TITLE HOPES: Michael Ennis of the Cronulla Sharks will bow out at season's end.
TITLE HOPES: Michael Ennis of the Cronulla Sharks will bow out at season's end. DAN PELED

Hookers battle to get one more run

CAMERON Smith and Michael Ennis have had some memorable battles as fierce rivals for 14 years.

On Saturday night the two world-class No.9s lock horns once more, possibly for the final time unless Melbourne and Cronulla meet later in the NRL finals.

Ennis hopes to retire with a premiership fairytale, his first title and the first for Cronulla in the club's 50th year.

He and Smith have butted heads and exchanged words and sledges for their clubs and states since 2003 when Ennis started his career with Newcastle.

Ennis's 263 NRL games have spanned five different clubs, including Brisbane (42 games) and Canterbury (136 games).

Smith has played all his 331 games with Melbourne.

A serious injury mid-season denied Ennis a premiership win with Brisbane in 2006, while Smith was involved in grand final wins in 2007 and 2009 which were stripped from the club after the NRL found the Storm guilty of cheating the salary cap.

Ennis, regarded as the best niggler in the game, earned Smith's ire in 2014 when he patted the Storm skipper on the head in a patronising fashion.

While he wasn't impressed at the time, Smith has a high regard for his arch rival and his ability to get Cronulla around the paddock, dismissing critics' claims Ennis is a better sledger than a player.

"Mick and I have had a fair rivalry for a while now and he's played several games in State of Origin against me,” Smith said.

"I don't know how it'll pan out but he's a fantastic player.

"He wants to win every battle he's involved in and he does enjoy getting under the opposition's skin.

"That's something we can't allow to affect us this weekend. There's no doubt he'll be at his scheming best.”

Saturday night's victor will claim the minor premiership and $100,000 prizemoney.

The battle of the forwards - as it always is - will be crucial to rival halves Cooper Cronk and Blake Green for Melbourne and Cronulla's Chad Townsend and James Maloney running the show.


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