Gallen, Tagataese return for Sharks

Cronulla have received a major power boost for their grand final qualifier against North Queensland, with big men Paul Gallen and Sam Tagataese named to play in Friday’s match.

Sharks skipper Gallen and Tagataese both completed training on Tuesday and are set to return from respective back and shoulder injuries to take their place against the Cowboys.

Gallen missed Cronulla’s qualifying final win over Canberra a fortnight ago, while Tagataese hasn’t played for five weeks.

North Queensland have also rushed Kane Linnett straight back into the centres after he overcame a hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s semi-final win over Brisbane.

Linnett takes the place of gun rookie Kalyn Ponga as the reigning champions continue their quest to become the first club to claim back-to-back titles since 1992-93.

Melbourne have listed Christian Welch as the replacement for injured giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona, but have also added Felise Kaufusi and Matt White on an extended bench.

Asofa-Solomona was last week ruled out for the rest of the finals series with an elbow issue.

The Storm take on a healthy Canberra squad unchanged from the one that knocked Penrith out of the premiership race in the nation’s capital last week.

Saturday’s grand final qualifier at AAMI Park will be the Raiders’ first appearance in week three of the finals since the Super League competition in 1997.

They are the last of the current 16 teams to feature in a grand final qualifier in the NRL era.

Refereeing quartet Ben Cummins, Gerard Sutton, Matt Cecchin and Alan Shortall have also been retained after receiving a glowing endorsement from boss Tony Archer on Monday.

Cummins and Sutton will oversee the Sharks-Cowboys clash, while Cecchin and Shortall will officiate the Storm-Raiders game.

The grand final will be played at ANZ Stadium on Sunday week.

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