Two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, the Premiership defending and contending Cronulla Sharks do battle with the Gold Coast Titans who are only safe from the wooden spoon thanks to having a better for-and-against the Newcastle Knights.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
The Sharks had a shaky first few rounds, but have since steadied their ship. They are coming into round 8 with a 4-match winning streak. The momentum is heavily favouring the home side in this encounter, and the Sharks showed that they know how to run with momentum after their mammoth wins-streak last year that led to their first ever Premiership.
The Sharks have some top players re-joining their line-up after sitting out the last round of the season. Edrick Lee, Fa’amanu Brown, Sam Tagatease and Tony Williams come back into the Sharks extended squad. James Segeyaro will sit out this round as he recuperates from his broken arm.
The Sharks should want to play their game that took them to the Premiership last year. They have a team full of players with playmaking abilities, outside the obvious James Maloney and Chad Townsend, they have Valentine Homes, Paul Gallen and Jack Bird who all have the potential to run a difference-making play.
Gold Coast Titans
The return of Nathan Peats last week had a massively noticeable change in the Titans play. With Tyrone Roberts stuck in the number one jersey last week, there is no experienced link between their two young halves, Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey. Peats’ work in the hooker role was what these guys needed to be able to get their plays together. Peats also played a significant role in keeping the entire team where they need to be.
The Titans have many players possibly returning from injury. Jarryd Hayne, Konrad Hurrell and Kevin Proctor have all been named on the extended team sheet but whether they will be fit to play by Saturday is another matter. Dale Copley and Kevin Proctor have also been named in the squad but are under an injury cloud at the moment.
What the Titans will do with Tyrone Roberts is the question that needs to be asked if Hayne is set to take the number one. After the start of the year, he has had you wouldn’t want to see him lose his jumper altogether. The utility role would suit him well, but he deserves more game time than what he’d receive coming off the bench.
With the Gold Coast squad slowly returning to full strength they will hope to get their plays right. The work by Peats need to be continued, and with Roberts coming on and off the field in the front line he will be in a better position for Taylor and Elgey to look to as an experienced player. If the Titans can get their team in check now that so many of them are getting back and continue the attacking form they had while scrambling opposition defences they will be a tough beat.
The Titans defence will suffer at the start, and it may take a minute for some guys to click in attack. Sharks are a great attacking team, and the Titans defence may still have a lot of holes. The Sharks should win this by 8 points.