When Michael Ennis made the decision late in 2016 to hang up the boots at the end of the season, the speculation as to his replacement might be began almost immediately.
Instrumental in the Sharks premiership victory, Ennis was always going leave a large hole to fill, however the contenders are ready, willing and able to take on the challenge and to become the Club’s next number nine.
Former Tiger and Kiwi representative Manaia Cheerington signed on midway through last year and has so far fit seamlessly into the Sharks system during pre-season.
After missing the entire 2015 season due to injury Fa’amanu Brown managed a couple of top grade games in 2016 and comes firmly into calculations for a starting berth next year, with Holden Cup Dally M Player of the Year Jayden Brailey ready to make the step up to the senior squad in 2017.
Then in adding to the Sharks depth the latest recruit was former Roosters Premiership winning player Daniel Mortimer, brought into the fold for his utility value.
With skill and an ability to play in the halves, Mortimer is also more than capable of holding down a regular spot in the Sharks pack if called upon.
Coach Shane Flanagan, rather than be overwhelmed by the decision he faces, has been impressed by what he has seen in the off-season and is confident he will find the right player to step into Ennis’s big shoes
“A few things have changed. But we’ve got some choice,” Flanagan began. “Brailey and Cherrington are two genuine number nines, but Mortimer can play there as well. He can play seven, six and nine, I brought him in for that utility value and he can put a bit of pressure on Chad and Jimmy as well.
“Then we also have Nu (Brown) who can also play seven, six and nine.”
Which hardly sheds too much light on the way Flanagan is leaning, with the post-Christmas training period set to determine who gets the nod for the World Club Challenge match against Wigan and for the round one clash against the Broncos.
“We’ll see how they trial, they’re all champing at the bit to get first crack at it,” he said. “I’m undecided at this stage and the trial and (NRL) Nines will probably tell.”
Good luck to all the contenders and may the best man be standing in the Sharks ‘nine’ jersey come March 2 at Southern Cross Group Stadium.