Sharks v Cowboys preview

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Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys Saturday 5:30pm at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Cowboys search for first win in eight weeks against Sharks

It's been the year that's slowly but surely become a complete basket case for the Cowboys. What started out so promising, with a shiny new stadium and a star new recruit from the USA, in Round 16 the Cowboys are sitting 14th on the ladder with an interim coach and Valentine Holmes only taking the field 7 times so far.

For the Sharks, 2020 was supposed to be the year they finally fell off the boil and missed the finals. Everything was going according to the status quo after a 1 and 4 start to the year, with coach John Morris under more pressure every week. Those talks surrounding his job security have since vanished and the Sharks have solidified a place in the top 8, and a win on Saturday would see them move closer to a possible home final in week 1. 

In team news, the Sharks will have an all new halves pairing compared to the side that lost to Penrith. Connor Tracey gets his first start since re-joining the club, replacing Matt Moylan at five-eighth, who has been dropped.

Shaun Johnson comes back in at halfback after missing last week due to the combination of a groin problem and the birth of his first child. Briton Nikora has been recalled to play his first game since Round 12, pushing Siosifa Talakai back to the bench.

The Cowboys have dropped Tom Opacic and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, bringing in Murray Taulagi and Valentine Holmes in to replace them in the centres and on the wing respectively. It will be Holmes first game since early July, when an ankle injury forced him to sit out for 6 weeks. Daejarn Asi has been recalled to five-eighth in favour of Ben Hampton. 

In order to cover the loss of injured superstar Jason Taumalolo, Josh Hannay has shifted Josh McGuire to lock with Francis Molo coming in to start in the front row. Corey Jensen is the man who comes on to the interchange bench in jersey 17.

Last meeting: Round 4 2020 - Cowboys 16 Sharks 26

Who to watch: Who to watch for the home side.

Sharks livewire Connor Tracey has impressed in 2020 whenever he's had the opportunity, scoring two tries in recent weeks after coming off the bench and his efforts have earnt him his first start in the haves since Round 12 last year for the Rabbitohs. In that game he ran his way to a stunning 15 tackle breaks, and with Shaun Johnson's newly found game management skills to complement him, expect to see Tracey running the ball a lot on Saturday evening.

For the Cowboys, it's hard to go past Valentine Holmes. The fact he is playing against the club he broke his contract with 2 years ago has been somewhat lost in the media circus this week, but I'm sure he'll be reminded of it by the Sharks crowd when standing out on the wing on Saturday. It will be interesting to see of and when Holmes returns to his favoured position of fullback, and if naming him as winger is just to ease him back into first grade. The last time that was tried however, Holmes re-injured himself and his replacement had five tries scored against him, so let's hope he is 100% fit this time because when he is, he's one of the most electric players in the game.

The favourite: In a reversal of when these two sides went head to head earlier this year, the Sharks are clear favourites to beat the Cowboys.

My tip: The past month for the Cowboys has simply been horrible, whether it be getting smashed by the Titans or surrendering a 6 point lead with 2 minutes to go against the Rabbitohs, things just haven't gone their way, and unfortunately for them, I don't think much will change come Saturday evening. Sharks by 14.

1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Connor Tracey 22. Braydon Trindall 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 15. Scott Sorensen 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Siosifa Talakai 17. Royce Hunt 21. Andrew Fifita

1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O'Neill 20. Connelly Lemuelu 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Michael Morgan 8. Francis Molo 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Jake Granville 15. John Asiata 16. Tom Gilbert 17. Corey Jensen

Referees: Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Drew Oultram; Video Referees: Henry Perenara, Bryan Norrie;

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