TRIAL PREVIEW | Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sunday and the Official Sharks Season Launch promises plenty of excitement for families with a range of activities on offer including rides, slides and fun for the kids.
The Family Hill will be the place to be for the young and the young at heart, but on the field a game and an important one in the relation to finalising preparations for the season to come, is set to capture the majority of the attention.
The Sharks take on the Manly Sea Eagles in the first 13-on-13 hit out for both clubs in 2016 with much to be revealed over the two 40-minute halves.
For Sharks fans much interest will centre around Jack Bird in the fullback role, the halves pairing of Chad Townsend and James Maloney, as well as the return of Fa’amunu Brown after 12 months out of the game.
In relation to Bird, after watching him adapt to a new role throughout the summer, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is confident the boom youngster can make the necessary transition.
“I know what he’s got, he’s a talented ball-running player,” Flanagan said of Bird. “He can play six, 13, one, he can play in the centres. He’s a footy player.
“(But) A lot goes into the fullback role, organising defensive structures, kick reception, it’s a big job. We just need to make sure he develops. I know Birdy can do it, but he’s got a few blokes to challenge him and to keep him on his toes.”
After keeping him out of the NRL Nines last weekend, the same event in which he suffered his season-ending knee injury last year, Flanagan has also thrust another youngster into a crucial position on Sunday with Nu Brown to start at hooker in the absence of Michael Ennis.
“I want to get him straight into the game, not have him on the bench wondering when he is getting on the field,” Flanagan said of Brown’s run-on role.
“If we get him back fit and healthy, like Birdy he can play a number of roles, so it will be a bonus for the Sharks,” Flanagan added.
Townsend, the Sharks junior returning to where it all began, along with the talented Maloney, will also get a chance to work on their combination, albeit against an inexperienced Manly backline.
While the Sharks will be without All Stars reps on Sunday in Ben Barba, Ennis, Wade Graham and the Fifita twins Andrew and David, as well as skipper Paul Gallen who has withdrawn due to a niggling calf injury, Manly have made the decision to rest the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans, Dylan Walker, Jamie Lyon and Brett Stewart.
Despite the high profile omissions, Flanagan is still keen to see what his squad can produce without concerning himself too much with who his opposition trots out at Shark Park this weekend.
“We’ll have nine out this weekend and I’ve think they’ve got 11 in talking to Trent Barrett. But I’m not worried about them, I’m more worried about us,” Flanagan explained.
“We want to win every time we pull the jersey on but I’m not so much worrying about the result. It’s a trial and we’ll treat it as such.”
Prior to the NRL trial the Sharks and Sea Eagles will face off in a NYC match, while a handful of Newtown NSW Cup players have been included in the Sharks squad for the main trial and are likely to be put into the game once the coach has seen enough of his established stars.
The Sharks team list is available by clicking on the following link [CLICK HERE], with only Chris Heighington, who has succumbed to a minor leg injury, missing from the listed side.
Another of the Sharks newcomers in 2016 in Joseph Paulo will be added to the starting side in place of Heighington.
The NYC trial, which is to be played over four 20-minute periods, will kick off at 2.30pm at Shark Park, followed by the NRL trial at 5.00pm.
Gates to Shark Park will open at 2.00pm, with the day to incorporate the Official 2016 Season Launch.
Entry is free for members and $10 for non-members with no reserved seating.
Rides and activities on the Family Hill are free.