Sharks v Rabbitohs
With the long list of names not playing for either side this Monday night it makes you think this game could be a touch on the dull side.
Paul Gallen. Greg Inglis. Luke Lewis. Chris McQueen. Todd Carney. Ben Te'o. Andrew Fifita... they will all miss this fixture. Sadly the list goes on.
But if you read into this game a bit further you'll soon realise there are several stimulating storylines brewing. Like the fact that this will be the Rabbitohs' and Sharks' third consecutive Monday night game against each other, after they both recorded 14-12 victories last season. Consider this game a decider.
Then you have veteran Sharks hooker John Morris racking up his 300th game in the NRL. Surely the lads from the Shire will lift for the solid No. 9 who recently played his 100th game for the club.
The return of Nathan Merritt to first grade will generate significant interest down at Redfern while all eyes will be on John Sutton and Adam Reynolds and how they perform after being overlooked for New South Wales duty.
With Origin impacting both sides there are to be the inevitable team changes, with Merritt replacing Greg Inglis at fullback for the Rabbitohs. Ben Lowe returns to the side for Ben Te'o, with Bryson Goodwin shifting to the bench for Chris McQueen. Joel Reddy will start on the wing.
For Cronulla, Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen have travelled to Coffs Harbour with the NSW team, with Chris Heighington and Tinirau Arona named in their place. Beau Ryan, Todd Carney and Anthony Tupou all suffered injuries against the Tigers last round and have been replaced by Blake Ayshford, Daniel Holdsworth and Tupou Sopoaga, with David Fifita also coming onto the bench.
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Watch Out Sharks: NSW coach Laurie Daley appears to be pretty big on club combinations in his halves so John Sutton and Adam Reynolds would've been undoubtedly in Loz's thoughts as he tossed and turned over his Origin selections. Here, the Souths halves will be looking to showcase what he might be missing out on as they look to build on their combined 12 try assists, 12 line break assists and two 40/20s.
Another man to look out for is the returning back-rower Ben Lowe. The former Queensland 18th man has been playing well below his best this year and has struggled to find a place in Michael Maguire's side. This could prove to be one of Lowe's final chances for the year to prove that he is still up to the grind of the NRL so expect a good showing from the 29-year-old.
Watch Out Rabbitohs: With the long list of Sharks names set to miss this week it gives the likes of Tupou Sopoaga and Tinirau Arona a chance to flex their muscles and show what they have to offer in front of interim coach Peter Sharp.
Arona, bar last weekend, has played every game this year and has played admirably in a beaten side. Expect him to lift in an attempt to consolidate a place in the Sharks' best 17.
Arona's teammate and cousin Sopoaga also returns to the side after playing five games for them earlier in the season where he was averaging 34.2 tackles and 99.8 metres per game.
Moreover, the Sharks haven't been making the amount of errors you would expect from a team coming dead last. In fact, last round against the Tigers they completed 31 sets from 38. If the Sharks can capitalise on their opportunities when they are in good field position then they may pose a threat to the Bunnies.
Plays To Watch: Isaac De Gois knows when to give his halfback the ball. On two occasions in Round 10, De Gois handed it off to Jeff Robson – once for a backline movement which almost proved fruitful and the other to put Gallen in for four points early in the second half. He was also an influential piece of the puzzle when Tagataese and Gordon scored tries against the Tigers. Watch for this further impact off the bench.
There's nothing cheekier than a Matthew Gidley-esque flick pass to your winger. Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker produced the goods for young Alex Johnston to duck back under and score his second try of the evening in their Round 10 clash against the Storm. With Walker and Johnston both just 19 years old, fans should ready themselves for the combination these two men will strike up over time.
Where It Will Be Won: Off the back of sheer defensive discipline – something the Sharks have severely lacked this season off the back of their 2-and-8 win-loss record. While they are improving in the 'holding the ball' department, having made only five errors last weekend, they are still suffering from defensive lapses. The Rabbitohs are in a similar boat. Melbourne off the back of some magical Billy Slater work made them look fragile last weekend – the Rabbitohs were lucky to have only lost by 13 after being forced into making six drop-outs and four try saves.
The History: Played 93; Sharks 46, Rabbitohs 40, drawn 4. Sharks and Rabbitohs fixtures have been intriguing over the past couple of seasons. Since 2011 both teams have managed to win and lose to the other in a win-loss streak looking to extend to its seventh straight match. Last year the score in both of their games was 14-12 and both occurred on Monday nights with each side winning one, although the Sharks will have the momentum having won their last match-up in the corresponding round.
What Are The Odds: The Rabbitohs are easily the best backed team of the round, with only a handful of bets at Sportsbet.com.au put on the Sharks.
Match Officials: Referees – Matt Cecchin & Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & David Munro; Video Referees – Ashley Klein & Henry Perenara.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live, 7pm.
The Way We See It: You have to feel sorry for the Sharks. They're absolutely ravaged by injuries and they truly can't catch a break. While the Bunnies will be missing a few key figures they should be still good enough to beat Cronulla. Rabbitohs by 10 points.