LeagueUnlimited NRLW Teams - 2020 Round 1
10 hours ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Under the radar Sharks eye a big scalp
The Cronulla Sharks will be out to assert their claims as top four contenders when they host the Parramatta Eels on Sunday afternoon.
Expected to struggle in 2020 after losing a wealth of experienced campaigners over the off-season, the Cronulla Sharks have defied expectations to sit in sixth position following seven wins from their past nine matches.
Posting three tries in the final ten minutes to defeat the Broncos 36-26 last Friday, coach John Morris will be looking for a much-improved showing against a competition heavyweight after the Sharks failed dismally in their performance against the Panthers a month ago.
Captain Wade Graham will make his 200th appearance for the club, while after being a late scratching over the past fortnight Josh Dugan will belatedly play his 200th NRL game.
Welcoming back Matt Moylan to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves, Josh Dugan returns in the centres as part of a reshuffle that sees Siosifa Talakai shift to the second row and New Zealand representative Briton Nikora relegated to the extended bench.
Coming into the clash after holding on against Canterbury-Bankstown 18-16 last Sunday, the Parramatta Eels will be hoping to overcome a poor record against their opponents.
Managing one win from their past seven clashes against the Sharks, coach Brad Arthur will be sure to have his side primed for a potential upset as they fight to secure a place in the top four.
Making one change with Ray Stone coming onto the bench in place of Brad Takairangi, captain Clinton Gutherson will become the 41st player to reach 100 first grade appearances for the club.
Last meeting: Round 13 2019 - Sharks 42 Eels 22
Who to watch: Set to become only the ninth player to reach 200 first grade appearances for the Sharks, Cronulla captain Wade Graham will be eager to continue his side's impressive form of late. Beginning his career with Penrith while still at school back in 2008, the 29-year-old has been a pillar of the Sharks' resurgence over the past ten seasons, originally as a playmaker before transitioning into the forward pack.
Possessing a kicking game unlike any second rower in the league, Graham will be sure to feature prominently on Sunday afternoon as the Sharks eye four straight wins for the first time under John Morris.
Coming up against the side he debuted for all the way back in 2008, Parramatta speedster Blake Ferguson will be hoping to break his try-scoring drought on Sunday afternoon. Try-less since the Eels' record qualifying final win last September, the 30-year-old has remained a valuable contributor this season averaging close to 170 metres and three tackle breaks per game.
Scoring seven tries in 14 clashes against the Sharks over the years, look for Ferguson to get over the line as the Eels strive to stay in contention for their first minor premiership in 15 years.
The favourite: Despite winning just two of their past eight visits to Kogarah, the Eels are favoured to prove too strong for the Sharks.
My tip: After narrowly holding on for a win seven days earlier, the Eels should have the class to maintain their unbeaten record in Sunday afternoon fixtures this season. Eels by 6.
1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Siosifa Talakai 12. Wade Graham 18. Scott Sorensen 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Connor Tracey 16. Teig Wilton 17. Royce Hunt
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Nathan Brown 14. Andrew Davey 15. Ray Stone 16. Kane Evans 17. Oregon Kaufusi
Referees: Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Phil Henderson; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Beau Scott;