THROUGH the opening eight rounds of the 2018 Group Seven season, two sides have set the pace – the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas and Shellharbour Sharks.
Both teams currently sit in equal first, with a 7-1 record – with only the Gorillas’ superior for and against (166 to 124) separating the pair.
But when the final whistle is blown at Ron Costello Oval on Sunday, only one of the pair will sit atop of the competition standings.
“We had a really tough pre-season and we have seen it pay dividends through the first half of the season,” Gorillas captain/coach Aaron Henry said.
“It’s helped us get to where we are now but that it’s now up to us to push on from here and get one of those all important top three positions.
“That task continues against Shellharbour on Sunday – where we will be trying to dominate the match in the centre of the park again with our tough brand of footy.”
The pair met in round one, with Henry’s Gorillas taking the chocolates on this occasion (26-12) but a lot has happened since then.
“Obviously they got the better of us in the opening round but since that game, we have been building nicely,” said Sharks coach Abed Atallah, who’s team is currently on a seven game winning streak.
“While we’ve played some strong football over the past two months, we have also been lucky – getting out of jail late against Kiama for example.
“Sitting at 7-1 is great but the job is only half done and there's a lot of football still to be played.
“I know there’s still plenty of improvement in us.”
To ensure that his side don’t go 0-2 against their fierce rivals, Atallah knows his side need to match the Gorillas in the engine room.
“We know we need to be better in the middle of the park and stick it to the Gorillas forward pack – who are the benchmark for a reason,” he said.
“Obviously these clashes are always intense, but with Hans [Schuster] and Ian [Catania] going over there this season, I think it adds even more spice to the game.”
Kick-off is at 2.45pm.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Nowra-Bomaderry host Milton-Ulladulla at the Bomaderry Sporting Complex and Albion Park-Oak Flats entertain the Stingrays of Shellharbour at Centerary Field.
On Saturday, Berry-Shoalhaven Heads battle Gerringong at the Berry Showground and Kiama welcome local rivals Jamberoo to the Kiama Showground for a replay of last year’s grand final.