Sharks pack out to end Manly dominance
The Sharks' fearsome forward pack, boasting the extra steel of Kiwi international Jeremy Smith this year, could herald Cronulla's end to the Sea Eagles' decades of dominance in their Men of League Heritage Round 5 clash at Toyota Stadium this weekend.
Former Manly Warringah great Max Krilich, who played in the 1973 and 1978 grand finals over the Sharks, told NRL.com that the Sea Eagles used to have the wood over their beachside rivals because they could "drive through the middle of their forwards".
The Sea Eagles have won their past five consecutive encounters over the Sharks and eight of their last 11 games. The all-time head-to-head tally is also heavily in Manly's favour - Manly 54 Sharks 22 and draws 2 - including grand final wins in 1973 and 1978 (which had to be replayed after an 11-all draw).
"We used to have the wood on the Sharks," Krilich said. "They had the great Steve Rogers. He was always a handful and arguably one of the greatest players ever, but we were always able to drive through the middle of their forwards.
"They had some tough players, but we had equally tough guys ... they were great encounters."
Krilich has been impressed with what he saw of the Sharks in their wins over the Dragons and Panthers this year and knows the Cronulla forwards of 2011, led by inspriational captain Paul Gallen, will be difficult to penetrate and the Sea Eagles will have a tough job maintaining their record of dominance.
"It is a credit down at the Sharks. I was really impressed with the Sharks when they came out and bashed the Dragons, which we did against the Roosters.
"Then they came out and played really entertaining footy against the Panthers, like we did against the Knights, so both teams have mirrored each other and won games of footy in two totally different aspects - attack and defence.
"They have got what I think will be our new State of Origin captain in Paul Gallen. He is a terrific player, so it’s going to be an awesome match."
Both sides lost last week but have made changes due to injuries/ suspension. The Sharks have been forced to replace injured starting hooker John Morris with Paul Aiton.
For Manly, Steve Matai will make his 2011 debut when he returns from suspension, with Jamie Buhrer coming into the second row to replace Anthony Watmough after he was stood down by the club after being charged with urinating in public at the weekend.
In other team selection news for Round 5, Titans skipper Scott Prince was named to return from a hamstring injury but remains in doubt; Luke Capewell has been given another chance to impress at five-eighth; and hooker Nathan Friend returns from a dislocated shoulder for his first game of the year against an unchanged Cowboys side in Townsville on Friday night. The Titans will also be without Greg Bird who accepted a one-week ban for striking Matt Orford in Saturday night's golden point win over the Raiders.
The Wests Tigers' injury woes continue with Gareth Ellis set to miss another week with his ankle problem; while the Rabbitohs have been been strengthened by the return of international Sam Burgess for their Friday night clash at the SFS. He will still have to pass a fitness test later in the week to confirm his availability.
Raiders veteran Matt Orford has retained his spot despite pressure to drop him for Canberra's clash with the Panthers at Penrith's Centrebet Stadium on Saturday night. Gun Raiders fullback Josh Dugan has been diagnosed with a nerve injury in his calf that is expected to keep him out for three weeks, with Blake Ferguson to take over in the No.1 jumper against Penrith.
The Panthers welcome back halfback Luke Walsh, with his return from a shoulder injury causing a reshuffle with Kevin Kingston going back to hooker and Mosada Iosefa to an extended bench.
Eels utility player Ben Smith will return to the centres to cover for the injured Ryan Morgan (ankle) for their away clash against Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Sunday; while Casey McGuire will make a timely return from a calf injury to the No. 9 jersey with dog bite victim Matt Keating sidelined. Anthony Mitchell will pair with McGuire from the bench; and Fuifui Moimoi returns to the 17 from a one-week suspension.
The Dragons have named a 19-man squad and the Bulldogs an unchanged line-up for their Heritage Round fixture at the SCG on Sunday. The Dragons have played 31 games in total against the Bulldogs at the SCG with a record of 17 wins, two draws and 12 losses. The last time they clashed at the SCG was on August 20, 1993, with the Dragons winning 23-8.
Prop Mickey Paea is expected to be fit after he was a late withdrawal from the side that went down to the Melbourne Storm 30-16 on Monday night at AAMI Park. Chris Armit has been retained on the bench, as well as Sam Kasiano, who started in place of Paea against the Storm.
The Knights have named an unchanged line-up for their Monday night match against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, while Brisbane have named a 20-man squad which includes Dane Carlaw, Nick Kenny and Corey Norman on an extended bench.
Josh Hoffman and Ben Hunt will miss the match, but Mitchell Dodds returns for his first game of the season after breaking his hand in a trial against the Titans.