After their inability to take their chances last Friday night, the Sharks now face a much tougher path to the Grand Final if they’re to repeat their 2016 heroics.
We take a look at the reasons why the Sharks can win their second title in two years as well as the reasons they cannot.
Why They Can Win The Title
– Attacking artillery: Valentine Holmes is the form player of the competition right now and almost unstoppable. The Roosters did a decent job in shutting down the Sharks ace but even they could not keep him quiet for long periods. Matt Moylan has twice put his former side to the sword in 2018 and will be looking to complete the trifecta. The Sharks can attack from anywhere on the park and have plenty of points in them.
– Game style: The Sharks have been playing “finals footy” for six weeks. They play a grinding style and can drag opposition sides down to their style of play. They can score points but they can also defend well. Their ball control was pretty good against the Roosters. Two of their mistakes cost them tries, costly indeed. If they catch those two passes, they’re feet up with the week off. They’ll be gritty and they can upset any side on any day.
– They know how to win: The Sharks have a way of pulling out wins where it looks like all hope is lost. They showed in 2016 they know how to win the big games even when their attacking stars aren’t creating havoc. If the game is close, it favours the Sharks. Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior, Aaron Woods. That’s an experienced and safe forward pack when needed. The Sharks went through a period where they almost forgot how to play footy yet kept winning. You can’t teach that.
Why They Cannot Win The Title
– No Wade: Far from a one man side, but the Sharks have lost their ace. Wade Graham is the Sharks’ X-Factor. He’s not their most important player but he is their difference maker. There is no player like Graham in the competition. With his ACL went their chance of a title victory as you need something different lift the ultimate prize. The Sharks have won a few games without Graham this season but his absence really dulls that left edge.
– Horrible discipline: This side knows how to give away a penalty. Fans hold their collective breathe whenever the side is defending as there’s always a likely penalty just around the corner. This is a side who isn’t above giving away a penalty and backing their defense when needed but they’re also very guilty of piggybacking sides out of their danger areas and releasing pressure. Their completion rate this year has been dreadful.
– No plan B: If Valentine Holmes isn’t on the fire the Sharks don’t win. It’s that simple. Wade Graham is usually the go to in case a Plan B is needed but he isn’t there. Moylan is the chief destroyer in terms of line breaks and assist but he is either laying on three tries or he’s knocking on. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. As good as Chad Townsend has been lately he isn’t likely to click into another gear out of nowhere like the great halfbacks.
The Sharks are the bookies favourites heading into tonight’s monster clash but on paper the loss of Wade Graham really has this game on a knife’s edge.
If they get past the Panthers, who they have beaten twice already this season, a match-up with the Storm awaits. They beaten Melbourne in Melbourne a few weeks ago and are undefeated against the purple in 2018.
They certainly can go all the way, but a lot is going to have to go right for them to break their title “drought”.