Sharks trial set to test Sea Eagles
It might only be a trial fixture, but both teams have plenty to play for in their first hit out for 2014.
Perhaps redemption will play extra motivation for the Sharks, with last year’s semi-final defeat to the Sea Eagles still fresh in the memories of the bulk of the squad.
Bundled out and sent packing, the Sharks were dealt with their biggest blow barely three months later.
Cronulla were fined $1 million, as coach Shane Flanagan was provisionally suspended for 12 months over the ASADA scandal.
While they strongly defend the charges levelled down at the club, former Sea Eagles coach Peter Sharp has stepped in as interim coach.
Cronulla will unveil new recruits in premiership-winning forward Matt Prior, former Tigers centre Blake Ashford and Eric Growth, who will make his long-awaited return to rugby league after three years out of the game.
Todd Carney and Wade Graham are among the bigger names who will look to tonight’s game as a launching pad into the Auckland Nines and ultimately the new NRL season.
The Sea Eagles have a raft of players vying for vacant positions, especially in the forward’s department.
Having said farewell to a number of big men at the end of last season, including veteran front rowers Brent Kite and Joe Galuvao, the Sea Eagles forwards will look to tonight’s trial as a potential audition for an NRL spot.
Richie Fa’aoso’s recent retirement widens the selection door, with guys like Dunamis Lui, Josh Starling and James Hasson in line as replacements for the former International.
Having been able to keep the bulk of the squad at the club, coach Geoff Toovey has a fair indication of which players he will look out for when his side runs out onto Remondis Stadium.
“We will start with the lesser known players in that first half and then I think the side that you saw finish last year will play that third 20 minutes, so that’s just after half time,” Toovey said.
“It will only be a short-lived thing for them but it will be good to have a hit-out. I know Cronulla are doing a similar thing.”