Cronulla's big punt could end 49-year premiership drought

CRONULLA coach Shane Flanagan is expected to take a massive punt on game-shy forward Sam Tagataese as his bench game-breaker in Sunday's NRL grand final showdown with Melbourne at ANZ Stadium.

The word from the Shark's camp is the Flanagan will go with the dangerous running Tagataese ahead of Kurt Capewell on his bench which includes Chris Heighington, Gerard Beale and Jason Bukuya.

The Sharks are looking to break a 49-year drought and repeat North Queensland's maiden title last year.

Tagataese has not played a minute of football for over seven weeks after suffering a bad shoulder injury in round 23.

But it is understood he has impressed Flanagan at training this week.

Provided he pull up well on Sunday morning from a searching contact test on his shoulder, he is expected to get the nod over Capewell. 

Melbourne have no such concerns and head into the clash warm favourites with Cameron Smith attracting heavy support to win the Clive Churchill Man of the match medal for the best player on the field.

It is the only piece of rugby league silverware missing from his trophy cabinet.

Smith will tangle with his long-time adversary Michael Ennis who will be playing the final game of his career.

Cronulla is expected to attract late support with bookmakers prepared for a flood of sentimental bets from rank and file punters.

Shark's skipper Paul Gallen believes his forwards can gain the upper hand in the battle in the middle giving halves

Chad Townsend and James Maloney room to bring their attacking guns Valentine Holmes, Ben Barba and Sosaia Feki into the game.

Melbourne will no doubt target Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita who can lose kid cool under pressure

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