against his former Panthers team mates last weekend. In a sparkling display, Moylan scored a try, set up another and ran the ball more than in any game this year with 154 metres, 10 tackle busts and 2 line-breaks. It's taken the majority of the season to find his best form, but last week's performance needs to be the benchmark if the Sharks are to produce the points required to seriously contend for a second premiership. 

Likely to regain a place in the starting team following the injury to Sezer, Blake Austin will be looking to transform his impressive form off the interchange the past two weeks into a dominant 80 minute performance. Scoring a try in each of his two super-sub performances and running for over 100 metres in limited minutes, Austin has changed the pace of the match to help his team to back to back victories. His confidence and desire to take the line on early and set the pace for his team will be key to the Raiders chances in this one.

The favourite: The Sharks are strong favourites against a Raiders team whose depth is really starting to be stretched.

My tip: Do you believe in hoodoos? If you do than give the Raiders a chance but beware, all hoodoos come to an end eventually. Whilst the Raiders have found some form in recent weeks to keep their season alive, it has been against teams sitting underneath them on the ladder and they still haven't cracked a win against a top 8 team this season. Expecting the Sharks to further entrench themselves as top 4 contenders here. Sharks by 10.

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Joseph Paulo 15. James Segeyaro 16. Aaron Woods 17. Jayson Bukuya

1. Brad Abbey 2. Nick Cotric 3. Michael Oldfield 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Sam Williams 14. Blake Austin 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Iosia Soliola 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Josh Papalii 15. Luke Bateman 16. Siliva Havili 17. Liam Knight 19. Jack Murchie

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials: Belinda Sleeman, Rickey McFarlane; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Henry Perenara;

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