A battle between 3rd and 15th has never been so close, as the upcoming State of Origin match strips players from both sides. The Sharks are without a whopping 5 players for this one, while the Tigers only lose 2 of their key men. In a boost for the away side, halfback Luke Brooks makes his much needed return from a hamstring injury, an inclusion which could shape the result of the game.
LAST TIME OUT
We saw this matchup earlier in the 2017 season, when the Sharks scraped home against an injury ravaged Tigers side at Leichhardt Oval. Prevailing 22-16, the Sharks were ultimately too good for the Tigers, who lost Aaron Woods and James Tedesco to injury during the match, as well as David Nofoaluma, who stayed on the field despite showing obvious signs of discomfort. A 14 points to 10 halftime lead wasn’t enough for Ivan Cleary’s men, as converted tries to Valentine Holmes and Chad Townsend gave Cronulla the two points. The Tigers will be in much the same situation this time around, with Woods and Tedesco out on origin duty, while the Sharks will have to learn to win without the likes of Maloney, Fifita, Graham, Holmes and Bird.
The matchup between the benches is quite an interesting one. The Cronulla bench has an average age of just a touch over 30, and combined have played 707 first grade games. Compared to the Tigers bench, with an average age of a tad over 21, and a combined 23 first grade games, you can see where the experience is. Common sense tells us that the Sharks will be too good, based on the fact that they’re bringing almost 700 more games experience in their 4 bench players alone, but don’t be surprised to see the young Tigers bring a heap of energy and exuberance off the bench.
Recent history and current form tells us to tip Cronulla and by a big margin. Especially at Shark park, with the faithful fans in full voice behind them. Yet somehow I’m struggling to rule out this Tigers side. Brooks and Lolohea could be anything in the halves, and the Sharks have looked lost this year in attack without the likes of Maloney and Graham in the team. Call me crazy, but I think 15th can pull off an upset against 3rd. – Tigers by 10.
Sharks: 1. Gerard Beale 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Kurt Capewell 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. Fa’amanu Brown 7. Chad Townsend 8. Sam Tagataese 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Jayson Bukuya 13. Paul Gallen 14. Daniel Mortimer 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Joseph Paulo 18. Kurt Dillon 19. Jesse Ramien 20. Jack Williams 21. Billy Magoulias
Tigers: 1. Kevin Naiqama 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Michael Chee Kam 4. Moses Suli 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Luke Brooks 8. Tim Grant 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Sauaso Sue 12. Kyle Lovett 13. Elijah Taylor (c) Interchange: 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. JJ Felise 16. Esan Marsters 17. Jacob Liddle 18. Joel Edwards 19. Jack Littlejohn 20. Watson Heleta 21. Junior Tatola
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