Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Shark Park treacherous place for big game

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Michael Luck will return for tomorrow's big game. Photo / AP.
Michael Luck will return for tomorrow's big game. Photo / AP.

Shark Park is a horrible place for visiting teams to play. The weather can be harsh and the Sharks play a hard, grinding style of footy.

Traditionally they give opponents nothing and this year they have gone back to that. You have to work really hard. It's uncomfortable and that is what the Sharks prey on.

But tomorrow it's a big, big game for the Warriors. They need to bank the two points before the bye to give their season some momentum.

There are clearly issues with periods of their game where they concede tries in bunches. But the way they are playing over the remaining 70 minutes is very exciting and very professional. It's just that one aspect they need to fix.

It's up to the senior players to make sure everyone is on the same page. They need to keep on at the younger guys and make them aware it is a period of the game when they need to lift and stay focused. Micheal Luck's return should help with the talking side of things but he has been out a long time so he might find it pretty tough going.

The Sharks really barge through the middle and they'll definitely look to work him over. I just wonder how he'll cope and I don't think we can expect too much from someone who hasn't had any football and who hasn't been under pressure for some time.

Kevin Locke's return at fullback is extremely welcome. He adds another dimension and it's one that is critical if the team are to progress this season.

There's been a bit of talk the Warriors have gone away from their offloading style of footy but I think they are playing the right way. They are picking the times to play. I like seeing Feleti Mateo charging through the middle.

I'd rather see him do that four or five times to get the team in the right position than trying to offload at will.

That sort of style will win games. They just need to fine-tune the defence and stop leaking points.

Manu Vatuvei never looked like making a mistake last week. There was a confidence in him. He was so focused and so aware of what he needed to do. It was a top-class display and he'll need to produce another tomorrow night.

With Todd Carney and Paul Gallen coming back from Origin, the Sharks will get a huge boost. I've been in teams where guys have come from big Origin victories and it really pumps you up. The whole mood lifts and all the players will want to do it for the guys who are backing up.

That said, if the Warriors can stay in the contest and make it really hard then they could have an edge.

That Origin match was a brutal affair so Carney and Gallen must feel the effects. Unless they are supermen it's likely to start playing with their minds. It's just not humanly possible to back up and play like that again after three days.

Tomorrow's match will be Colin Best's 250th for the Sharks. I played with Colin at Cronulla and Hull and the guy is amazing. He's been around 14 seasons but he's still going strong. He's a lethal weapon on the edges, really hard to defend. He can cut you up if you are not on your game. It's a big game for Colin. He'll be pumped and his teammates will want to mark it the right way too.

- NZ Herald

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