What were the big moments, the standout performers, the key points to come from the Sharks clash with the Eels on Saturday night. Here's what we thought
1 One injury too many
It was a tough night for the Sharks, with the late withdrawal of Shaun Johnson unfortunately a precursor for what was to follow.
Already the Sharks had lost Paul Gallen prior to the Captain’s run, Matt Moylan was missing with his hamstring strain before the Johnson problems further disrupted game day preparations.
Josh Dugan was forced from the field early for a head injury assessment, then had a lower back problem hinder his performance, while Aaron Woods limped off with a suspected broken foot. There were other bumps and bruises that didn't help the cause.
All that being said, the Sharks battled away, were level at 12-points all midway through the second half, only to fatigue late as the Eels ran away with the game.
The coach while disappointed with the result, couldn't fault the effort but he will be hoping for speedy recoveries from some of his injured brigade, with a big game against the Roosters at home on the schedule next week.
2 It was a fair debut
Courtesy of a mid-week video which went viral, there was plenty of expectation placed on Bronson Xerri, with the youngster living up to the hype with a solid first-up outing.
The 18-year-old was defensively sound, ran down Clint Gutherson to defuse a potential try-scoring situation and while he didn't see clear space, carried the ball with purpose and did his job on the Sharks right hand side.
He kept busy with 16 runs for over 153 metres, perhaps more impressive was his 45 post-contact metres, meaning he pushed and poked through the line and was difficult to pull down, while 11 tackles with no misses emphasised his performance without the ball in his hands.
The late Kyle Flanagan for Johnson change less than an hour before kick off wouldn't have helped the youngsters mindset but be didn't appear overly phased and combined well with his long-time mate Flanagan.
His debut effort, coupled with a mounting Sharks injury toll, and expect to see more of Xerri in the weeks and months ahead.
3 You’re in son!!
Kyle Flanagan brought his boots and was getting ready to go through the motions in warming up as 18th man, then he gets the call from coach John Morris. “You’re in son!! Shaun Johnson is out.”
Not quite the best preparation however Flanagan got down to the task, organised the right hand side of the field, while making 21 tackles with no misses.
He handled his responsibilities as Chad Townsend’s halves partner, while he showed both his goal kicking ability and his calmness under pressure, twice slotting sideline kicks to level the scores, in front of a hostile pro-Eels crowd.
And while the injury to Johnson was a set back for the Sharks, maybe it was meant to be, with Flanagan a close friend of debutant Bronson Xerri, his older brother Dylan and the Xerri family.
Pals since primary school, at the end of what are appear destined to be long careers, both Xerri and Flanagan can look back with pride on their first NRL game together.
4 A 50th worth celebrating
The Sharks have celebrated some special milestones both this year and in recent seasons, but one which shouldn't go unnoticed will be the 50th NRL appearance for Jayden Brailey next week.
A local product, Brailey has based his game on rock solid defence and outstanding dummy half service, cementing his place as the Sharks first choice hooker over the past two and a bit seasons.
Tough, durable and much respected by the senior boys in the club, Brailey is currently in a battle with his younger brother Blayke going forward to be the long term number nine.
But while Blayke’s cameo’s off the bench have displayed his obvious potential, Jayden has gone to another level, stepping up his running game in now becoming an attacking threat from dummy half.
Against the Cowboys it was his line break and try assist that broke the game open, while at ANZ Stadium on Saturday his 37 tackles shouldn't surprise but more significantly the stat sheet read 11 runs, nine of those from dummy half for over 80-metres gained in a well-rounded performance.
Congrats on the upcoming 50th game and may there be many more to come.
5 Otherwise…..it was a good day to be a Shark
The NRL side may have been beaten by the Eels, however at various venues around Sydney the news was a lot more positive for the Sharks.
The three junior rep sides won their way into the respective finals series, the Harvey Norman Women’s team made it two in a row, with the Jersey Flegg Sharks started the defence of their title with a third consecutive win.
The Tarsha Gale girls, along with the Matthews Cup and SG Ball boys, all needed wins in their last round matches to qualify for finals action and all three managed to do just that.
The Tarsha Sharks, the 2018 champions, beat the Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground to finish the season in seventh, which might not sound overly special, but when considering they started the year with an inexperienced side, one that lost their first six matches, and the past three weeks have seen a major improvement in their performances. They play the Panthers in a sudden-death match next weekend.
As for the Matthews Cup and SG Ball teams, the under 16’s Matts boys ground out a 26-10 win over St George to end their year in sixth place, with the 18’s also defeating the Dragons to sneak into the playoffs in eighth.
The Matthews Sharks now play the Panthers, the Ball Sharks the Raiders.
Starting their seasons rather than finishing them like their junior rep counterparts, the Sharks womens team were convincing winners over the Bulldogs, making it two from three to begin their campaign, while the Flegg side smashed the Eels 38-4 and sit on top of the competition table after three extremely impressive wins.
It may have been a disappointing result at ANZ Stadium but otherwise it was a good day to be a Shark.