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Top eight beckons for traditional rivals
Suffering a humbling defeat last Sunday, the St George Illawarra Dragons will be looking to arrest a run of four straight losses against the Cronulla Sharks in Wollongong.
Unprepared for the attacking assault committed by Newcastle in last Sunday's 45-12 loss in Mudgee, the Dragons will be banking on a change in fortune by way of a dominant record against the Sharks that has seen the joint venture win six of seven matches in Wollongong, while winning six of the past nine clashes during Paul McGregor's tenure as coach.
Falling to 12th following last week's dismal showing in regional New South Wales, coach McGregor has responded by making a number of changes headlined by Matt Dufty and Mikaele Ravalawa being dumped in a backline reshuffle that sees Zac Lomax start at fullback, Euan Aitken return to the centres, along with former Brisbane speedster Jonus Pearson making his club debut on the wing.
Among the other new faces brought into the squad, Korbin Sims returns from a broken arm on the bench, while Cameron McInnes - celebrating his 100th game in first grade - will share the hooking duties with incumbent NSW Under-20's Player of the Year Reece Robson.
Succumbing to an awful record against Manly in last Sunday's 24-14 loss at PointsBet Stadium, the Cronulla Sharks will be hoping to snare a rare win at WIN Stadium, having lost 12 of their past 13 visits dating back to the days of the Steelers in 1990.
Dropping to ninth on the ladder as a result of Parramatta's slightly superior for-and-against differential, Sunday will see premiership-winning local junior Chad Townsend bring up his 150th appearance in the NRL, while underrated forward Kurt Capewell will play his 50th game for the club.
Naming the same 17-man squad that went down to the Sea Eagles last Sunday, Matt Moylan may be a late inclusion to play his first match since Round 3 after recovering from a hamstring injury; should the New South Wales and Australian representative make John Morris' final team one hour before kick-off, either Aaron Gray or Sosaia Feki will make way to accommodate the change.
Last meeting: Round 6 2018 - Dragons 40 Sharks 20
Who to watch: Making a much-needed return from injury to bolster the Dragons forward stocks, Korbin Sims will be eager to make up for lost time on Sunday afternoon. Missing the first two rounds following a suspension incurred from his final appearance with Brisbane last season, the 27-year-old Fijian international has managed just two appearances so far this season after suffering a broken arm in the golden point win over Newcastle back in April. With older brother Tariq being the only Dragons forward to run for over 100 metres last Sunday, look for Korbin to make a welcome impact for the Red V, as they fight to stave off equalling their worst losing streak since 2016.
Flying under the radar in a new look second row brought about by Wade Graham's injury and Luke Lewis' retirement, Kurt Capewell has been potent for the Sharks in establishing himself as a regular first grader in 2019. Featuring in intermittent stints in the outside backs, second row and off the bench in the years following his NRL debut in 2016, the 25-year-old Queenslander has been a reliable contributor for John Morris, averaging over 100 running metres and 30 tackles per game, while missing just 15 minutes of game time over the first ten rounds. Off-contract at season's end and linked with a move to the English Super League, look for Capewell to deliver another strong showing in order to strengthen his market value to potential suitors in both hemispheres.
The favourite: With both sides missing key personnel and coming off the back of disappointing showings seven days earlier, neither St George Illawarra nor Cronulla can be separated by the bookmakers.
My tip: Despite holding a terrible record in Wollongong, the Sharks should re-enter the top eight with a win on the road. Sharks by 10.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country on which this match takes place - the Dharawal people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
1. Zac Lomax 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jonus Pearson 6. Jai Field 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie 14. Luciano Leilua 15. Jacob Host 16. Reece Robson 17. Korbin Sims
21. Matt Moylan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Morris 1. Josh Dugan 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
Referees: Adam Gee, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: David Munro, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;