Paul Gallen returns to Sharks for Warriors clash
Inspirational leader Paul Gallen makes a timely rare appearance for the near-submerged Cronulla Sharks as the club's tumultuous NRL season is undermined by yet another injury crisis.
Gallen has bravely stepped into a depleted pack to face the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday - just the remedy after key forwards Luke Lewis and Wade Graham suffered season-ending leg injuries during the 32-12 defeat to Parramatta last Saturday.
The usually durable lock, who has only played eight games for the Sharks this season, injured his right biceps against Newcastle on July 13 and rather than undergo surgery he opted to rest up with the aim of returning to action.
Former Kangaroos representative Anthony Tupou (back) and centre Jacob Gagan (hamstring) also miss the round 22 trip to Mt Smart where they face an opponent that provided one of the club's few highlights in 2014.
Already blighted by the on-going Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority when the season got underway, coaching dramas, the sacking of star playmaker Todd Carney and a crippling injury toll then ensured the Shire club has been synonymous with crisis.
However, they scored seven tries to one - a Manu Vatuvei face-saver in the 79th minute - when thrashing the Warriors 37-6 at Remondis Stadium on April 5, their first win of the year after four successive losses.
Although Warriors coach Matt Elliott was the casualty after that fifth round clash, since then the fortunes of both teams have changed markedly.
The Warriors under Elliott's assistant Andrew McFadden are eyeing the finals series, the Sharks, meanwhile, will be looking forward to the end of the regular season early next month.
Cronulla also endured a coaching reshuffle when Peter Sharp - a reluctant replacement for Shane Flanagan while he serves an ASADA-imposed ban - quit on July 1, three days after Carney's contract was terminated following the release of a lewd image on social media.
The five-eighth's bizarre behaviour in a nightclub toilet - he was photographed urinating towards his mouth - effectively ended his NRL career though it inadvertently provided a Christchurch teenager with an opportunity to establish himself in first grade.
Fa'amanu Brown's development alongside veteran halfback Jeff Robson has been a rare positive for the Sharks who are currently locked in a battle with Canberra to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Cronulla prop up the table because the Raiders have a better points differential despite the Warriors' 10-try, 54-18 rout at GIO Stadium on Sunday.
Cronulla Sharks: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Jonathan Wright, Ricky Leutele, Valentine Holmes, Fa'amanu Brown, Jeff Robson, Andrew Fifita, Michael Lichaa, Sam Tagataese, Chris Heighington, Tupou Sopoaga, Paul Gallen (captain). Interchange: Pat Politoni, Junior Roqica, Tinirau Arona, Matt Prior, Tim Robinson (18th man).