Five Key Points - Sharks v Broncos

What were the game changers, the major incidents, the points of interest coming from the Sharks loss to the Broncos. See what we thought

1 Another Sharks debutant 
He was meant to be travelling to Brisbane as a part of the learning curve, an observer watching how an NRL team prepares for a big game.

Instead, Ronaldo Mulitalo, only added to the Sharks top-30 squad on Friday, gets the tap on the shoulder literally a matter of minutes before kick off and we have another teenage debutant.

Josh Dugan going down in the last moments of the warm up, with Mulitalo subbed in, meant three of the Sharks back five had in total four NRL games between them. 

Mulitalo was constantly bombed by the Brisbane kickers and while he did make a couple of errors, he could hold his head high for putting in a commendable first-up effort under extreme circumstances.

Born in New Zealand, arriving at the Sharks via Queensland, the 19-year-old has plenty of upside and better days ahead of him.

Briton Nikora, Blayke Brailey, Bronson Xerri, Will Kennedy and now Mulitalo, have debuted in the NRL this year and while there have been a few bumps in the road for all five, no doubt in the weeks, months and years ahead they will be better the experience. 

 

2 Loss of Johnson a major setback
Shaun Johnson cut a dejected figure in the Sharks sheds after being assisted from the field just 21-minutes into the contest.

Chasing down a Broncos line break Johnson pulled up in distress, immediately coming from the field with a hamstring strain. 

On came hooker Blayke Brailey, big brother Jayden shifted into the halves, with the Sharks right hand side disjointed to say the least.

To his credit Jayden Brailey did a workmanlike job, competing hard on every play as he is known to do, but the loss of Johnson caused a massive disruption to the Sharks attack, putting extra pressure on the right side combinations in defence and on halves partner Chad Townsend.

Dugan goes off in warm up, Johnson lasts 20 minutes and is looking at a stint on the sidelines, add to that Wade Graham, Matt Moylan, and Aaron Woods are still some weeks away before they return and the Sharks depth is set to be severely tested.

 

3 Townsend stands tall again
In a difficult year with injury, where a number of the Sharks high profile players have spent, continue to spend or are about to spend time on the sidelines, one senior player has stood out with his consistency, leadership and tenacity.

Once again on Saturday night it was left to Chad Townsend to not only step up and control the game on his own when Johnson limped off, he also took it upon himself to fire up the troops with some physical efforts in defense.

Extra efforts that sometimes go unnoticed, the pressuring of a kicker, making back to back to back tackles in a bid to give tired forwards a breather, along with his always reliable support play, have been a feature of the Townsend game this season.

It didn't work out for the Sharks on Saturday night, the Broncos proving too good, but it was no fault of the Cronulla half who continues to play with plenty of heart in 2019. 

And with the Sharks set to be without Shaun Johnson, the onus will be on Townsend to again step up and deliver when they host the Storm on Friday night. 

 

4 Stats tell a tale
Statistics don't always tell the full story, however when delving into the numbers surrounding the Sharks loss to the Broncos, at least on this occasion they probably go a long way towards explaining the final result. 

The Sharks had just 42 per cent of the ball, while completing at 65 per cent, figures that rarely get the job done at the NRL level. 

And without apportioning blame, the kick defusal percentages also give a clear indication of where it all went wrong. 

Brisbane were 100 per cent in defusing any kicks put up by the Sharks, while on the opposite side of the ledger the Cronulla side managed to get their hands on and control Broncos kicks just 71 per cent of the time. 

Throw in 12 errors with the football, a penalty count of six to three against, as well as 50 missed tackles and it wont be pretty reading when John Morris sits down to assess his teams performance. 

On a positive, despite the numbers being stacked against them, the two teams scored just one try apiece in the second half, despite the fact the Sharks were battered and with a rookie fullback and winger playing on the back foot behind a struggling forward pack. 

They don't always, but on Saturday night the stats told the tale. 

 

5 Fifita leads from the front
Andrew Fifita had them coming at him from all directions. 

His childhood friend Matthew Lodge made a point of targeting the Sharks big front rower, as did FIfita’s Tongan teammates in the Broncos side, led by Tevita Pangai Junior. 

It was intense and physical, with many believing Fifita came off second best in the personal on-field challenges he faced. 

However when assessing the game without fear or favour, it should be reported that individually Fifita had a huge impact for his team.

While his opponents were running on and off, allowing them time to rest, recover and come again, Fifita played 71 minutes of the 80, made 50 tackles, had 20 runs for over 150 metres and was a tower of strength for the Sharks in the middle of the field. 

Throw in three off loads and no errors in possession and it was an outstanding performance from the big fella. 

The coaching staff and his teammates have come to expect it, but sometimes Fifita deeds can go unnoticed.