Broncos v Sharks: Graham, Lee out for Cronulla
It doesn't seem that long ago that the Sharks locked horns with Brisbane on Cronulla's home turf. That's because it wasn't.
The Broncos came from behind on that June 16 evening to upset the Sharks 20-16 and the Shire boys should be in the mood for revenge.
Brisbane bounced back from a woeful round 18 performance against the Warriors to thrash Penrith last week, while Cronulla had to work hard for a crucial home victory over a desperate Canberra. It was their third win in a row since losing to the Broncos.
With the battle for spots inside the top eight so close, this game will probably be played with finals-like intensity. Josh Dugan is a good chance of returning next week for the Sharks from a long layoff with a leg injury.
Match: Broncos v Sharks
Round 20 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: The Broncos have plenty of powerful, young back-rowers, but they don't have Wade Graham. Cronulla's co-captain has endured an injury-disrupted season but there's no denying he is one of the game's most complete forwards with his own special combination of skill, toughnessand leadership. He might end up sitting this one out after suffering yet another injury (groin) last week against Canberra, but if it's not serious and he decides to play, Graham could be the difference between winning and losing.
For the Broncos to win: Brisbane's forwards have copped varying levels of criticism throughout the season, some of it justified. But as usual the Broncos' fortunes rest largely on the shoulders of halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima. The pair has been hit and miss all season and their inability to play well from week to week is the main reason Brisbane have sat in the bottom half of the eight rather than the top. Milford and Nikorima were great last week against the Panthers and have to maintain that form for the rest of the season.
For the Sharks to win: Last week's nerve-wracking win over Canberra has Cronulla fans rubbing their hands together in anticipation of greater glory. The Sharks look like they're growing in confidence at the right end of the season and understand how good they can be. But they need Graham if they want to go all the way. The Sharkies have to show up in Brisbane with the same purpose and energy that have been on display over the past month or so. Matt Moylan looms as a man to watch, especially if Graham is sidelined.
Broncos Stat Attack: History suggests Anthony Milford is a great chance of finding the tryline this week, with Milford having scored seven tries from eight games against Cronulla. Brisbane have won four of their last five against the Sharks, and four of their last five at Suncorp Stadium.
Sharks Stat Attack: Prop Matt Prior will continue a memorable season this week, bringing up his 100th NRL game this week for the club after making his State of Origin debut for NSW in game two. He racked up a century at the Dragons before joining Cronulla, making him the 26th player in premiership history to achieve the feat at two clubs.
And another thing: Several Cronulla and Brisbane players wouldn't have even been born when the Sharks and Broncos clashed in a midweek playoff for fifth spot and a place in the 1989 finals. After both teams finished tied on 28 premiership points, the Sharks went on to claim fifth with a 38-14 thrashing of the Broncos. Ultimately the '89 playoffs will be remembered for the epic extra time grand final between Balmain and Canberra, which the Raiders won 19-14 after an amazing comeback.
Fullback for Broncos is number 1 Jamayne IsaakoFullback for Sharks is number 1 Valentine Holmes
Winger for Broncos is number 2 Corey OatesWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
Centre for Broncos is number 3 James RobertsCentre for Sharks is number 3 Jesse Ramien
Centre for Broncos is number 4 Darius BoydCentre for Sharks is number 4 Ricky Leutele
Winger for Broncos is number 5 Jordan KahuWinger for Sharks is number 20 Sosaia Feki
Five-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Anthony MilfordFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt Moylan
Halfback for Broncos is number 7 Kodi NikorimaHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Broncos is number 15 Joe OfahengaueProp for Sharks is number 8 Andrew Fifita
Hooker for Broncos is number 9 Andrew McCulloughHooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden Brailey
Prop for Broncos is number 10 Sam ThaidayProp for Sharks is number 10 Matt Prior
2nd Row for Broncos is number 11 Alex Glenn2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Luke Lewis
2nd Row for Broncos is number 12 Tevita Pangai Junior2nd Row for Sharks is number 14 Scott Sorensen
Lock for Broncos is number 13 Josh McGuireLock for Sharks is number 13 Paul Gallen
Interchange for Broncos is number 8 Matthew LodgeInterchange for Sharks is number 15 James Segeyaro
Interchange for Broncos is number 14 Kotoni StaggsInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Aaron Woods
Interchange for Broncos is number 16 Korbin SimsInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Jayson Bukuya
Interchange for Broncos is number 17 David FifitaInterchange for Sharks is number 18 Joseph Paulo
Broncos: Joe Ofahengaue starts at prop with Matt Lodge moving back to the bench in Brisbane's only change. Jamayne Isaako cleared to go after being monitored with a leg injury.
Sharks: Wade Graham (groin) and Edrick Lee are both out injured. Sosaia Feki will start on the wing with Scott Sorensen starting in the second row and Joseph Paulo joining the bench. Luke Lewis has overcome a calf injury and will play.
Head-to-head: Played 53; Broncos 33 wins, Sharks 20 wins
Previous result: Broncos won 20-16 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 15
Points per game: Broncos 21.3; Sharks 20.2
Points conceded per game: Broncos 21.0; Sharks 17.7
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: It was a really good reply from Brisbane after a disastrous result the previous week against the Warriors and it was good to see some of the positional changes work as well as they did. This is a tough one to pick because Cronulla are in good form and they play tough, grinding footy. But the Broncos looked very sharp against Penrith and being at home might be the difference in a close game.
Tip: Broncos by 6