CAN THE COWBOYS DIG DEEP AGAIN?
JUST HOW MUCH LAST FRIDAY NIGHT’S incredible 90-minute slugfest with Brisbane took out of the Cowboys will become evident when the fully rested Sharks crank up the intensity in the opening 20 minutes. The Broncos pushed the premiers to their absolute limits in energy-sapping conditions in Townsville and it will take all their resolve to match it with a hungry Cronulla outfit which is tantalisingly close to breaking a 50-year premiership drought. The Sharks’ elusive search for a title has propelled them into three grand finals — 1973, 1978 and the 1997 Super League decider — but still the cabinet remains bare. Surely if the team from the Shire is to finally break through then this is their chance — squaring off against a battered Cowboys side for a shot at either the Storm or Raiders in the big dance. The return of Paul Gallen will strengthen a pack which showed plenty of resolve to outmuscle the Raiders in week one of the finals after being blown off the park early. Wade Graham missed most of that game after being knocked senseless early on and his presence will mean the Sharks have the full attacking arsenal to throw at Johnathan Thurston’s men. The battle up front between Andrew Fifita and Matt Scott will be a ripper while Jason Taumalolo’s impact is such that Cronulla will need the combined efforts of Gallen, Graham and Luke Lewis to nullify the RLW Player of the Year. The Cowboys have a clear edge in the halves through Thurston and Michael Morgan, although James Maloney is as tough as they come and knows all about big-game pressure. He’ll need No.7 Chad Townsend to quickly settle into a groove and put his horror night in Canberra behind him.