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RD 8 MATCH PREVIEW: PENRITH PANTHERS VS CRONULLA SHARKS

Squads

Sharks v Panthers – Sat 26 Apr, 3:00pm (local), Remondis Stadium

Sharks

1 Michael Gordon 2 Sosaia Feki 3 Blake Ayshford 4 Ricky Leutele 5 Jonathan Wright 6 Todd Carney 7 Jeff Robson 8 Andrew Fifita 9 John Morris 10 Bryce Gibbs 11 Chris Heighington 12 Wade Graham 13 Paul Gallen (c) Interchange 14 Isaac De Gois 15 Tinirau Arona 16 Sam Tagataese 17 Siosaia Vave 20 Beau Ryan

Panthers

1 Matt Moylan 2 David Simmons 3 Dean Whare 4 Jamal Idris 5 Josh Mansour 6 Jamie Soward 7 Peter Wallace (c) 8 Tim Grant 9 Kevin Kingston (c) 10 Brent Kite 11 Sika Manu 12 Elijah Taylor 13 Adam Docker Interchange 14 James Segeyaro 15 Jeremy Latimore 16 Tyrone Peachey 17 Nigel Plum 18 Matt Robinson

Docker free to play

Adam Docker fought his Grade 1 Dangerous Throw charge on Dave Taylor at judiciary on Wednesday night, and won.  This was an early test for the recent crackdown by the National Rugby League on lifting tackles following Alex McKinnon’s serious injury.  There didn’t seem to be much in it and throws into doubt whether new guidelines around lifting tackles will actually work.  Phil Gould talks about taking a sensible approach to the lifting tackle in his SMH article.  Matt Robinson was named eighteenth man but will only be required if there’s a late week injury concern over one of our named forwards.  Ivan Cleary sticking with the same seventeen that defeated Gold Coast.

Beau Ryan comeback possible

Cronulla have named Jamie Soward’s best mate (not) Beau Ryan in their extended squad for Saturday’s clash with Penrith.  Ryan does his impersonations of Soward on the NRL Footy Show and the bad blood appears to have spilled over.  Ryan’s ex-teammate Robbie Farah took to Twitter to support him.  Not that Soward’s on Twitter so I’m not sure of what Farah was trying to achieve.  Peter Sharp has opted for Isaac De Gois to Michael Lichaa on the bench as they look for win number two of the season.  A good effort against the Roosters last week will provide a boost to the team from the Shire.

Uncomfortable rivalry

The surfers versus the west side.  In recent times there’s been some bitter sweet moments involving players who have moved between the two clubs.  Here’s the main ones including one famous coach with a referee we all loved to hate!

1. Preston Campbell 2003

Shark Park on July 5 2003 saw the return of Preston Campbell for the first time to play against his former club.  On a cold Saturday night Sharks coach Chris Anderson was forced to eat humble pie when the dynamic five-eighth scored.  Presto’s try was cheered by both Panther and Sharks fans.  Penrith went on to record a 20-0 victory with Luke Rooney and Rhys Wesser the other try scorers that night.

2. Wade Graham 2011

Penrith Stadium on March 26 2011 was the first time Wade Graham played against his former club.  Graham was squeezed out of Penrith by preferred five-eighth Travis Burns at the time of his exit.  So Wade had a point to prove.  He was one of the Sharks best as they thrashed the Panthers 44-12.

3. Michael Gordon 2013

Shark Park was the venue for the July 28 2013 match between these two sides.  Penrith were always on the back foot in a lopsided game.  Michael Gordon cashed in scoring two tries against his former club, one set up by Wade Graham.  It was an afternoon out for Todd Carney.  This year’s version of Carney is a shadow of the form he displayed in that game.

4. Phil Gould 1994

Twenty years ago on Saturday July 9 1994 Phil Gould was infamously told to leave the sideline after an incident between the coach and linesman by Bill “Hollywood” Harrigan.  This game would represent Gould’s second last appearance as coach of the club, with Royce Simmons soon to take over on an eight year reign.  In the days before every game was screened on television, we’ve found some footage of the incident.  Penrith lost 32-0.

To date, Luke Lewis has not played against his former club.  We wish him all the best with his health issues.

Sharks hard to beat at home

Whether you call the ground Shark Park, Endevour Field, Ronson Park, or Remondis Stadium, it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Panthers.  Of the forty-five matches played at the venue, Cronulla are well ahead with twenty-eight wins and three draws.  Penrith only recording fourteen wins.  Last year’s capitulation reversed recent trends.  In the last ten matches between the two sides at Remondis, Penrith have won six and the Sharks four.  Penrith are yet to record an away win or back to back victories this year.  Hopefully the trend can be reversed this Saturday.

Preview

Cronulla despite being bottom of the ladder command respect at home.  They were close to winning last weekend against defending premiers Sydney Roosters and thrashed New Zealand Warriors in their previous home outing before last week.  You can forget about the effort over at Brookvale where Todd Carney’s new hairstyle outperforming the effort the players put out on the field. Paul Gallen is back and looking to press for another Australian cap.  There will be a heavy expectation that Carney will lead the charge.  Wade Graham will be spurred for a huge game against his former club.  With Andrew Fifita likely to put pen to paper on another contract after a bizarre turn of events, he will be out to show Sharks fans respect and put in a big performance.  One wonders however if the missing influence of Shane Flanagan, and the talk of Benji Marshall moving back from rugby and finding a home in the Shire will be a deterrent to their on-field performance?

Penrith look more composed and settled compared to their opponents.  They played tough, grinding football against the competition leaders on Monday night.  Now they face the cellar dwellers and it would be kind of embarrassing if the Panthers couldn’t close out victory given the way these two teams are positioned on the table.  We all loved what Peter Wallace did last week, and Jamal Idris’ forty minute special effort against his former club.  Penrith’s forward pack will definitely match the Sharks pack and even dominate over their counterparts.  Watch for a big game from Matt Moylan.  The match-up between former fullback Michael Gordon and current fullback Moylan will be special.  Moylan is starting to take on a similar role to Gordon in attack.  We know our defense is exceptional.  We just have to make sure we make the most of our opportunities and score more points then the Sharks.  Tyrone Peachey will be itching to get out there against his former club and follow in the footsteps of Preston Campbell’s 2003 effort.  A lightweight bench again could expose Penrith in the latter stages of the first half.

I question the timing.  Monday night teams get a rough deal having to back up normally on a Saturday.  It may suit some teams, but to have a five day turnaround compared to the Sharks seven is unfair.  Brisbane seem to have the best deal in the NRL, every Friday night gives them a seven day rest.  It’s becoming an age old gripe in a day where television dominates the landscape in order to win evening ratings.

The verdict

If you were penning in potential results, this was one game that would have been almost a write-off for Penrith winning.  Right now you just don’t know what Sharks side will turn up, especially after going so close but yet so far last weekend.  At this stage of the competition it’s a must win for the Sharks with their season well and truly on the line, and a must win for the Panthers in respect to staying in that top eight. Given that Penrith have a clearer head space compared to Cronulla’s season of dramas, I expect the boys to win this one.

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