The Sharks in 2015 – Fullbacks
The Sharks have strong depth in most positions for 2015, with players both young and the not-so-young working hard to ensure they win a place in the NRL squad for round one.
The ‘old stagers’ are keen to keep a hold of their position in the side, while the ‘young guns’ are just as intent on making a name for themselves in a Sharks team confident of a success this year.
For the fullback position there is a heavy favourite in two-time Sharks player of the year Michael Gordon, however wihout wishing ill on him, should anything go awry with the star custodian, coach Shane Flanagan has a couple of options up his sleeve.
Here is Sharks.com.au’s take on the battle for the number one jersey in 2015.
The favourite – Michael Gordon
The Sharks 2013 and 2014 Monty Porter Medallist has overcome minor off-season ankle surgery and is training the house down in preparation for the upcoming season.
Despite now being the other side of 30 Gordon regularly leads the conditioning drills while his combination with newcomer Ben Barba could provide the X-factor the Sharks are seeking.
‘Flash’ was a stand out in the Sharks side which struggled last year and was just as good in the team which won its way through to the semi-finals the season prior, with his kick return, support play and goal kicking meaning he needs to be in the team somewhere.
All things being well look for Gordon to be at the back for the Sharks when they host the Raiders in round one on March 8.
The rookie – Valentine Holmes
No secrets here that Junior Kangaroo Holmes is a future star as indicated by his handful of games in the top grade in 2014.
With explosive speed, Holmes provides something different to Gordon but 2015 might be about learning from his experienced teammate this year while as a part of the full time NRL squad.
Has another string to his bow in that he can play on the wing and it wouldn’t surprise if coach Flanagan used the Gordon-Holmes combination in a similar way to how the Roosters played Minicheillo and Tuivasa-Sheck last season, by rotating the two between wing and fullback during games.
May have to bide his time early on but definitely a star of the future.
The smokey – Ben Barba
Brought to the Sharks to play in the five eighth role in 2015, Barba would have no problem at all slotting into the fullback position in needed.
Collected a Dally M Player of the Year medal while at fullback for the Dogs in 2012 and while his best fit appears to be in the six shirt, the option to try Barba at the back does exist for the coach.
Wherever he ends up the one thing which appears certain is that Barba will have Sharks fans on the edge of their seats in 2015.
The contenders – Nathan Gardner, Gerard Beale, Mitch Brown, Dallas Wells
Gardner - It wasn’t so long ago he was being talked about with the very best fullbacks in the game.
With outstanding speed and footwork, he left many a defender in his wake until a series of injuries over the past two years combined to curtail his progress. When fit and healthy last year showed signs of finding his confidence again and at his best anything’s possible.
Beale – For a time while at the Broncos Beale played some of his very best football with the number one jersey on his back.
A move to the Dragons in 2013 which turned out to be a season interrupted by injury, followed by a shift to the centres, had many forgetting his success in Brisbane while at fullback.
Likely to start the year in the centres and won't be first choice as fullback but Beale shapes as a perfect fall back should anything go amiss with the others in contention.
Brown – The Sharks local junior comes home in 2015 and as he has shown in the past, is more than capable in the fullback role.
Most likely will be fighting it out for a place on the wing or in the centres at the Sharks this season but Browny is a pro who can easily adapt and do the job for his team wherever Flanagan needs him to play.
Wells - Making the step up to the full time NRL squad this season Wells would be a bolter for the fullback role in 2015 but is a player of promise who should learn plenty from his experienced band of teammates this year.
Played fullback, wing and also for a time at five eighth for the NYC Sharks last year showing he has good utility value, his goals should be about learning and improving this season.
Next – Wingers