Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Two injury-riddled sides look to continue to defy the odds and claim their sixth win of the year
Cronulla's success in recent years hasn't always been built on talent alone.
Rather, it is a willingness to work hard and overcome adversity that has seen them finish inside the top eight for four-straight years.
It is a quality that filters all the way through the club and has shone through in recent weeks as the wins keep coming despite a mounting injury toll.
While not as impressive as their 20-18 defeat of Melbourne, Cronulla's 26-18 win over the Gold Coast last week was still admirable considering they trailed by eight points at the break.
For many teams, the excuse of missing personnel may have been too tempting. But John Morris' men rallied to hold the Titans scoreless in the second half and will need to be just as strong against a just as determined Manly outfit.
The Sea Eagles' 2019 season shares many similarities with that of Cronulla.
Like their beachside rivals, bravery and injuries are two words to define their journey thus far.
However, Manly's success wasn't really expected. Many predicted a bottom-four finish for the club, citing their lack of depth as a key reason.
Losing key attacking weapons Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans early in the year among a host of other players provided them with the opportunity to prove their doubters wrong.
And they did just that, handing South Sydney their first loss of the year a month ago. Since then they have lost no admirers, also toppling the Knights, Dragons, Raiders and Bulldogs.
They were guilty of handing over too much ball in the second half against Brisbane last week, falling 26-10 in the end.
But this week they are boosted by the returns of Addin Fonua-Blake, Lachlan Croker and most notably Dylan Walker.
Last meeting: Round 21 2018 - Sharks 32 Sea Eagles 33
Who to watch: Braden Hamlin-Uele wasn't a name many were familiar with prior to 2019. But the 24-year old has made his presence felt off the bench for the Sharks, providing them with plenty of impact. As great as Andrew Fifita is, in the past Cronulla have lacked another dynamic prop on the pine who can come on and bring just as much energy and power when Fifita is given a rest. Hamlin-Uele has offered just that this year, averaging 85 running metres and busting 18 tackles from just over 30 minutes a game.
While last year was a step in the right direction for Addin Fonua-Blake, he has only improved in 2019 and has established himself as one of the form props in the competition. He has formed a lethal starting rotation with fellow front rower Martin Taupau, increasing his average run metres per game from 127 in 2018 to 156 this year.
The favourite: Cronulla are backed to get the job done at home.
My tip: The Sea Eagles need to bounce back quickly to ensure their hard work at the start of the season wasn't for nothing. And if they can match Cronulla up front, I wouldn't rule out another big scalp for the men from the Northern Beaches. Manly by 4.
1. Josh Dugan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Morris 5. Aaron Gray 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Paul Gallen 14. Blayke Brailey 15. Jayson Bukuya 16. Jack Williams 17. Braden Hamlin-uele
1. Brendan Elliott 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brad Parker 5. Reuben Garrick 19. Cade Cust 7. Kane Elgey 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Corey Waddell 17. Morgan Boyle
Referees: Ashley Klein, Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Jeff Younis; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;