The successful teams of the modern era have quality players in their ‘spine’, that being in the 1, 6, 7 and 9 positions. They are the players on the football, those charting a course and creating opportunities for the players around them.
That being said the recruitment of Ben Barba filled one gap, while the signing of Michael Ennis could potentially be the most important at the Sharks in quite a number of years.
The former Bulldog has played at Origin level, in Grand Finals and has big game experience, while his competitive attitude should rub off on the entire squad.
While not wanting to even contemplate it, what if Ennis wasn’t available, then what are the Sharks options?
The Sharks have some youngsters, a player proven at NSW Cup level looking for his chance in the top grade, while another young gun is set to switch from the halves to play at hooker on a more rgular basis.
See what Sharks.com.au thinks of the dummy half prospects in 2015.
The favourite – Michael Ennis
Will be hooker in round one if all things go to plan during the trials and is set to be perhaps the most influential player in the Sharks team.
His competitiveness, guile and experience will be invaluable and as skipper Paul Gallen has already expressed, Ennis will make those around him better players.
The coach, as well as all his new teammates, are extremely excited to have him on board.
The rookies – Jayden Brailey, Brad Deitz
Biding their time in the Sharks NYC team in 2015 will be the last two Australian Schoolboy hookers in Jayden Brailey and Brad Deitz.
Brailey toured the UK in 2014, Deitz played for the Schoolboys in 2013. One is an outstanding defender, the other possesses a bit more speed and explosiveness out of dummy half, with this pair potentially representing the future at the Sharks once the curtain comes down on Ennis’s career.
While they will battle each other for game time in the 20’s this season, they could also one day be fighting it out for places in the NRL side.
Will only be required this year in the top grade if there was an injury crisis, but mark these two down for the years to come.
The smokey – Politoni
Once a highly rated junior Politoni enjoyed some consistent game time in the NRL towards the back end of 2014 after being a standout for the NSW Cup Sharks over the past two seasons.
As displayed in his handful of NRL appearances last year showed he is a more than capable of handling the step up to the top grade and while Ennis will be the Sharks first choice, Politoni’s pre-season has been first class and he won’t let anyone down if given the opportunity.
The contender – Fa’amanu Brown
Readers of Sharks.com.au’s assessment of the positional options may have been surprised at his exclusion from the list of halves, considering he debuted as a five eighth last season. The reason for that had to do with the fact Nu has trained almost exclusively at dummy half during the summer and is being touted as a future star in the hooker position.
Ennis will certainly start in front of him at 9, however Brown will be in the fight for that utility position off the bench and will therefore be looking to impress whenever he gets an opportunity during the pre-season trials.
With skill, speed and footwork could be used as shock tactic and a point of difference to the dependable Ennis and will be interesting to see both how he develops and how Flanagan uses him this season.