Jayden Brailey has called on his teammates to take matters personally when Cronulla take on fierce local rivals St George Illawarra in their derby clash on Friday night.
It is arguably the NRL’s best derby. The red V against the black, white and blue. Just 10 kilometres and the Captain Cook Bridge over the Georges River separate their spiritual homes at Kogarah and Woolooware.
It is a rivalry that splits families, mates and work colleagues. Cronulla, historically viewed as the little brother in the relationship, have always had a burning desire to get one over the Dragons.
Having grown up in the shire an Aquinas Colts junior, young Sharks hooker Brailey understands the rivalry better than most. He admits it hurt losing their first derby clash of the season at Shark Park in round two and predicted a forward battle between two of the best packs in the competition would be the key to getting revenge for that defeat.
“Even in the lead up we speak about it all week. We’ve got a derby, we’ve got to turn up and put on a show for our fans. We’ve got to really rip in,” he said.
“Obviously there’s a lot of Dragons fans in the area. You walk around the streets after the game and you still hear about it which is not nice. I heard a couple of things that weekend. There’s always going to be people like that.
“We can’t really shift to our edges if we don’t win the middle first. I’m sure the middles will get together at some stage before the game and say we’ve got to rip into these guys because they bring a lot to their team.
“It’s a big attitude thing, we’ve got to take it to them. We’ve got to take it a little bit personally and try and knock off your opposite number. I think that’s what our middles will try and do and play with some aggression.”
Cronulla have wrestled back the ascendancy in recent years, highlighted by their 2016 premiership. But after a couple of false dawns St George Illawarra appear to be the real deal in 2018. An unblemished 5-0 start to the season sees them sit proudly on top of the table while the Sharks have limped to three early losses.
But for Brailey, that serves to simply make the Dragons a target.
“Knocking them off the top of the table would be nice. Especially with them 5-0, it’d be a good statement for us and I think we’ll take a lot of confidence out of it if we do get the win against them,” he said.
“It’s hard coming off a loss, you’re down in the dumps. But if we get a win against the Dragons it’d be massive for us and hopefully give us a good kick start to our season.
“They’re obviously flying high at the moment as well. All week we’ve spoken about turning up with the right attitude more than anything. Our attack has been a bit clunky at times but if we turn up with the right attitude and work really hard for each other, run a bit harder and more direct and not give away penalties, I think that’ll put us in a good position.
“It’s always a different feel against the Dragons, a bit tougher. They’re a tough team to play. They’re a really good forward pack at the moment. They’re playing really well so we’ll have to turn up.”
Brailey though has a wise head on his young shoulders. Having only celebrated his 22nd birthday on Monday, he still recognises the need for the Sharks to play with control against one of the most disciplined teams in the competition.
“More than anything it’s another football game and we need that two points,” he said.
“We don’t want to go two wins and four losses. That’s not a good start to our season. We need to take the emotion out of it and play smart. “