Sharks have more bite without Gallen, Graham
PAUL Gallen is a 50-50 chance to join Wade Graham on the sideline this week but that scenario should hold no fears for Cronulla when they resume their fierce rivalry with Melbourne at AAMI Park on Friday night.
Graham suffered a season-ending knee injury in week one of the finals against the Sydney Roosters, while Gallen is in doubt with a shoulder problem.
But heading into the grand-final qualifier which former Shark Michael Ennis is expecting to be a "bloodbath", Cronulla have a great winning record without two of their most influential forwards.
Fox Sports Stats shows the Sharks have won all four matches when Gallen and Graham have both been out in the past three seasons, while they are 11 wins from 12 without Graham.
And far from being a spent force without Gallen, the Sharks have got the cash in eight of 11 games without their skipper since 2016.
The other thing in the Sharks' favour on Friday night will be the fact they have become the Storm's bogey team.
The biggest margin between the two sides in their past five games is just 10 points and they have won four of those matches, including their grand final victory over the Storm in 2016.
The Sharks have also beaten the Storm twice this year.
Storm captain Cameron Smith was sin-binned for the first time in his career during their clash in May, which ended with Melbourne's Will Chambers also being sin-binned for a choke hold on Paul Gallen.
Chambers and Gallen have had a running battle in recent years.
The Storm centre, who will make his return from suspension this week, labelled Gallen a "drug cheat" last year.
Storm lock Dale Finucane said that Cronulla had a fearsome forward pack.
"We've had some great clashes recently. They have been quite close games," Finucane said.
"A lot of the games have been mostly high quality and quite intense. I'm not sure if they are our fiercest rivals. They have some good forwards. They have a start-studded forward pack and quality all over the park."
Storm players had a light training load last week ahead of their preliminary showdown against the Sharks in Melbourne.
It will be the Storm's fourth consecutive preliminary final appearance, and they have coincided with Finucane's arrival from Canterbury.
"Individuals work hard for each other," Finucane said.
"I don't think I was overly surprised coming down here.
"I was surprised a little bit in the detail that Craig (Bellamy) and the coaching staff put into everything, including video analysis and the way we train.
"That's the only thing that might have come as a surprise."
PAST FIVE GAMES
Cronulla defeated Melbourne 14-12 in 2016 grand final
Cronulla defeated Melbourne 11-2 in 2017
Melbourne defeated Cronulla 18-14 in 2017
Cronulla defeated Melbourne 14-4 in 2018
Cronulla defeated Melbourne 17-14 in 2018