Cronulla’s Sam Tagataese has declared himself fit and raring for a tilt at a maiden Sharks NRL premiership, coach Shane Flanagan backing the forward by naming him on an extended bench.
Tagataese hasn’t played since suffered a shoulder injury in the round 22 loss to Canberra, and his anticipated return would add some considerable punch to the Sharks pack from the bench.
The hard-running interchange prop has trained in both of the Sharks’ sessions since their preliminary final win over North Queensland on Friday and says he’s ready to take on Melbourne at ANZ Stadium in Sunday’s decider.
“I am 100 per cent good to go. I have no doubts,” Tagataese told AAP.
“(Selection) history says I might be in there but it really comes down to Flanno (Sharks coach Shane Flanagan) and what he feels the team needs on Sunday.”
Tagataese is expected to be named by Flanagan in an extended grand final squad on Tuesday. Flanagan has until an hour before Sunday’s 7.15pm kick-off to name his final 17.
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen is keen on having Tagataese in his side.
“If you have a fit Sam Tagataese ready to go, a 115kg wrecking ball for a short amount of time, I would like to play with him,” Gallen said.
“He has to be fit and ready in his own mind to go but if he tells Flanno that and Flanno picks him I will be happy for him to be there.
Gallen continues to be troubled by a back injury but will be right for Sunday. He will skip the Dally M awards on Wednesday night to make sure his back is rested.
“The back is okay, sitting in a chair for five hours wouldn’t be ideal preparation,” Gallen said.
“I will rest up. I will do the captain’s run and come Sunday I will be fine.”
Joseph Paulo continues to recover from a knee injury and has joined Tagataese on the bench where Kurt Capewell has also been named but is looking like this year’s grand final heartbreak story.
Capewell played in both of Cronulla’s finals victories over Canberra and North Queensland, making a huge 39 tackles against the Raiders.
While Tagataese is the only likely change for the Sharks from their preliminary final win over North Queensland, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has named the same 17 from their victory over Canberra and also an extended bench of Young Tonumaipea, Slade Griffin, Matt White, Felise Kaufusi and Ryan Morgan.
Cronulla: Ben Barba, Sosaia Feki, Jack Bird, Ricky Leutele, Valentine Holmes, James Maloney, Chad Townsend, Andrew Fifita, Michael Ennis, Matt Prior, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Paul Gallen. Bench: Gerard Beale, Chris Heighington, Sam Tagataese, Jayson Bukuya, Kurt Capewell, Joseph Paulo.
Melbourne: Cameron Munster, Suliasi Vunivalu, Will Chambers, Cheyse Blair, Marika Koroibete, Blake Green, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Dale Finucane. Bench: Kenny Bromwich, Tim Glasby, Christian Welch, Ben Hampton, Young Tonumaipea, Slade Griffin, Matt White, Felise Kaufusi, Ryan Morgan.