With plenty to play for this weekend, the Cronulla Sharks will host a desperate Canberra Raiders side who will look to keep their finals hopes alive. Cronulla will look to sew up a top four spot in their quest to go back to back, while the Raiders will play for their season. These two sides have built quite the rivalry over the past two season and with plenty on offer this match has the potential to be a cracker.
Last Time Out
The Sharks were never in doubt last week running out 26-12 winners across the ditch over the New Zealand Warriors. Losing Jack Bird on gameday, it was always going to be a tough ask but the premiers were up to the task grinding out a convincing win. The match will be remembered for the sickening blow to head landed by a knee to the head of Sharks pivot Fa’amanu Brown who was left unconscious and was taken off in a medi-cab, thankfully Brown was okay and has been named to play this week. Inspirational captain Paul Gallen was the star of the show for Cronulla, with the ageless lock forward running for 159 metres, making three offloads and 30 tackles, while Kurt Capewell who replaced Bird, had an impressive stint in the centres crossing for a try and running for 105 metres.
The Canberra Raiders kept their season alive with an impressive 32-18 win over South Sydney. Leading from start to finish and never really looking threatened, Canberra now have a plethora of confidence going into this weekend’s match. Nick Cotric enhanced his Rookie of the Year chances with another terrific display scoring a try and running for 139 metres and the man playing inside of him did not have a bad game either, Jarrod Croker also having a night to remember with an impressive 16 points scored individually but the best performance of the night went to Joe Tapine who started the game on the edge, Tapine scored a try, assisted another, ran for 166 metres and made a linebreak in a performance which may cement his starting spot in the 17.
Canberra’s halves are finally playing to their potential, halves Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin are each playing their best footy of the year, and it shows. Sezer in particular has had a great three weeks; it all started with his two match-winning plays against the Dragons, followed by his two try efforts a week later against Melbourne and last week his kicking game was on point and his pass to assist Michael Oldfield was delicious. Cronulla are still missing James Maloney and that could prove to be a big loss this week, Fa’amanu Brown will bravely lace up the boots this weekend after being knocked out last game, Brown was having quite the game before the sickening head blow and it is unclear if he will have the same influence this week. A lot of responsibility could be placed on halfback Chad Townsend who will have to control play and try and force Canberra in their own half as much as possible. If Austin and Sezer can continue their good form it will go a long way to a Green Machine win.
Amazingly, Canberra have won at Southern Cross Group Stadium in the last three occasions. Cronulla have not been amazing this year on home soil only winning five from ten. The Raiders are playing do-or-die footy and have a lot more to play for. Cronulla are still missing Maloney and Jayden Brailey while the Raiders regain Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii for this one. An upset may be on the cards this weekend.
Canberra by 6
Sharks vs Raiders, Saturday 5 August, 7:30 at Souther Cross Group Stadium
Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Gerard Beale 6. Fa’amanu Brown 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. James Segeyaro 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Kurt Capewell 18. Adam Clydsdale 19. Joseph Paulo 20. Sam Tagataese 21. Edrick Lee
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Luke Bateman 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Clay Priest 16. Dave Taylor 17. Joseph Tapine 18. Michael Oldfield 19. Jeff Lima 20. Royce Hunt 21. Erin Clark