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The Cronulla Sharks will host a Parramatta Eels side high on confidence after beating an Origin-depleted Rabbitohs side last Friday night. The Sharks will be fresh coming into this one after a bye last week. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog, starting from 5:30pm AEST.
They sit in sixth place on 14 points, while the Eels are eighth on 12. Given their positions on the ladder, this shapes up as a vital game for both sides (the Eels will actually leapfrog the Sharks if they win by a converted try or more).
Eels coach Brad Arthur has stuck solid with the 17 players who defeated Souths last week. However, star forward Nathan Brown has been named in the reserves, and could return earlier than expected from a torn pectoral muscle suffered early in the season. He would likely take the spot of either Ray Stone or David Gower on the bench should he return from injury.
The Sharks’ lone Origin representative Josh Morris will be rested for this clash, with Josh Dugan taking his place at left centre and Aaron Gray coming into the side on the wing.
The Sharks have named a very strong side 1-17, although there could be two big ins, with both Shaun Johnson and Wade Graham named in jerseys 20 and 21 respectively.
Whether the two stars pass the fitness tests remains to be seen. But their inclusion would be a huge boost – particularly Graham who has been out of action since midway through 2018.
Should Johnson return from a hamstring injury it will be at the expense of young Kyle Flannagan, who would likely drop out of the side altogether, while Graham would probably come in for Jayson Bukuya.
There’s no doubt the Eels were impressive against the Rabbitohs last week, despite the fact that they were missing several stars. Souths threw plenty at them in attack and defended whole-heartedly.
Debutant Connor Tracey in particular was very dangerous in attack and caused the Parramatta defence plenty of headaches. The Eels had a lot to overcome in that game.
However, inconsistency has been the story of Parramatta’s season in 2019, and it will quite frankly take more than a win against a depleted Souths outfit to convince me that they are capable of stringing wins together, let alone away from home against a side like Cronulla.
The Sharks are a battle-hardened team with plenty of experience as well as impact from the interchange bench. Braden Hamlen-Uele has been particularly impressive in recent weeks, coming into games and causing havoc in the middle of the field.
I like the Sharks even if they remain 1-17, let alone if Shaun Johnson and/or Wade Graham are late inclusions.
Sharks by 10.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 5:30pm AEST.
Where: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
TV: Fox League
Streaming: NRL Digital Pass, Kayo Sports
Sharks: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Dugan 5. Aaron Gray 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Paul Gallen 14. Blayke Brailey 15. Jayson Bukuya 16. Jack Williams 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Sione Katoa 20. Wade Graham 21. Shaun Johnson
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Josh Hoffman 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Will Smith 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Tepai Moeroa 14. Peni Terepo 15. Ray Stone 16. David Gower 17. Marata Niukore 18. Brad Takairangi 19. George Jennings 20. Tim Mannah 21. Nathan Brown