Andrew McFadden: Warriors have spark to cause a huge upset

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Warriors are well aware of the challenge they face against NRL leaders Cronulla but remain confident they can unsettle the Sharks in tonight's clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

The 10th-placed Warriors are searching for their fourth-straight win against a Sharks outfit unbeaten at home this season and riding high on a 10 game winning streak.

The Sharks have long been known for their ability to grind out games but have a sharpened attacking edge this season, with backline stars Ben Barba, Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird providing flair to complement the uncompromising style of their experienced forward pack.

But after scoring 98 points and conceding just 42 in their hattrick of wins over the Broncos, Knights and Roosters, coach Andrew McFadden believes the Warriors have the second-phase attacking spark to cause a huge upset.

Their discipline and execution needs improving after squandering several scoring chances against the Roosters last week, and their forwards will have to be at their best to give their playmakers room to move.

"We're going to have to play really well this weekend and take our opportunities, something we didn't do last weekend," said McFadden.

"It (the Warriors flamboyant attack) can unsettle every team but the thing that makes Cronulla so good at the grind is they do scramble and they can adapt as well.

"Obviously they're a very good team and the way they're playing at the moment they're very high on confidence but we give ourselves a good chance.

"We've just got to play our game and it will be a good contest. It's good timing for us."

The morale-boosting romps against Brisbane and Newcastle were balanced by last week's scrappy result over the Tricolours, that saw the Warriors overcome numerous injury-enforced changes and cope with being a man down following wing Ken Maumalo's first-half sinbinning.

Patience in attack saw the Warriors wait until the 64th minute before halfback Shaun Johnson's match-winning try, showing they have the ability to tough out a result despite significant disruption to their plans.

McFadden hopes those trying times have instilled confidence in his players that they can deal with adversity and he's sure they'll need to demonstrate similar mettle this week.

"It shows us that we can adapt on the day and we don't know what the circumstances will be this weekend, it could be rain.

"Sometimes games pan out certain ways and we need to be able to adapt to that and that's what we've been focusing on.

"This game will present new challenges and obviously it's going to be a tough place to go and play, but as long as we keep building on our performances, that's what I'm looking for."

The Sharks have all four of their New South Wales stars - Paul Gallen, James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and Bird - backing up from Wednesday night's second State of Origin clash, and will be boosted by the return of talented back-rower Wade Graham and wing Sosaia Feki from suspension and injury.

Warriors halves Johnson (quad strain) and Thomas Leuluai (head-knock) have had an injury affected preparation but are expected to play, while Queensland Origin prop Jacob Lillyman will line up four days after his side's series-winning encounter at Suncorp Stadium.

Sharks v Warriors at Southern Cross Group Stadium, tonight, 7.30pm

Sharks: Ben Barba, Sosaia Feki, Jack Bird, Gerard Beale, Valentine Holmes, James Maloney, Chad Townsend, Andrew Fifita, Michael Ennis, Sam Tagataese, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Paul Gallen.

Interchange: Ricky Leutele, Chris Heighington, Matt Prior, Jayson Bukuya, Joseph Paulo (one to be omitted).

Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Albert Vete, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering.

Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Samuel Lisone, Ben Matulino, Charlie Gubb, Ma'afoaeata Hingano, Toafofoa Sipley (two to be omitted).

Referees: Grant Atkins, Matt Noyen.

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