Hynes back as Sharks and Raiders fight for home final

Cronulla have confirmed Nicho Hynes will return from a quad injury to face Canberra with a NRL elimination home final on the line.

The Sharks' star halfback missed the round 26 loss to Newcastle with his training injury, becoming one of several high-profile players struck down perilously close to the finals.

Cronulla's attack was rudderless without Hynes in their loss to Newcastle and Matt Moylan proved a defensive target deputising in the spine.

Coach Craig Fitzgibbon had been hopeful Hynes would recover in time to meet the Raiders at home on Sunday in the Sharks' last game before sudden death begins.

But the Sharks would not sign off on Hynes' fitness until he cleared training the day before the game.

Cronulla confirmed he had been approved to partner Braydon Trindall in the halves in a major boost to the side's hopes of locking up a home final with a victory.

"His effort on and off the ball is really high, Nicho," Fitzgibbon said.

"He turns up and he holds his teammates to account because he's always moving and pushing and looking. 

"It forces everyone to push around the ball a little bit better. He's been defending quite strongly this year as well."

Fitzgibbon hoped the 32-6 loss to the Knights last week would reinvigorate the Sharks on the road to the finals.

"Sometimes a bit of a wake-up call before the semis might be ideal," he said.

"I'd still prefer to win and have a good account of yourself and get in there with some confidence.

"(But) sometimes the response of a loss can get people back up as well."

Penrith's defeat of North Queensland on Saturday night confirmed the Raiders would qualify for the finals regardless of the result in Sunday's clash.

The news comes as a relief to a Canberra side contending without key middle forwards Corey Horsburgh (suspension) and Josh Papali'i (bicep injury).

Coach Ricky Stuart will hand an NRL debut to Penrith junior Hohepa Puru and rely on Ata Mariota and Emre Guler stepping up in the middle as well.

"I'm hoping that you're going to be watching some development of the future of players for the next era," Stuart said.

"We've been very fortunate in the middle with injuries this year.

"The opportunity for our younger middles to play first grade hasn't come any sooner so they get their opportunity in a very important part of the season."

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