The Sharks will face off against arch rivals St. George Illawarra at Kogarah’s Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday evening and are set to welcome star halfback Nicho Hynes back into the fold after a three-week injury layoff.
Hynes has been named to start at halfback with understudy Braydon Trindall back onto the interchange and Jack Williams among the reserves.
For the Dragons, rookie Toby Couchman replaces Michael Molo on the interchange after missing the side’s previous clash due to concussion protocols.
Cronulla are coming off a four-point loss in Canberra – their ninth-consecutive defeat at the hands of Ricky Stuart’s Raiders.
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St. George Illawarra, meanwhile, were unable to capitalise on a fast start in Brisbane, conceding four tries in the final 10 minutes to fall to the Broncos 40-18.
The Sharks have won seven of their past eight against the Dragons – including five on the trot – and have not lost to them at Kogarah since Round 23, 2016.
The two sides met twice last year – Round 3 in Wollongong which saw the Sharks run out 36-12 winners and Round 21 at PointsBet Stadium which the Sharks also won 24-18.
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Coming off a turbulent offseason, Dragons head coach Anthony Griffin entered the season under substantial pressure which was alleviated slightly after a strong Round 1 victory over the Titans.
The Dragons have won four of their past five at Kogarah and 10 of their past 11 home games.
Hynes’ return to the lineup will provided some key stability in their spine, however, their goal-line defence – which was leaky through the backend of last season and has been to start 2023 – is in need of improvement.
Dragons skipper Ben Hunt is the side’s attacking engine and will command a tonne of attention at Cronulla’s video sessions in the lead-up to this one.
A crafty playmaker and daring ball-runner, the veteran seven will get his hands all over the ball from the outset in an attempt to create attacking opportunities for his outside men, which the Sharks will be focused on shutting down.
Cronulla enter this one as favourites with the bookmakers expecting Craig Fitzgibbon’s men to extend their winning streak over their next-door neighbours to six games.
Kick-off: Sunday 26 March (6:15pm), Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Sharks squad: 1. Kennedy; 2. Katoa; 3. Ramien; 4. Talakai; 5. Mulitalo; 6. Moylan; 7. Hynes; 8. Rudolf; 9. Brailey; 10. Hamlin-Uele; 11. Nikora; 12. Wilton; 13. Finucane (c); 14. McInnes; 15. Hunt; 16. Kaufusi; 17. Trindall; 18. Williams; 19. Hiroti; 20; Hazelton; 21. Berrell; 22. Tracey
Dragons squad: 1. Sloan; 2. Mat Feagai; 3. Suli; 4. Lomax; 5. Ravalawa; 6. Sullivan; 7. B Hunt (c); 8. F Molo; 9. Mbye; 10. Lawrie; 11. Murdoch-Masila; 12. Su’A; 13. Bird; 14. Liddle; 15. Musgrove; 16. Couchman; 17. Kerr; 18. M Molo; 19. Max Feagai; 20. J Hunt; 21. Amone; 22. Woods
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