For the second week in a row, Cronulla are being forced to deal with one of their forwards being hospitalised on game eve with Jayson Bukuya racing the clock to face Parramatta.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan would be forgiven for believing he just can’t take a trick with prop Bukuya in doubt for Saturday’s NRL clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Bukuya was hospitalised and put on a drip after contracting a virus which swept through the Sharks camp this week.
Flanagan said Bukuya was the only player in doubt, despite several of his teammates also falling ill.
It comes just a week after Matt Prior bravely rose from his hospital bed to take on the Gold Coast – a fact the Sharks hid from the public until after their 10-9 victory.
Jokingly asked by journalists whether he secretly had any players in hospital this week, Flanagan replied: “Yeah there is secretly someone in hospital – Jayson Bukuya.
“We’ve had a bit of a virus run through the club. He’s in hospital at the moment on a drip, so you’re right.”
Flanagan wouldn’t reveal which other players had been affected and said he considered Bukuya a 50-50 proposition.
“It happens at all clubs players, I’m not sure what it is, sometimes the fitter they are the easier it is to come down with an illness,” Flanagan said.
“He hasn’t eaten for a couple of days and he’s on a drip. We’ll see over the next 24 hours what happens with him.”
Should Bukuya fail to recover, Kurt Dillon is likely to take his place on the bench.
Bukuya’s illness is ill-timed for the Sharks, who this week lost Josh Dugan to a foot injury, joining Paul Gallen (knee) and Luke Lewis (calf) in their casualty ward.
But Flanagan declared stand-in skipper Wade Graham as a “definite starter” after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Back-rower Scott Sorensen has also passed head knock protocols.
Flanagan said he was wary of the Eels, who have regained their confidence after two straight wins.
Some have declared the Eels’ season back on track – despite still sitting in last spot – and Parramatta coach Brad Arthur urged caution.
“It’s a good improvement that we’ve already made and there’s a lot more improvement that we need to make,” Arthur said.
“Every week the competition gets turned on its head and it changes. We’ll see how we are in another five or six weeks.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Cronulla has won the past four straight matches against Parramatta, with the Eels last win coming at Shark Park in 2014.
* The Eels are scoring the fewest points (14.3 per game while the Sharks are scoring 15.5 per game (equal third fewest).
Source: Fox Sports Stats
Australian Associated Press