Cronulla will have to shake off rugby league’s most enduring premiership drought if they are to finally claim their inaugural NRL title this season.
And they’ll have to do it from a 0-4 start – something no other side has done.
But the Sharks’ record against the premiership heavyweights this season suggests they are capable of doing so. Last week’s win over North Queensland was Cronulla’s fifth win in five matches against the Cowboys, Sydney Roosters and South Sydney in 2015.
Their only loss to a current top four side was to Brisbane in round two.
The Sharks can maintain their chances of a top four finish for the first time since 2008 with a win over Melbourne at Remondis Stadium on Monday.
Back-rower Wade Graham has spearheaded the Sharks late season charge and said the belief in the Shire has never wavered this year.
“We were always confident we had the team that could do something and we just had to believe that when the times were tough,” Graham told AAP.
“We were never looking too far ahead, because you are never going as good as you think you are, but you are never going as bad as you think you are either.
“I wasn’t happy with our results on a personal level and we weren’t on a team level and we were determined to do something about it and play better football. We have got ourselves into this potion and it is up to us to make the most of it now.”
Melbourne have a far superior for-and-against to Cronulla and can move ahead of them with a win in the concluding match of round 23.
“We have to keep getting better because the level of football is only going to get better over the next four rounds and into the finals,” Graham said.
“Any team Melbourne put on the park is so well prepared, they are such a classy outfit, they have been there and done it for so long they know exactly what it takes.
“We know we have our work cut our for us, it is a big game for us because we need to stay in touch with the top four.”
Luke Lewis’ return on the bench after two weeks out with a knee injury is a big boost to the Sharks. Felise Kaufusi comes onto the visitors’ bench for the suspended Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Melbourne won 36-18 when these sides met in round three.
* Melbourne have completely dominated this clash for a decade, winning 11 of 13 since 2006; this is the Sharks’ worst record against any team over this period
* The Sharks have a horrible recent Monday night football record with just one win in their past six matches, and just five in 20 in the past five seasons, however all five wins (and one draw) in that period have come in matches at Remondis Stadium
* A win here would see the Sharks register six straight victories for the first time since 2012 and for just the 10th time in the club’s history.
* At home the Sharks have won five of their past six, holding their opponents to 10 points or less in four of those wins.
Statistics courtesy of Fox Sports Stats