Talakai, Hunt to miss Sharks' semi-final

·3-min read

Cronulla have suffered a seismic blow with powerful centre Siosifa Talakai ruled out of their NRL semi-final with South Sydney because of a shoulder injury.

Sharks prop Royce Hunt also failed his final fitness test, forcing coach Craig Fitzgibbon to tinker further with his side.

Talakai was set to train on Friday morning ahead of Saturday's do-or-die semi-final before succumbing to the niggling injury.

Connor Tracey shifts to the centres in Talakai's place, with rugby sevens convert Lachie Miller named on the wing.

Tracey will have the job of marking up on Campbell Graham, who sat out part of Souths' training on Friday but will have a pain-killing injection in his shoulder to play.

Braden Hamlin-Uele joins the starting side in Hunt's place, bringing veteran Aiden Tolman onto the bench.

It came after Fitzgibbon revealed he had knocked back the chance to train at Allianz Stadium on Friday, with the Sharks technically the home team but yet to step foot in Sydney's newest stadium.

Souths have at least had two dress rehearsals at the ground they one day want to call home, facing the Sydney Roosters there twice in the past fortnight.

"We wanted to keep consistency of prep," Fitzgibbon said.

"Obviously not to work your way over there through the mid-morning traffic, hang out, make a full day of it.

"We'll get to experience it first-hand on Saturday night. The guys are looking forward to that."

Allianz Stadium will again be full for the clash, with Souths taking a cheeky dig on social media that their "home" has now sold out for the third week in a row.

But while the atmosphere is one thing, the bigger challenge for players usually comes in adjusting to dimensions of the stadium itself, such as picking up the sideline from the fence.

"The field is still the same size, irrespective of how close the fence is to the sideline," Fitzgibbon said.

"You adjust throughout the course of the year through that. When you get to someone else's own ground you don't have the benefit of training there.

"You've got to get used to the bearings.

"Obviously sometimes at Homebush it's a bigger stadium, adjust a little bit there. They've all got different feelings once you're out there.

"But at the end of the day, the fields are similar. Dead-ball (lines) slightly change at some grounds. But other than that, sideline to sideline it's a footy field."

Souths coach Jason Demetriou, though, claimed it would offer some small advantage, more for coaching staff in preparations than players.

"It's their home game but we've been there, we're familiar with it. We know what's coming," Demetriou said.

"Just understanding the size of the changing rooms, the warm-up areas.

"All those little things that you're familiar with that sometimes when you walk into a new stadium can distract you a little bit.

"Being familiar with that helps when we arrive. But all that stuff is all irrelevant once that whistle goes."