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2021 NRL Round 19 Preview, Bulldogs Vs Sharks

Nathan Smith previews the contest between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. This is what we have to look forward to.

TEAM NEWS

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, Date: Sunday, 25th of July, Time: 4:05pm

Bulldogs Team

1. Nick Meaney
2. Corey Allan
3. Will Hopoate
4. Aaron Schoupp
5. Jayden Okunbor
6. Lachlan Lewis
7. Jake Avarillo
8. Ava Seumanufagai
9. Jeremy Marshall-King
10. Jack Hetherington
11. Corey Waddell
12. Josh Jackson
13. Luke Thompson
14. Bailey Biondi-Odo
15. Dylan Napa
16. Joe Stimson
17. Ofahiki Ogden
19. Kyle Flanagan
20. Sione Katoa
21. Falakiko Manu
22. Matt Doorey

Team Changes

IN: Jeremy Marshall-King, Joe Stimson, Kyle Flanagan
OUT: nil

Sharks Team


1. Will Kennedy
2. Sione Katoa
3. Connor Tracey
4. Jesse Ramien
5. Ronaldo Mulitalo
6. Braydon Trindall
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Toby Rudolf
9. Blayke Brailey
10. Aaron Woods
11. Siosifa Talakai
12. Teig Wilton
13. Jack Williams
14. Mawene Hiroti
15. Royce Hunt
16. Briton Nikora
17. Braden Hamlin-Uele
18. Billy Magoulias
19. Luke Metcalf
20. Andrew Fifita
21. Jonaiah Lualua

Team Changes

IN: Andrew Fifita, Billy Magoulias, Jonaiah Lualua, Luke Metcalf
OUT: Aiden Tolman

Referee: Chris Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have put in two much improved performances since their 66-0 flogging to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, with a 22-16 loss to the Sydney Roosters, and most recently a 32-24 loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs. In particular, last week’s opening 40, against a top four team in the Rabbitohs, was perhaps their most complete this year. Though ultimately, a loss is never as comforting as a win, they are showing resilience and possibly building towards one or two more wins before the year’s end.

The side is largely unchanged from last week’s. Jeremy Marshall-King returns to the starting side and Joe Stimson comes onto the bench. Coach Trent Barrett has also shuffled the forward pack around, with Ava Seumanufagai starting at prop, Luke Thompson moving to lock, and Josh Jackson swapping to second row.

Sharks

The Sharks continued their inconsistent run of form last week with a comprehensive 34-18 loss to the Raiders. Their form over the past four rounds reads: win, loss, win, loss, which would be immensely frustrating for the coach. Cronulla sit at eighth, but only just, with their slightly better differential the only thing keeping them there. A win this week is vital to keep their noses in front as the finals series looms.

The Sharks have made minimal changes. Royce Hunt comes onto the bench to play his first game of the year, with Aiden Tolman suspended for one week. Tony Rudolf moves to the front row, while Jack Williams moves into the starting side.

PREVIEW

A team struggling to hold onto eighth spot faces a team desperate to find another couple of wins to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. There are vastly different implications for either side winning or losing this match, but plenty of motivation for both teams nonetheless.

The Bulldogs are coming into this match on the back of impressive performances against top eight teams. Though they were unable to convert either match into a win, there are positives to take from their efforts. Trent Barrett will be looking for an 80 minute performance, which was a likely possibility last week before Lachlan Lewis’ unfortunate half-time sin binning.

The Sharks are just hanging on to a finals appearance. They’re sitting on 16 points, equal with both the Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights, and ahead only on points difference. In many ways, every match from this point on is a finals appearance for them, because one loss could see another side take their spot, and thus essentially end their season.

On paper, the Sharks appear to have the experience, especially where it matters. Of note is the battle between the halves, Shaun Johnson and Jake Averillo: a seasoned veteran of 10 years up against a youngster who has impressed enough to keep 2021 signing Kyle Flanagan out of the halfback role throughout the year. It will be a big test for him to get the better of a player who has played in a grand final, represent his country on the international stage and has inumerable hours of footage of his freakish work on YouTube.

The Bulldogs gain a lot with the return of Marshall-King, however. The step-brother of Benji Marshall, he’s made a name for himself as a consistent performer and oustanding defender. Last year, he made a total of 741 tackles at an efficiency of 89.3%. This year, in the limited game time he’s had, he’s managed 191 tackles at 94.6% efficiency. The points they’ve leaked in previous weeks will be cleaned up in the middle of the field.

KEY STAT

The head-to-head stats give the Bulldogs fans something to boast about, with their team having won 56 of their 94 games played against each other. Furthermore, the Bulldogs have vastly outscored the Sharks with 1,761 points to 1,347. Last year, both sides played in a close match with the Sharks just coming up 20-18.

PREDICTION

This will be an interesting match and is a hard one to pick. As noted, both sides have objectives they would be looking to tick off before the season’s end. For the Sharks, secure the eighth spot, and for the Bulldogs, lift themselves from the bottom of the ladder. Form-wise, the Bulldogs have arguably been more impressive coming into this game, though the Sharks have the wins on the board. Expect a tight one, with the Sharks to just get through, possibly through a Johnson field goal. 

Sharks by one.

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