Well-rested Sharks could close gap on league leaders
Premier Sports, 10.50am Thursday
The second half of the NRL season begins with a heavyweight clash between last season's Grand Finalists.
Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm served up one of the best NRL showpieces of recent times last October and both are well placed in their bid for a rematch in 2017.
The Storm sit top of the table after winning ten of their first 12 games but the Sharks are just one place, and two points, behind them and could eradicate that deficit on Thursday morning.
With State of Origin in full swing, fatigue can play its part at this time of the season.
Four of Cronulla's stars inspired New South Wales to their outstanding 28-4 victory in game one of this year's grudge match against Queensland. However, they didn't back up for the Sharks against Canterbury three days later and enjoyed the benefit of a bye in round 13 so Cronulla have a well-rested first-choice squad available to take on the leaders.
That contrasts to Melbourne, who have decided to rest key playmaker Cooper Cronk after he featured in their 40-12 win over the Knights just 48 hours after the first Origin encounter.
Forward Tohu Harris will form a makeshift half-back partnership alongside Cameron Munster in Cronk's absence but disruption in such a crucial area is far from ideal against the league's meanest defence.
Cronulla have conceded an average of just 13 points per game this season and with a fresh squad and their NSW cohort back to spearhead their challenge, they are worthy favourites.
The challenge of overturning a four-point handicap looks well within the Sharks' capabilities.
Cronulla Sharks -4
2pts Evs bet365