How Cronulla Sharks and North Queensland Cowboys NRL final clash will be decided

WHO will embrace history better?

JT v CT? Why should the Cowboys be any more tired than last year? And will Sydney really get behind the Sharks?

All the talking points before the first preliminary final at Allianz Stadium.

1. Cooked Cowboys

Remember last year?

The Cowboys had a humdinger in Brisbane against the Broncos in the first week of the finals, scorched the Sharks in Townsville and then almost travelled the length of the continent to hammer the Storm in Melbourne.

So what is supposedly different about the travel toll and the battered and bruised bodies they're carrying this year?

Nothing. They'll be right up for this.

2. Mind over matter

Who embraces the burden of history better?

As much as Shane Flanagan says his players aren't affected by that drought and are embracing the challenge, there will be a deep recess in most minds which will be thinking about the porch light.

And how much of a carrot is the back-to-back titles for the Cowboys?

History says it's near on impossible and North Queensland were within seconds of being another victim last week.

One will be on the cusp of something special next week.

3. JT v CT

Heads of hair don't come much better on NRL players than the two No.7s, but what is rattling through the minds of both?

One is supposedly running on empty, the other's fuel tank should be so full he needs to be wheeled out of the garage to keep the engine ticking over.

Chad Townsend doesn't need to beat Thurston.

Barely anyone does.

As all good halfbacks would say, he would be best served running the ball early to settle the nerves.

And let the rest flow.

4. Right way home

They're different, but the same these two sides.

The most recurring theme is their potency with their right-edge attack. Cowboys guns Kyle Feldt and Justin O'Neill have combined for 26 tries between them down that side while the Sharks' whiz kids on their own right, Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird, have crossed for 25 meat pies.

Traffic will be diverted that way all night.

No surprises what the focus has been for the left-edge combinations at training this week.

5. Ennis The Menace

Michael Ennis will have someone in mind.

He always does.

But don't expect his infamous taunting to stir up opposite number Jake Granville, who will arguably have a bigger impact on the result than the soon-to-be-retired Sharks menace.

The Cowboys are one side that rarely take the bait and prefer their football to do the talking.

The Sharks' notorious niggle and subtle sledging might not be as effective this time.

6. Who will Sydney support?

Why not us? It has been the Sharks' catch-cry all finals.

And was even the slogan next to Paul Gallen staring back at you on Thursday from a billboard plastered on Allianz Stadium, a sporting heartland for the melting pot that is the NRL's Roosters, AFL's Swans, Super Rugby's Waratahs and the A-League's Sydney FC.

But what is the rest of Sydney thinking?

Are they really on board with Harold Holt and all that?

The story, How Cronulla Sharks and North Queensland Cowboys NRL final clash will be decided, first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald.

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