Graham expects fierce forwards battle against Dragons
World Cup winning Cronulla Sharks forward Wade Graham is under no illusion as to the size of the task facing his side against the much-vaunted St George Illawarra pack on Thursday night.
Graham and his Sharks teammates head into the derby clash, where they will face a Dragons forward pack considered to be among the best in the NRL.
The arrival of James Graham from Canterbury has provided an extra feature to a unit already including Test forward Tyson Frizell and State of Origin hopefuls Paul Vaughan and Jack De Belin.
Graham, on Tuesday, spoke of the challenge that he, Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and company would face at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"I think they’re a great forward pack. Obviously, they lost a couple of guys last year; Russell Packer to the Tigers who was doing a great job for them but then they brought in James Graham and [Jeremy] Latimore from us," he said.
"Guys like [Tyson] Frizell, [Jack] De Belin and [Paul] Vaughan, they just keep getting better, they’re very physical and they’re big so they’re a good pack.
"I think we are pretty evenly matched to be honest. We always have good games against each other, the last couple of years we’ve split the games one on one. They’ve beaten us a couple of times here at Shark Park and I think we’ve gotten them a couple of times [over at their home ground]."
It is not just the Dragons pack that Graham said the Sharks have to be concerned with. Prized recruit Bent Hunt needed just 80 minutes in his Dragons debut to justify the Red V’s decision to lure him south from the Broncos.
“He [Hunt] had a brilliant game against the Broncos. Talking about ex-players coming up against their old club, I thought Benny was outstanding. He probably provides Gareth [Widdop] with a bit more of a steady kicking game and another option,” he said.
“He’s a competitor, we saw him play hooker there against the Broncos and saw him get in there and mix it up with the big boys so he doesn’t mind putting his hand up and doing the hard stuff.
“We are going to have to try and get stuck into him.’’
Coming off the back of a disappointing loss to the Cowboys, Graham says the squad has put an expectation for themselves to bounce back in round two.
“The only pressure we have comes from our internal expectations. We didn’t play to what we expected on the weekend and we were disappointed with that so the only pressure we have is on ourselves," he said.
“It wasn’t the best way or the way we planned to start the season but it is what it is and we’ve got to move on. Fortunately for us, it is a short turn around so we can’t walk around kicking stones you got to move on."