While every member of the Warriors will be motivated for Saturday night’s clash against ladder leaders Cronulla, the stakes will be that bit higher for former Shark Blake Ayshford.
Ayshford has made no secret of the fact that his two years spent in Cronulla were career low points, as be battled to deal with the fallout from the ongoing dramas of the ASADA investigation, along with personal struggles with form and injury.
After linking up with the Warriors this season the 28-year-old centre has been among the club’s most-consistent performers in 2016, playing every game so far, a feat matched only by halfback Shaun Johnson and captain Ryan Hoffman.
Ahead of his first trip back to Southern Cross Group Stadium – affectionately known as Sharks Park – Ayshford said he can’t wait to face his former side.
“I’m not going to say I didn’t look at the draw and find this game, because I would by lying,” Ayshford said.
“I did look when we were playing them, but that was more at the start of the year when I didn’t even know if I was in the team or not. But I get the chance to go there this week.
“I am not expecting a good welcome from the fans and things, but we will just see how it all goes.
“At the end of the day we are a team trying to win and they are just blokes I played with in the past.”
The Sharks head into this weekend on a 10-game winning streak and sit two points clear of the Storm at the top of the table.
A key difference in 2016 has been the emergence of dynamic backline stars such as Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes, along with the re-birth of Ben Barba at fullback, joining a stellar forward pack in Cronulla which is laced with current and former representative stars.
“The team they have got at the moment is doing the job, leading the ladder and looking very dangerous,” Ayshford said.
“The Sharks, they have beaten everyone they have come up against lately and it’s going to be a real challenge.
“Their young kids are right up there [with the best I have seen], ‘Birdy’ [Jack Bird] played Origin and it’s only his second year of first grade, and Val [Valentine Holmes] is almost leading the competition in tries scored, and they have always been like that.
“Those two are on the other side to me, so Sol [Solomone Kata] and Ken [Maumalo] will have a big job to do.”
— Jacer (@jacer84) June 22, 2016