At least Cronulla has beautiful beaches…
The Sharks look to find some hope in what is shaping up as a dismal season when they host the Knights, another side that appear destined to watch the 2010 finals from the sidelines.
Of course, it is very early in the season to write off either team but the odds are lengthening week by week.
The Broncos murdered Cronulla last weekend with a team full of kids who are also struggling, which has plenty of pundits ready to mail the wooden spoon to the Shire.
They haven’t ‘won’ one of those since 1969, and don’t want to anytime soon, but as the only team with just one win this year, they are anchored to the bottom of the table.
With the club fighting for its survival, the players will be asked to dig as deep as they possibly can to put on a show for the fans and prove there is hope yet.
They face a team coming off a win against the under-strength Cowboys, but a team with problems of their own, giving the home side a sniff off blood in the water.
The Knights have just two wins and are 12th at the moment; they still have massive issues competing for 80 minutes.
Cronulla will field a similar side to last weekend, with Josh Cordoba out, pushing Luke Douglas to start and Luke Harlen to the bench.
The Knights, bolstered by the return of Kurt Gidley last weekend, will now also have Steve Simpson in the line-up, pushing Mark Taufua to the bench. Matt Hilder also returns on the bench, with George Ndaira missing the boat.
Watch out Sharks: Kurt Gidley slotted straight back into the Knights’ line-up with seamless ease last week and he is likely to improve. He ran for 161 metres against the Cowboys and provided a line-break assist and a try assist to get his mojo working once more.
The Sharks will need to try to limit his involvement as much as possible. With Jarrod Mullen and Ben Rogers controlling the halves, Gidley can pick and choose to play as a ball player, or ball runner, and you will also see him come in to take a few dummy-half scoots to catch out tired forwards.
Watch out Knights: The Sharks halves in Trent Barrett and Tim Smith are still struggling to come up with attacking potency but they would have noticed the Knights have conceded more tries to kicks than any other outfit.
With nine tries already conceded to the boot this season, Newcastle have an obvious weakness – one the Sharks should exploit to the maximum. It is true the Sharks have only managed two tries from kicks themselves this year, but then again they only score two tries a match, so at least this can be a lottery where the odds are in their favour.
Grubber kicks and bombs are the Knights nemesis.
Where it will be won: Attitude. It’s time for these teams to remember playing footy should be fun.
Both seem like the weight of the world is constantly on them, with on-field woes coupled with off-field distractions and dramas. Break the shackles fellas!
The Sharks are probably at a stage where the playbook could almost be thrown out the window. They looked their most dangerous against the Broncos when they chanced their arm and tried to attack from broken play, while the Knights look panicked whenever they are scored against, as if they feel they are about to implode.
Relax boys: remember why you play this game and the rest will come. The side that comes in without drama and worry should take the points home. Stressed football never looks good.
Barrett and Smith need to go off the plan if the Sharks are to score points; their current structure isn’t working. The Knights’ defence is terrible at reading plays, so make them make decisions and you are sure to get results.
Meanwhile the Sharks’ defence is equally inept at numbering up at times, so if the Knights let the ball sing we might actually be entertained by this encounter.
The History: Played 34; Sharks 14, Knights 19, drawn 1. The Knights have won three of the past four between the clubs, including last season’s only match-up, won 24-12 in Cronulla.
The Sharks still hold a 10-7 advantage at Toyota Stadium over the Knights.
Conclusion: This game shapes as either a snooze-fest or one where the two teams try to loosen up and have some fun. Surely the teams will chance their hand – surely?
The Knights are at their best when they keep the ball alive and get it wide to their monster wingers, while the Sharks are at their best when… well, we haven’t really seen them at their best for two years… but they have individual talent in the halves and did you see how fast Isaac Gordon is? Get him and Blake Ferguson more ball in the clear and good things might happen.
This is not a season where scoring 12 points a match will be enough, no matter how good you think you can make your defence. The smart money is on Newcastle but the Sharks have surprised us once this season; maybe they’ll do it again.
Match Officials: Referees – Ashley Klein & Phil Haines; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Luke Potter; Video Ref – Russell Smith.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.