Depleted Sharks set Tigers challenge
Cronulla are out to secure their second victory of the season without their State of Origin stars against an injury-ravaged and depleted Wests Tigers outfit on Saturday night.
With the inclusion of Valentine Holmes in the Queensland line-up for Game Two, the Sharks will be without five of their big names and will be spearheaded once more by veteran forwards Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington.
In contrast, Ivan Cleary's men will be without NSW pair Aaron Woods and James Tedesco for the fixture, while former Panther Matt Eisenhuth is set to make his NRL debut –against his cousin - Gallen.
The premiers overcame Canterbury in Round 12 by a point without their four NSW representatives after two inspirational plays from Gallen.
Sharks hooker Jayden Brailey recalled the spirited performance against the Bulldogs and the influence some of the older heads were having on the side – particularly during the representative period.
"It was a frustrating night, we didn't take our chances but hung in there and got away with the win," Brailey told NRL.com.
"We didn't score our first try until the 70th minute so it's a week-to-week battle and every game is as hard as the other.
"All the senior players like Gal were outstanding."
The experienced personnel in the Shire have been a driving force in Brailey's start both on and off the paddock in the NRL Telstra Premiership.
Retired hooker Michael Ennis continues to aid the 21-year-old's development and admitted he has been teaching him some niggling tactics.
"Mick was outstanding for the Sharks when he signed and played here. He's got a lot of strings to his bow that I'm lacking but having him around at training helps me work on those things," he said.
"He does [stir me up] at training and guys like Gal and Fifita give it to me all the time. I love it though and feel close to all the boys, they’ve all looked after me.
"I've been trying hard on my kicking in the game and he's been the difference in the transition with Flanno helping me out immensely too.
"[The first half of the season] has gone reasonably quick for me and I've learnt it is such a big grind and you have to work hard for your points.
"I'm just stoked that I'm in a great side so all I have to do is my job because everyone around me is doing theirs."
Cronulla fought hard for a 22-16 victory back in Round 9 against the Tigers and the visitors will be buoyed by the fact they performed well after losing Woods (hamstring) and Tedesco (concussion) during the contest at Leichhardt Oval.
Sharks halfback Chad Townsend believes shutting down returning playmaker Luke Brooks will be the key if the defending premiers are to walk away with victory on Saturday night.
"He's been out a few times with injury this year but when he gets going he is a good young player and I think he will definitely add something to their team," Townsend said.
"We know they're getting to a desperate stage in the season and really need a win.
"The boys that we're bringing in this week have all played and done the job before so we've got full confidence there."