Sharks set to re-ignite Storm rivalry
Cronulla and Melbourne are set to renew hostilities once more this season on Thursday night after an Origin-like battle in Round 6 that was dominated by verbal tirades between the two sides.
It was the grand final rematch in April that had everyone talking – including the players out on the paddock coming together on more than one occasion after a number of disagreements.
With no love lost between the two sides, the battle for top spot on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder will go on the line and Sharks forward Chris Heighington expects the intensity to go to a new high on Thursday.
"They're a real good team that always gets the best out in us and the last few times we've got the win over them," Heighington said.
"It was a wet track that Sunday afternoon and a tough game, both teams played really well.
"They're always there and are a top-four team with gun players in key positions so you'll have to beat them to win the competition, to be honest."
Sharks teammate Jeremy Latimore was new to the rivalry back in Round 6 after joining the premiers from Penrith in 2017, but has quickly adapted to the side's tough brand of football.
"Because I wasn't here last year there was a bit spoken about leading into the game and then obviously a fair bit happened during the match," Latimore said.
"It's a good rivalry that's going on now and they're first and we're second with the top of the table at stake.
"There was a lot of feeling between the two teams and some talk after it so I daresay there will be the same on Thursday."
With a key talking point in the Origin I wash-up the omission of Billy Slater from the Queensland side, a two-try performance from the fullback against the Knights last week has Shane Flanagan's men on alert ahead of Thursday's game.
"He has been amazing since he has come back from injury and hasn't lost any speed," Heighington said of Slater.
"His footwork is still really good and he set up a couple of tries on the weekend with his passing game so he's doing it all, which is a danger for them."
Cronulla have their own star No.1 in Valentine Holmes, with the 21-year-old overcoming his State of Origin snubbing with a strong performance against the Bulldogs.
Heighington believes should Holmes get the upper hand over Slater, it would be hard to leave the Townsville junior out of the Maroons line-up for game two.
"He obviously made the Australian team and has been playing really well for us," Heighington said of the Cronulla fullback.
"I thought he had a blinder against the Bulldogs with the carries back off the kick returns that got the momentum back for us.
"It's good for us if he doesn't get picked but he'll be looking for a good game this weekend up against Billy."
Meanwhile, the Sharks veteran indicated he would make a decision on his future beyond 2017 within the next month after discussion with close family and friends.
While he ruled out a move overseas, Heighington was open to playing at a rival NRL club.
"I'm not too sure if I will play on or retire," he said.
"The body is good and I think I'm still doing well on the field so I'll sit down with 'Flanno' and figure it out."
"You never say never [moving to another club] but I would like to stay in Australia – the missus isn't too keen on going overseas."