Tension rises as former Panthers head west as Sharks
James Segeyaro concedes the horse trading of players has created tension between Penrith and Cronulla as the bench hooker and five-eighth Matt Moylan travel to Panthers Stadium as Sharks for the first time.
Segeyaro, Moylan and the injured Luke Lewis have all wound up in the black, white and blue after exiting the Panthers under various circumstances, while returning back-rower Wade Graham also started his career as a Penrith junior.
Moylan's return to his old stomping ground creates the most intrigue before Friday night's clash given he and James Maloney essentially traded places in November. Moylan's move came just 12 months after signing a lucrative five-year deal with his junior club as he relinquished the Panthers captaincy and took time out of the game on mental health grounds.
Moylan and Segeyaro have denied falling out with Anthony Griffin as they departed Penrith, the 27-year-old hooker released to join Leeds before returning to the NRL under Shane Flanagan.
But Segeyaro did declare the way they left the Panthers did add motivation for Friday's showdown.
"In a way because you always have a bit of a rivalry and always have that sort of hate for them," Segeyaro said on Tuesday.
"For some reason it’s not just another game for a lot of us that are from out west from Penrith and we always end up getting up a lot more than other games seeing as we started there.
"It’s not hate, I wouldn’t call it hate. It’s like an older or younger brother you want to beat just to get one up on them.
"Seeing as some of us didn’t leave on our terms it always makes that motivation to beat them and walk off the field happy."
As well as the familiar faces on both sides of halfway, Panthers general manager Phil Gould was given his own personal cheer in the Sharks sheds in last year's corresponding fixture, with Cronulla incensed by his declaration their 2016 premiership had been won in a "soft competition".
Cronulla prevailed the first time round in 2018 when Moylan and Segeyaro took on their former club for the first time, a tight 26-22 victory at Shark Park that the latter says was assured the moment Moylan set his sights on his old team-mates.
"I remember just walking into the sheds and seeing the look on Matt Moylan’s face and I knew we were going to win that day," Segeyaro said.
"It was just like a feeling within the group. The feeling you get compared to previous games. Some days within the group you know you’re on. Winning like that in such a tight game and here at home and in front of our fans that started our six-game streak."
Cronulla will welcome back Graham from a cheekbone fracture with a win possibly installing the Sharks in the top four by the end of the round.