It’s almost like you can buy this game on DVD!
Cronulla take on North Queensland in a finals match for the fourth time in five years in what is a serious case of dejavu for punters.
Last season it was Cronulla who had to go through the Cowboys to get to the Grand Final while the year before that, it was North Queensland who commenced their finals campaign with a big win over the Shire outfit.
This time around the teams come into the finals series a little worse for wear and not in the best of the form.
The Sharkies did it tough last week against the Knights but still managed to get the job done, running out 26-18 winners at McDonald Jones Stadium.
North Queensland lost to Brisbane 20-10 last Thursday week and then had to wait for results to go their way to confirm their spot as the final team to make the top eight.
CRONULLA appear as though they’ve been treading water for a number of weeks now but get a huge boost here in the return of Jack Bird and Wade Graham.
The Sharks have only won their past four matches by an average margin of just over 11 points and when you consider the fact those successes have come against the Rabbitohs, Warriors, Cowboys and Knights, its hard inspiring form.
The return of Bird and Graham will give the team some much needed steel in defence and creativity in attack.
Beware if you are taking the short odds about the Sharks though. They have won just two of their past five matches and failed to score over 14 points in each of those defeats.
NORTH QUEENSLAND could count themselves lucky just to be playing finals.
They needed the Bulldogs to upset the Dragons last Sunday but had that not occurred, they would have finished level on points with the Red V who had a fair superior points differential.
North Queensland has been hammered by injuries throughout the season and it is testament to their willingness to compete that they finished inside the top eight.
Paul Green’s men have lost five of their past six games coming into this match and haven’t beaten a top eight opponent since scoring late to beat Penrith back in Round 16.
CRONULLA has owned this fixture.
The Sharkies have a 62.8 percent winning strike rate against North Queensland – their best record against any current team in the NRL.
The defending premiers have won the past four between the sides and six of the past eight encounters including the Preliminary Final last season.
Ironically, these two sides have had to go through each other in the finals series to break their maiden premierships over the past two seasons.
As mentioned earlier, this is the fourth finals match in five years that they have met with the first of those in this exact fixture in 2013 where the Sharks got the benefit of scoring the winning try off a seven-tackle set.
It is hard not to have a crack at CRONULLA here but they aren’t generous odds ($1.38 @ Unibet).
There is the feeling that they have been playing a little flat because they have been waiting for the finals to roll around and if you hark back to last season, they did hit a few stumbling blocks prior to the finals but still went on to win the NRL premiership.
The inclusions of Bird and Graham are something that gives us a bit more confidence in taking the Sharkies.
North Queensland have been gallant this season but we can’t see them getting past the Sharks at Allianz Stadium, which is a venue the Shire boys have become accustomed to playing at with the team aiming for six straight wins at the venue for the first time this century.
If Flanagan’s side are to extend their premiership defence for another week then they need to clean up certain parts of their game though, including their competition rate which is bottom of the league at 74 percent.
Looking for value? Stats suggest the Sharks will be scoring the first try so get on of their players to score the first four-pointer.
Jayden Brailey ($23 @ Centrebet) has scored the first try for Cronulla twice this season and is a juicy price while the only other teammate of his to match that total is Kurt Capewell.
Another player worth following is Gerard Beale ($11 @ Will Hill, Sportsbet) who, along with Sosaia Feki, leads the team in the most last tries scored in a match this season with three.
GERARD BEALE LAST TRYSCORER