SIXES & SEVENS | New halves excite Coach
NRL Head Coach Shane Flanagan will keep a close eye over each and all of the 26-men set to run out onto Shark Park this Sunday - but he could be forgiven for directing a greater attention upon the form of in-coming halves pairing, James Maloney and Chad Townsend.
Maloney - the NRL's total leading point scorer at the end of last season - links with the returning Townsend, in a combination set to inspire a greater flair in the Sharks attack.
Flanagan, in speaking with Sharks TV on Friday, said he's eager to see what his side's newest halves have in store at the weekend.
"I'm really looking forward to that, they've trained really well together. They complement each other really well," Flanagan said.
"Jimmy's a real good support player. He's fast, he's got a really good kicking game. I'm really looking forward to see him working with Chad."
The Maloney-Townsend combination is one that has shown great promise throughout the Club's pre-season training - but not men to rest on their laurels - the hard-working duo will use Sunday's trial against Manly as a gauge of form, heading into the season proper.
Townsend returns to Cronulla in 2016 - the Club where he debuted as a fresh faced 20-year-old - having expressed his delight in re-signing with the Sharks after two years spent abroad in Auckland.
In working under the Warriors system, Townsend says he has grown in playing alongside Kiwi sensation Shaun Johnson, helping him to mature and develop his game over the course of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, respectively.
"He's come back from the Warriors a lot more experienced. He's a level-head, he knows he's a first grader now," Flanagan said.
"I know they'll be a real good combination for us."
Townsend assumes the role of the side's organiser in place of Shark-turn-Warrior Jeff Robson, while Maloney slots into the '6' jersey - a shirt vacated by the move of 2015 NRL Rookie of the Year Jack Bird, to fullback.
With much spoken of Bird's ambitions to play at the back in 2016, Flanagan said Bird has earned first crack at the role, and alike the new halves pairing, said he is buoyed by what may lay ahead for the side heading into the Premiership rounds.
"It's his first game at fullback, and Val (Holmes) will play some time at fullback too. It's exciting for me, I can't wait."
See the full interview with Coach Shane Flanagan, on www.sharks.com.au at 5pm today!