One’s an off-contract veteran and the other a 20-year-old rookie and they are matched up against an all-star halves duo in North Queensland’s Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan.
But Jeff Robson and Jack Bird are confident Cronulla’s teamwork can limit the huge attacking threat posed by the two Origin stars in Saturday night’s NRL semi-final in Townsville.
Thurston and Morgan boast a remarkable 77 try and line-break assists in the NRL this season and they were key figures when Queensland reclaimed the Origin shield from NSW.
Halfback Robson, 33, and five-eighth Bird don’t own a single Origin jumper between them but their unheralded combination keeps getting the job done for the Sharks and they are far from daunted.
Lending weight to their optimism is the fact that the Sharks won both encounters against the highly-fancied Cowboys in the regular season, including a 24-18 win in Townsville.
“Whenever Thurston is on the field, you’re always worrying about what he’s going to come up with next,” Robson told AAP.
“But we’ve got pretty good systems and structures in place here at the Sharks.
“If we only worry about doing that well, we should be able to handle whatever they throw at us.”
Robson, a Parramatta junior, has a long history with Dally M Medal favourite Thurston, going back to their days when they went head-to-head in Jersey Flegg.
“We’re pretty similar in age and I’ve played a fair bit of junior footy against him when he was at the Dogs,” Robson recalled.
“He was a skinny fella back then but he was always very skilful and always got in there and had a go. He’s always been very fit too. You had the sense he was going to go a long way back then.
“If I was a betting man – which I’m not allowed to be – he’s definitely getting the Dally M this year.”
Robson, who remains without a club beyond November, says he has found a new lease of life playing alongside younger scrumbase partner Bird this season.
St George-Illawarra product Bird hasn’t missed a match since making his first grade debut in round 4, developing into a dangerous foil alongside the older halfback.
“He’s a talented young kid, not much fazes him,” Robson said.
“He just goes about his business. I’m really enjoying my football playing outside him and playing my role for the team.”