Schick Hydro Preview: Sharks v Raiders
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Cronulla Sharks' incredible winning streak is over.
It took an 18-all draw on the Gold Coast on Monday night to bring their dream run to an end, with golden point proving fruitless in their quest to bring up a sweet sixteenth win.
In contrast, the Raiders barely left first gear as they obliterated the Rabbitohs on Sunday in what was a record-breaking performance from the Green Machine.
The 10 tries to one romp was their biggest ever win over South Sydney in what was their fifth-straight victory of 2016.
The Sharks have named James Maloney in an otherwise unchanged line-up despite the five-eighth facing two to three weeks on the sidelines for dangerous contact on Konrad Hurrell.
The Raiders have made one change from the side that took care of the Rabbitohs with Brenko Lee replacing his cousin Edrick Lee (calf) on the wing.
When the Bulldogs went on their 12-game winning streak, it was the Raiders who brought their run to a grinding halt, incidentally the week after the blue and whites had scraped through in golden point.
Circumstances are slightly different this time around, but history has a strange habit of repeating itself in rugby league.
Watch out Sharks: Monday night's gruelling contest on the Gold Coast will have sapped plenty of energy out of the playing group, and the last thing they'll want to do is have to take on a fresh Canberra side that didn't have to do much tackling last weekend. The five day turnaround, as well as having to fly back from Queensland makes this Cronulla's biggest physical test of 2016.
Watch out Raiders: Statistically there is no harder place to travel than Southern Cross Group Stadium. The Sharks are 10-0 at home this season and have already beaten five of the other teams in the top eight at the venue. They have scored 70 points in their past two matches in Cronulla with every member of their back five scoring a double in at least one of those games. The Raiders have been far from perfect on the road, winning four of their nine matches.
Key match-up: Wade Graham v Elliott Whitehead. The key to opening up two of the most lethal backline combinations rests with a couple of the game's premier backrowers. Wade Graham's work on the Sharks' left edge is a huge reason why the likes of Gerard Beale and Sosaia Feki have profited on the flank this season. The Blues rookie has been solid in all attacking statistics in 2016 and is coming off his best game of the year with 251 metres, 31 tackles and an offload against the Titans. It's hard to imagine him being allowed to roam freely on Saturday night against one of the best defenders in the NRL. Elliott Whitehead has made the most of his first year in Australia with 29 tackle breaks, four try assists and five tries to go with his 758 tackles (fourth best in the NRL). The Englishman bagged his first double for the Raiders on the weekend and linked brilliantly with Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana in Sunday's 50-point drubbing of the Rabbitohs.
The history: Played 65; Sharks 35, Raiders 30. The Sharks won the first meeting between these sides this year with a crushing 40-16 victory in Canberra, but the Raiders have won the past two clashes in Sydney. Interestingly, the sides have traded two-game winning streaks for the past six seasons, meaning the Green Machine are due.
What are the odds: Surprisingly, all of the money has been with Canberra according to Sportsbet. The Raiders 13+ is the best backed margin option and Canberra with the start in handicap betting has been snapped up by punters who can see an upset here. Latest odds at Sportsbet.
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Adam Gee. Sideline officials: Michael Wise and Shane Rehm.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 4:55pm.
The way we see it: Even if James Maloney is exonerated for his dangerous contact charge, the Sharks will be hard pressed to bounce back from their last-start draw. The Raiders have been in fine form of late and will be keen to cement their spot in the top three heading into the final month of the regular season. Raiders by 4.