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Sharks v Knights: Graham racing clock; Barnett, Ese'ese chances

Cronulla have shown promise in two tight losses to heavyweights teams and they'll be desperate to avoid a 0-3 start.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are loving life under new coach Adam O'Brien, having dispatched of the Warriors and Wests Tigers.

The gritty Cronulla team is their biggest test yet and we should know more about how both teams are tracking after 80 minutes in this one.

The Rundown

Team news

Sharks: Cronulla captain Wade Graham is confident of being fit after limping from the field in Saturday night's loss to Melbourne with a foot injury. "It was more precautionary, he is pretty confident it is nothing major but it was bothering him," Sharks coach John Morris said. Sharks second-rower Briton Nikora (knee) centre Bronson Xerri(shoulder) and fullback Josh Dugan (knee) could all be available for the match against the Knights.

Knights: Coach Adam O'Brien is hopeful of having Mitch Barnett (shoulder) and Herman Ese'ese (ankle) on deck after they picked up minor injuries in last week's win over the Wests Tigers. O'Brien rated Ese'ese a better chance of playing. Sione Mata'utia dropped off the extended bench in round two but could return from a knee injury against the Sharks. Kalyn Ponga is facing two weeks out after being charged by the judiciary for a shoulder charge.

Key match-up

Blayke Brailey v Jayden Brailey. Apart from their many backyard stoushes over the years, this will be the first time the brothers have faced off in a competitive match after Jayden left Cronulla in the off-season for Newcastle, vacating the No.9 jersey for Blayke.

Brett Kimmorley says

If Cronulla play with the same attitude and intensity, and stay in the fight like they did against Melbourne last week they can certainly win this game. Melbourne are the best in the competition at grinding out victories, and for 75 minutes Cronulla had them beaten, but they need to cut out those critical errors at the end of the game. The Knights’ middle forwards have been very good for them and Cronulla have to win that battle if they’re going to win the game. I look forward to the battle of the two number nines, Blayke v Jayden for the first time ever. Mitchell Pearce has been very good and Cronulla need Townsend or Johnson to stand up and win that halves battle. Sharks by 2

Stat Attack

Newcastle hold a 21-17 head-to-head record over Cronulla with one draw in their 39 meetings since the Knights entered the premiership in 1988.

And another thing...

It's a big game for former Knight Jesse Ramien, coming up against his former club for the first time. He left Newcastle abruptly late in the season last year to return to Cronulla.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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