Cronulla Sharks host Penrith Panthers on Saturday afternoon at Remondis Stadium looking to kick start their NRL campaign. The Panthers will go into the game looking to consolidate their spot in the top half of the ladder after a promising opening seven rounds.
While other Sydney based teams have improved in 2014, Cronulla appear to have taken something of a backward step. With just one win so far and sitting at the foot of the NRL ladder the Sharks look to be suffering the effects of a disrupted pre-season. Shane Flanagan’s suspension coming into effect shortly before the beginning of the new season gave interim coach Peter Sharp little time to work with his players.
With point scoring a problem – the Sharks are averaging only 12 points per game – a deal to bring Benji Marshall back into the NRL has been suggested. If Marshall does make his way to the Shire it remains to be seen if Sharp opts to break up his halves pairing of Jeff Robson and Todd Carney, or opt to play Marshall in the centres.
Cronulla have badly missed their skipper Paul Gallen in the opening rounds, and he clearly inspired his team on his early return from injury against the Roosters. Beau Ryan is also available again after injury and is named on the interchange bench for the Panthers game. Isaac De Gois will play after missing the Roosters match, but Luke Lewis is still some way from a return from shoulder surgery.
The Panthers are one of those improving teams mentioned above with four wins from their opening seven games. They are proving to be strong in defence and have shown promising signs in attack, although they will need more in that department when it comes to picking a way through the defences of the top teams.
Ivan Cleary has named an unchanged squad from the Monday night victory over the Titans. He is now reaping the benefit of shrewd recruiting since he joined the club, and has built a solid roster of players who seem to enjoy working in the systems put in place by their coach.
Saturday 26th April, Remondis Stadium Cronulla 15:00
Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers