Match Previews

As well as providing his best value bets every week, our NRL guru Steve Green also previews every NRL game for members. Here’s Steve’s thoughts for every Sharks game.

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NRL Round 18: Raiders v Sharks

The Raiders played their best game of the year, and interestingly it was without Wighton at 6 due to rep duties.

Frawley’s kicking game was amazing and it was the key to the Raiders building pressure and tiring the big Manly forward pack. Off the back of this fatigue, Starling and Sam Williams scored three tries by playing direct and running the ball at the tiring forwards.

It was the first time the Raiders had clearly executed a game plan and it must have been tempting for Stuart to retain this halves pairing and move Wighton to 1 or the centres.

While the Raiders did look much better, it was a heavily weakened Manly team and a close to full strength Sharks team will pose a much bigger challenge this weekend.

The Sharks form had been very impressive and although they have won five of their last six, that winning streak has mainly been due to a soft draw over the past six weeks.

The Broncos showed that controlled, disciplined footy is enough to worry this Sharks line up and I do think the Raiders have an edge in terms of star power.

While the Raiders are still missing Whitehead, I think the Raiders turned a corner in their win against Manly and the move north to get them out of Canberra and in camp for a month, might help the squad get over some of the division that had obviously been bubbling away in the nation’s capital.

On my ratings, this game could go either way and that is why I put forward a small play at the Raiders on the head to head. I will keep it small because I still have concerns about just how cohesive this Raiders team is at the moment. Happy to see odds have shortened, so let us hope Raiders can get the W at the better odds we took earlier in the week.

Predicted score Raiders 20 – Sharks 20

NRL Round 17: Sharks v Warriors

In what is a pretty uninspiring round of footy, this is one that is really shaping up as a contest.

The Sharks’ run of wins came to an end last weekend against the Broncos and although the Broncos played well, I think it did show that the Sharks winning run was off the back of them going through a soft part of the draw.

They did lose Moylan late last weekend, but he is out again this weekend, so it is Tracey and Johnson in the halves. Chambers is back in the centres, after missing last weekend due to the birth of his child, while talented youngster Luke Metcalf is on the extended bench.

It is hard to identify what went wrong for the Sharks last weekend, with nearly every key stat in their favour or neutral. They missed far less tackles, ran for more metres and made more line breaks.

However the Broncos capitilised on their chances, while the Sharks were a bit clunkier with their backline movements.

This weekend, they come up against a Warriors team that has undergone a lot of change throughout 2020. They have Lodge joining the squad and moving straight into starting prop. His combination with Fonua-Blake should prove to be very formidable and one of the reasons I think they can win this one.

In the halves, Coach Brown looks set to give Sullivan a go alongside the returning Nikorima, therefore leaving Walsh at 1 and RTS on the wing. I am not sure this is how they will line up on the day, but overall it is a strong line up – despite a few key outs.

The one out that has me really worried is Tohu Harris. The hard working lock forward is one of the Warriors best players and gets through a ton of work. But the Warriors have great depth in the forwards and so I like their chances of holding their own against this Sharks pack.

All in all, I think the Warriors can win this one and because I think both teams are highly unpredictable, I think the longer term more profitable play in this situation is to have a small bet on the head-to-head.

Predicted score Sharks 20 – Warriors 20

NRL Round 16: Broncos v Sharks

The Broncos are at risk of turning into a fully fledged circus this weekend. With a spate of mysterious injuries sustained at training and a decision to not release Lodge or Pangai Jnr early, it is clear Coach Walters job is now under pressure.

Ben Ikin joining the club last week shows that those at the top think something is not right at the club. Ikin has been very outspoken in his criticism of Walters chopping and changing his halves, so it is no surprise to see Milford given a spot on the extended bench….while Croft given a shot at 7.

I have backed Coach Walters, because I think he has inherited a very poor squad and culture. But his decision to promote K Hunt from the QLD Cup was truly baffling…he had been very mediocre for the Souths Logan Magpies.

I also think that the reluctance to drop Alex Glenn on form shows that Coach Walters has a tenuous relationship with this playing group, because the current skipper is not setting a good example with his defensive lapses. For every 9.5 tackles that Glenn makes, he misses a tackle. That is simply not good enough for an edge defender.

As for the Sharks, they have flying under the radar and while I do believe their current strong form has been because of weak opponents, there is no denying how much Johnson has improved their form.

If the Broncos were a more settled playing group and this game was not being played under COVID lockdown restrictions with no crowd, then I think the Broncos were a chance here of an upset here.

But I have learned from 2020, that the Broncos are a club where drama can fester, and I think it is going to be a tough end to the 2021 season for Broncos fans.

Predicted score Sharks 24 – Broncos 18

NRL Round 15: Cowboys v Sharks

The Sharks have won three on the trot and as a result, the bookies are giving them a strong chance of causing an upset here and winning again.

However when you look at their last three wins, I think that only one of them was really impressive (their trashing of the Titans in Coffs Harbour).

Their other two wins came against a heavily depleted Dragons outfit in Round 11, where they scraped home by a single point, winning 13-12. The Dragons were without Dufty and Tariq Sims, while also missing Ravalawa.

Then last weekend, against a Panthers team missing Cleary, Luai, Capewell, Yeo and To’o, they came very close to losing due to a second half comeback from their opponents.

While they have shown plenty of grit to win in recent weeks, after they had an awful stretch of form when Coach Hannay took over, I am not convinced they should be such small underdogs here.

The Cowboys, after starting well, were woeful against Manly last weekend. All the momentum they had been building went out the window with a shocking defensive display.

However, the Cowboys are a different team when playing up in Townsville, having won their last 5 home games.

And Payten has shown enough to think that they will bounce back with a strong performance in front of their home fans.

With Feldt back to replace O’Neil out wide and Dunn back from suspension, I think this is a stronger team. I like that Hess is back to playing in the middle and Dearden will be better off for the time he has spent with his new club.

The Sharks look set to welcome back Hamlin-Uele, and when you throw in Talakai, Fifita, Woods and Tolman, these big boys could really get fatigued playing up in Townsville.

I think the Cowboys fast men like Holmes, Drinkwater, Tabuai-Fidow and Robson at 9 will have plenty of luck at the end of each half and I think the Cowboys should win this one by about 8 points.

Predicted score Cowboys 28 – Sharks 20

NRL Round 14: Sharks v Panthers

It is looking as if Cleary, To’o and Yep all won’t back up, while I also think Capewell is unlikely to play. This will leave a pretty big hole in the Panthers line up and as we saw last weekend, the whole thing goes a little haywire without their key men.

Api and Martin will most definitely play, while Luai is also tipped to play. These guys will provide a big boost and this is why the Panthers are still about 6 point favourites for this one.

However, the home team, fresh off the back of a huge win against the Titans, will feel full of confidence. Moylan and Johnson were great in the halves, while Ramien and Mulitalo provided some strike out wide. Talakai, Fifita and Williams provide some fire power on the bench, while Coach Hannay has some great options in his Reserves to draw on if he decides to make a late switch.

While the Sharks did look good against the Titans, they are notoriously inconsistent, and I am not willing to back them against a Panthers team that will be looking to bounce back from their first regular season loss in a very long time.

I thought the Tigers played very well last weekend and made the understrength Panthers look bad.

With Api and Luai back to help Burton out, I think we will see a much better Panthers performance this weekend and the various weaknesses in this Sharks team will be exposed.

But at home and with one of their strong looking line ups, I am not willing to bet against the Sharks here.

Predicted score Panthers 26 – Sharks 18

NRL Round 12: Sharks v Titans

This game has been moved to Coffs Harbour, so the Sharkies will lose a fair bit of their home ground advantage.

The Sharks welcome back a lot of talent for this match, with Andrew Fifita, Jesse Ramien, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Shaun Johnson and Siosifa Talakai all into the 17. There is also talk that human wrecking ball Pele will get his debut, with the young prop destroying the NSW Cup this year with his powerful running game.

While they do look strong on paper, the Sharks are another team where the wheels seemed to have fallen off once Coach Morris was told he would not be coaching in 2022 and Coach Hannay took over.

Although I like that Townsend has finally been replaced, neither Moylan nor Johnson have played enough footy in 2021 to give me too much confidence that they can turn around this team.

Meanwhile, the Sharks are another team that has struggled with the rule crack down, as they have a while host of players that have a history of pushing the envelope with the rules.

Furthermore, David Fifta returns for the Titans, as does Patrick Herbert…so this is a strong looking Titans team that will throw plenty at the Sharks with ball in hand.

While the Sharks could produce anything in this match and I am worried that they will finally hit their straps this weekend at home, I have this Titans line up at about 10 points better.

Predicted score Titans 30 – Sharks 20

NRL Round 9: Panthers v Sharks

The Panthers continue on their winning ways and have no injury concerns. They are at home and there is not much more than can be said about this juggernaut.

Manly threatened at stages and came closest to matching the Panthers in areas such as metres gained, but the Panthers’ goal line scramble proved too much to overcome.

As for the Sharks, I had my doubts about the coaching abilities of interim coach Josh Hannay, and these have been confirmed over the past fortnight.

The Sharks are making some poor selections out wide (with Dugan passed over in favour of Chambers) and the absence of some powerful forwards (Siosifa Talakai and Braden Hamlin-Uele) hurts their go-forward.

With S Katoa and Multalo still out, the Sharks continue with makeshift wingers, and while I really like Connor Tracey, I think he needs to be closer to the action.

The Sharks second-half capitulation against the Storm was hard to watch. If Munster could kick goals, then that could have reached 50. This is a week after the Sharks were beaten by the Bulldogs!

While the Sharks are still a danger team on their day, I am not willing to take them at the plus here due to my concerns about how much the players are buying into their coach’s game plan.

Shaun Johnson’s timing was a little off last weekend, and so until I see him and Moylan on the field and combining well in attack, and their outside backs lining up, I doubt I will be backing the Sharks.

I am also not willing to take on such a big line for the Panthers, because I think Manly showed that while they are hard to beat, this Panthers team certainly are not invincible.

Bookies have it about right.

Predicted Score   Panthers 30 – Sharks 10

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