The Sharks in 2015 - Halves
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has a strong playing roster at his disposal for season 2015, with competition positions in the starting side sure to be intense.
The ‘old stagers’ are intent on keeping their positions in the side, while the ‘young guns’ have impressed throughout the summer and are focussed on making a name for themselves in a Sharks team confident of a success this year.
In the halves two players would appear to have the inside running, however there are a variety of options available, with a host of quality players pushing their more favoured teammates.
Here is Sharks.com.au’s take on the battle for the Sharks two half and five eighth positions in 2015.
The favourites – Jeff Robson and Ben Barba
Should they both come through the next month or so healthy and in any sort of form the Robson-Barba halves partnership looks certain to be on deck to face the Raiders in round one.
It appears to be a combination that can certainly work, with Robson the general and calming influence, alongside Barba the instinctive attacking genius, a player sure to have a licence to roam, to create and to use his speed and evasion.
Sharks fans should be excited about the prospect of seeing these two work together.
The rookie – Todd Murphy
South of the NSW-Queensland border not much is known of Todd Murphy however a stellar season in the Intrust Super Cup in 2014, the Qld equivalent of the NSW Cup, has provided him with this well-deserved opportunity to impress at an NRL level.
Hasn’t put a foot wrong during the summer and if he can continue to improve and learn from the NRL stars around him, Murphy could develop into a definite option for coach Flanagan should any mishaps occur with the favoured pairing.
The Smokey – Kyle Stanley
Luck certainly hasn’t been on his side in recent years, with a string of injuries hampering his progress, however after getting some consistent game time under his belt in 2014 Stanley showed what he is capable of with strong performances at season’s end for Samoa in the Four Nations tournament.
Played at 7 for Samoa and handled it well, however his versatility would allow him to play almost anywhere in the backline, making Stanley the perfect backup for the Sharks halves pairing and also a potential Sharks bench utility come round one.
If the situation requires – Wade Graham, Pat Politoni
Both have moved on from after coming through as halves from their early days, with Graham now established as a backrower and Politoni an ever-improving hooker.
But, and coach Flanagan will be hoping it doesn’t come to this, if desperate circumstances called for desperate measures, both have the ball playing ability and nous to fill a gap if needed.
As recently as last year Graham has played at five eighth during games when injury dictated and could do the job, Poltoni likewise at a NSW Cup level during the past two seasons.
This however is the least likely of Flanagan’s halves options.
Old enough if good enough – Jaden Clarke, Connor Tracey
A winner of the Peter Sterling medal as the best schoolboy player in the land back in 2013, Clarke has now had a full season in the NYC and a summer training with the Sharks NRL squad, with both experiences making for an improved player in whatever grade he appears in 2015.
A nuggetty, strong ball runner, with a bit of polish he could develop into a quality NRL player of the future. With another year of NYC eligibility this season appears too soon perhaps, but he is definitely one to keep an eye on.
As for his NYC halves partner Tracey, he should return from a trip to the UK and France with the Australian schoolboys better for the experience.
Similarly to Clarke, Tracey loves to run the ball and is deceptively strong for his size, making him a handful for opposition defences. At just 18 years of age probably not this year, but another to mark down in the black book for the future.
Next – Backrowers