Lions and Sharks prepare for ferocious battle at Michael Cronin Oval

Gerringong's Joel Roberts is tackled by Shellharbour's Wayde Aitken. Photo: GAME FACE PHOTOGRAPHY

Gerringong's Joel Roberts is tackled by Shellharbour's Wayde Aitken. Photo: GAME FACE PHOTOGRAPHY

A WIN by leaders Shellharbour this Saturday at Michael Cronin Oval will see them edge one step closer to the 2018 first grade minor premiership.

Standing in their way though are the third-placed Gerringong Lions, who are on a seven-game winning streak, including last weekend’s come from behind win against rivals Kiama.

With that being said, the Sharks have been in red-hot form themselves, winning their past five contests.

“Obviously we want to finish as high as we can on the ladder, but we can’t look too for ahead – we have two tough games left in the regular season,” Sharks coach Abed Atallah said.

“The first being on Saturday against Gerringong, who we always have tough battles with, especially at Michael Cronin Oval.

“I know we got them earlier in the year [28-20] but their team is a lot stronger now – we will have to turn up committed to come away with the two points.”

Although Atallah will be the first to say his side have been ‘up and down’ this season, he is hoping they can look to build cohesion in the coming weeks.

“The side we are rolling out this week will be as close to full strength as we are going to get I’d say, with a number of guys ruled out with season ending injuries,” he said.

“Hopefully we can build on our combinations, which will be key come finals time.”

Atallah identified Nathan Ford, Matt Winchester, Rixon Russell and Joel Roberts as players his team will need to shut down.

“Gerringong have some real handy players in key positions,” he said.

“[Nathan] Fordy is obviously a big part of what they do, getting them rolling down field – allowing players such as Rixon [Russell] and [Matt] Winchester to take advantage.”

Similarly to his counterpart, Lions coach Michael Cronin knows how important two points on Saturday would be in helping them secure a top-three spot.

“Heading into the season, with the players we had lost, we were just aiming to be competitive each week,” Cronin said.

“But after getting some players back, and having a number of young players step up, we have re-evaluated our goals – it would be very nice to finish in that top-three.”

To give themselves every chance of doing so, Cronin acknowledges they need to play better than they did last week against Kiama.

“Our first half last week was really disappointing – we just made way too many errors with the ball,” he said.

“We have got to be prepared to take a tackle every now and then, instead of throwing it around.

“To the boys credit, we got back to playing the footy I know we are capable of the the second half.

“Obviously I’m happy to come away with the win, but I think both teams will admit they can be better – I don’t think the week off benefits anyone.”

While Cronin said his team can only concentrate on their own games, he knows how dangerous a number of his team’s opponents can be.

“Obviously the Sharks are doing something right, as they are leading the competition,” he said.

“A large part of that comes from the play of their halves Matt Carroll and Sam Clune, as well as fullback Jason Gray, who always seems to cause issues.

“At the end of the day, if we can defend as a team – to restrict their playmakers – and value the ball, it will give us a chance to win.”

Kick-off is at 2.45pm.

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