It was a positive start to the 2024 season for both the Mathews Cup and SG Ball teams, with the two Sharks junior representative squads scored impressive round one wins over the Balmain Tigers.
See links below to photo galleries from all the Round 1 Sharks games against the Tigers thanks to Cronulla JRL Photographer - Adam Wrightson.
In hot and sticky conditions at PointsBet Stadium, the under-17 Matthews Cup outfit were dominant in a 32-6 victory, while in the SG Ball match that followed, the under-19 Cronulla squad rebounded from a first half deficit to record a 44-18 win.
In the first official hit out for most of the Sharks team at a junior rep level, the Matthews Sharks were on the board early through fullback Oliver Lester, backrower Kaden Garner crossed soon after and at 10-0 after the opening 15-minutes the Cronulla side were well on top.
Two more tries before half time sent the Sharks to the break with a commanding 22-0 advantage, and they would go on with the job, the only blemish when conceding a late Tigers try from close range.
Matthews Cup coach Brad Kelly was understandably pleased with the first up efforts of his team.
“Happy with the win, a good way to start the season,” Kelly said “It wasn’t a perfect performance, but we did enough to come away with a good win.
“For the most part our forwards did a good job of putting a dent in them and running really hard, allowing us to get good roll on. The defense was really good, they tested us a couple of times early on and there was one breech in the second half, but for the most part they did a good job in the middle and on both edges as well.
“It was good to lay a platform to build on for next week, but definitely some areas to improve on before we go into round two,” Kelly added.
While the Sharks had a host of solid performers across the park, with Garner in the backrow and Tom Dellow at lock, the pair having the experience of played at a Matthews Cup level the previous season, two of the standouts.
In the SG Ball match follow, with the advantage of a strong northly breeze and while also capitalising on Sharks ill-discipline, the Tigers took control, building an 18-4 lead with half time approaching.
However, in what was a momentum-turning moment, a try out wide to winger Richard Whalebone following a skillful tap-on from his centre partner Nikora Williams, with Riley Pollard adding the extra two from wide out, and at 18-10 the Sharks went to the break with a spring in their step.
“The try just before half time was very important. That six points was really vital for us, gave us a boost of confidence and energy going into half time and I think we showed what we can do in the second half when we respect the footy,” Sharks SG Ball coach Dave Howlett said.
A try to Michael Gabrael just one minute into the second half, his second of what would be three four-pointers on the day, put his team on the front foot, then with committed defense and the loins share of possession it was all Sharks, five more tries, for 34 points in the second period, rounding out the win.
In addition to Gabrael’s hat trick, Whalebone on the right wing crossed for a try scoring double, as did backrower Pharrell Gray. The Ball Sharks also received strong contributions from bench forward Harry Samuel, Williams at centre and from Max McCarthy, who in playing both middle forward and on the edge, worked tirelessly throughout.
MATTHEWS CUPSHARKS 32 Oliver LESTER, Kaden GARNER, Bronson Homsy, Blake WATMAN, Thomas DELLOW, Jack SCHUMACHER tries, Bronson HOMSEY 4 goals beat TIGERS 6
SG BALLSHARKS 44 Michael GABRAEL 3, Richard WHALEBONE 2, Pharrell GRAY 2, Adrian SANDY tries, Riley POLLARD 6 goals beat TIGERS 18
While the Lisa Fiaola Sharks suffered a tight loss to Wests Tigers, their Tarsha Gale counterparts powered home to secure a resilient win as the junior rep season kicked off at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday.
Despite matching the Tigers with four tries, goal kicking was the deciding factor for the under-17 Lisa Fiaola Cup team in a 20-18 loss. The youngsters were left to rue a series of handling errors but showed glimpses of their exciting potential.
In the following match - one of four fixtures at PointsBet Stadium, with the men's Harold Matthews and SG Ball sides both beating Balmain - the under-19 Tarsha Gale girls had their mettle tested by the Tigers in a see-sawing affair.
After shooting to an early lead with tries to Arianna Ruwoldt and Koolee Harbour, they found themselves trailing 18-14 and under the pump in the second half.
However, Tia-Jordyn Vasilovski crossed for her second try before NRLW squad member Manilita Takapautolo went over in the 49th minute to seal a 22-18 win.
Although his charges fell short, Lisa Fiaola coach Robbie Taylor was proud. Four-pointers to Felila Fakalelu, Tameika Dorahy, Milla Caine and Chloe Shephard put the Sharks ahead 18-16, but a conceded try with five minutes left broke their hearts.
"We stuck to our game plan. We wanted to move the ball around, test their big forwards, but unfortunately we couldn't get over the line," Taylor said.
"We made a lot of mistakes we need to own. We just gave away too much ball. They were still in the game right up till the last minute, but we just couldn't hold on.
"At half time I just asked them to give everything out there, just fight for each other, which they did. I was really happy with how we went.
"There's no denying the fact that they did go out and play really well together … Clean up our mistakes and I think we'll go a long way."
Tarsha Gale coach Isaac Michael loved the spirit shown by his team as they withstood the Tigers' fightback and regained their composure.
"The start of the second half we missed the jump and they came out hard," he said.
"But the talk all week was (about) belief and believing that we have what it takes to stick it out the whole game, no matter what the opposition is throwing at us.
"It was really good to see that the girls dug deep, got back a couple of tries and then finished up on top. You want that level of competition where you have to push all the way through and you can't switch off at any stage.
"It's a really good mental challenge for players at this age."
Remember to follow the Cronulla JRL website and social media channels for all the action and excitement from the 2024 NSWRL junior representative season.
Lisa Fiaola Cup - Round 1 - Sharks vs Wests Tigers
View the full gallery of photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/kg3Y7BJVRMCwxguJ9
Tarsha Gale Cup - Round 1 - Sharks vs Wests Tigers
View the full gallery of photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/oUAbWaKsRGLvuAag9
Harold Matthews Cup - Round 1 - Sharks vs Wests Tigers
View the full gallery of photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/mbEF7tdJdVPfWxPj7
SG Ball Cup - Round 1 - Sharks vs Wests Tigers
View the full gallery of photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MtxjWGN8xu5unJUx6