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Of course, Shane Flanagan’s men defeated the Melbourne Storm 14-12 in the decider last October, to end a 50-year premiership drought and have their fans finally turn off their porch lights.
Their mission to become the first team since the Brisbane Broncos in 1992-93 to defend the title in a unified competition starts when they come up against that very team at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
In addition to Barba and Ennis having left the club, the Sharks will also be without fullback Valentine Holmes, who is nursing a leg injury.
The two teams have already met once this calendar year, with the Broncos prevailing 30-12 in a pre-season match at Redcliffe last month, before both teams lost their respective matches to Warrington and Wigan in the World Club Series in England.
For the Broncos, Ben Hunt will be under the most pressure to perform in season 2017. This will be his last season at Red Hill before he moves to the Dragons, where he will almost certainly finish his playing career.
After famously knocking on in the golden point extra time period in the 2015 grand final, Hunt endured a poor 2016 season by his standards, but was still able to play every match for Brisbane and score seven tries.
The partnership between Hunt and Anthony Milford will again be crucial to the club’s chances of ending their 12-year premiership drought, as will the leadership of new captain Darius Boyd.
While recent history favours the Sharks, who have won four of their last five against the Broncos, Wayne Bennett’s men will get up in this one.
Cronulla Sharks: 1. Gerard Beale 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Chris Heighington 16. Sam Tagataese 17. Fa’amanu Brown 18. Tony Williams 19. Kurt Capewell 20. Daniel Mortimer 21. Valentine Holmes
Brisbane Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd © 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Ben Hunt 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 11. Sam Thaiday 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14. Alex Glenn 15. Tevita Pangai 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Jai Arrow 18. David Mead 19. Joe Ofahengaue 20. Kodi Nikorima 21. George Fai
Unavailables: Benji Marshall (achilles, TBC), Tom Opacic (shoulder, indefinite)