The return - and return to form - of Wade Graham may be just the thing to push the Sharks from being a finals-bound side into a premiership contender.

In his first two club matches back from an ACL injury and then his superb showing for NSW at Optus Stadium on Sunday night, Graham has reminded everyone that he is one of the best back-rowers in the game.

Once he is back to being an 80-minute player and Andrew Fifita returns from suspension, the Sharks look ready to secure a top-four spot and make a run at another title.

As for the Bulldogs, avoiding the wooden spoon has to be their goal from here. With matches against the Knights, Broncos and Roosters following Sunday's meeting with Cronulla, things aren't looking great.

Match: Bulldogs v Sharks

Round 15 -

Full Time
Bulldogs

Home Team

Bulldogs

Scored 14 points
Sharks

Away Team

Sharks

Scored 12 points

Venue: ANZ Stadium

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • Foxtel
  • LIVE PASS

The Rundown

Team news

 

Bulldogs: Dean Pay has brought in Brandon Wakeham and Adam Elliott onto the interchange with Rhyse Martin and Danny Fualalo omitted an hour before kick-off. His only move on Saturday was to trim Renouf Toomaga and Raymond Faitala-Mariner from the reserves. Jack Cogger suffered a head knock in round 13 and sat out the Roosters game as a precaution but he is back in the No.7 to partner Kieran Foran in the halves. Michael Lichaa comes in at hooker for Jeremy Marshall-King while Chris Smith is the new starting lock.

Sharks: Cronulla have switched Jack Williams into the starting side with Braden Hamlin-Uele back to the interchange following regular prop Andrew Fifita's suspension. Aaron Woods was listed among the reserves but will make his return from a foot injury. Aaron Gray and Scott Sorensen were dropped from the reserves on Saturday. Kyle Flanagan and Blayke Brailey have missed the final cut.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
    Fullback for Sharks is number 1 Matt Moylan
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 2 Nick Meaney
    Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sosaia Feki
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 3 Marcelo Montoya
    Centre for Sharks is number 3 Bronson Xerri
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 4 Will Hopoate
    Centre for Sharks is number 4 Josh Morris
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 5 Reimis Smith
    Winger for Sharks is number 5 Josh Dugan
  • Five-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Kieran Foran
    Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
  • Halfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Jack Cogger
    Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend

Forwards

  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 8 Aiden Tolman
    Prop for Sharks is number 16 Jack Williams
  • Hooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Michael Lichaa
    Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden Brailey
  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 10 Dylan Napa
    Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt Prior
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Josh Jackson
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Corey Harawira-Naera
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
  • Lock for Bulldogs is number 13 Chris Smith
    Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul Gallen

Interchange

  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Ofahiki Ogden
    Interchange for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Sauaso Sue
    Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Jayson Bukuya
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 20 Brandon Wakeham
    Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Kurt Capewell
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 21 Adam Elliott
    Interchange for Sharks is number 21 Aaron Woods

Key match-up

Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran might be in the final stages of their careers, but both men still have the ability to decide matches. Johnson was imperious during New Zealand's big win over Tonga last weekend while Foran is a rare shining light for the Bulldogs. The Kiwi compatriots might just produce something special on Sunday. 

For the Bulldogs to win

Canterbury's best chance right now is to play for field position and then hope their opposition make errors deep inside their own half. If the Sharks have an off day the Bulldogs can spring an upset. If they can remain in the contest until the mid-point of the second half, a bit of panic might creep into the Cronulla side.

For the Sharks to win

Get off to a fast start and make the Bulldogs start thinking about how bad things are going. The stats suggest that if you get to 20 points you'll beat the Bulldogs. The Sharks have that in them - and then some.

Brett Kimmorley says

The return of Wade Graham has been wonderful for the Sharks. He was great in Origin and if he can bring that form back to club football I don't think a Canterbury side that is 16th on the ladder can match them. I'd expect Cronulla to jump out of the blocks. If they do that they can put a score on the Bulldogs. Sharks by 10

Stat Attack

If 16th place on the ladder doesn't make for grim enough reading, a deeper dive into the 2019 Bulldogs doesn't make things look any brighter. They also have the worst attack (an average of 12.6 points per game) and the worst defence (24.1 points per game).

And another thing ...

After a series of impressive performances in limited minutes, Braden Hamlin-Uele's time to shine has arrived. Fifita's absence is likely to lead to increased minutes. There's been little in the nine matches he's played this year to suggest he won't rise to the occasion.