The Late Mail: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
3 hours ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
New Zealand look to bring chaos to Cronulla's top eight hopes
The New Zealand Warriors will be looking to play spoilers when they face the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday afternoon at Cbus Super Stadium.
Sitting four points outside the top eight in 12th position, the New Zealand Warriors will be determined to use last week's inspirational win as a launching pad for a strong finish to the year.
Rallying from a 10-0 halftime deficit to down the Wests Tigers 18-16 last Friday, Nathan Brown will be hoping to record consecutive wins for the first time in his tenure as Warriors coach while keeping the side's mathematical hopes of featuring in finals football alive.
Regaining the services of Addin Fonua-Blake, Matt Lodge, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Josh Curran from injury and suspension, Euan Aitken has been formally named in the second-row after a strong introduction to the forward pack last week.
Locked on 18 premiership points as one of five teams vying for the final two positions in the top eight, the Cronulla Sharks will be hoping to continue a dominant record over their weekend opponents.
Winning 13 of their past 16 clashes against the Warriors since 2012, the Sharks will be aiming to replicate their previous win over the nomadic New Zealanders in the final match played in Sydney before the competition was uprooted to Queensland a month ago.
Rallying from an early deficit before going down comprehensively 40-22 to the Sea Eagles, coach Josh Hannay will be demanding an improved defensive effort after the side missed 51 tackles on Monday night.
Jesse Ramien will return in the centres after being withdrawn on game day last week due to an ear infection, while Jack Williams retains his place in the starting pack with Aiden Tolman dropping to the bench.
Last meeting: Round 17 2021 - Sharks 20 Warriors 12
Who to watch: Making an eye-catching transition into the forward pack in his last outing, Euan Aitken will have his sights set on a similar showing on Saturday afternoon. Touted as a potential representative calibre outside back during his formative years in first grade, the 26-year-old centre may be set for a long-term future in the second-row after bagging a double, breaking six tackles and aiming up with 41 tackles in last week's win over the Tigers. Earning rave comparisons to former centre-turned-second-rower Beau Scott from his coach, look for Aitken to be heavily involved as the Warriors strive to record back-to-back wins for the first time in close to a year.
Generating plenty of eyeballs for his outstanding post-try celebration against the Warriors earlier this season, interchange forward Braden Hamlin-Uele will be looking to make a similar impact on Saturday afternoon. Spending an extended stint on the sideline with a syndesmosis injury during May and June, the 26-year-old Auckland-born prop has struggled to recapture the form that saw him represent the Kiwis during his breakout 2019 campaign. Facing off against a New Zealand pack featuring some of the most formidable players in the league, the Sharks will need a strong showing from Hamlin-Uele as they strive to hold off the Titans, Knights, Raiders and Dragons for a place in the finals.
The favourite: Despite heading into the contest on a shortened preparation, the Sharks are expected to bounce back in daytime conditions.
My tip: Coming off an iconic performance and welcoming back a wealth of talent, the Warriors will have their sights set on going back-to-back at Suncorp. Warriors by 11.
1. Reece Walsh 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Peta Hiku 4. Viliami Vailea 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita 7. Sean O’Sullivan 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Jazz Tevaga 10. Matt Lodge 11. Euan Aitken 12. Josh Curran 13. Bayley Sironen 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Bunty Afoa 16. Kane Evans 17. Eliesa Katoa 20. Edward Kosi
1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Will Chambers 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Connor Tracey 7. Braydon Trindall 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Siosifa Talakai 13. Jack Williams 14. Braden Hamlin-Uele 16. Aiden Tolman 17. Andrew Fifita 19. Luke Metcalf 20. Billy Magoulias
Referees: Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials: Darian Furner, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;