What were the big moments, the game changers, the key points of interest to come from the Sharks win over the Eels. Here’s what we thought
1 Graham’s impressive return
Ok, so we are being ‘Captain Obvious’ here in making the statement, however it was hard not to be impressed by the return performance of Sharks co-captain Wade Graham.
Entering the game some six minutes before the break, Graham wasted no time in getting his hands on the ball and having an impact on the game.
He came out after half time, maybe confident in the fact that his knee was holding up fine after nine months of hard work and recovery, then proceeded to take apart the Eels right hand side defence in the second period.
Bronson Xerri might be smiling all the way to the try line if coach John Morris elects to keep him alongside Graham going forward, with his ball skills freeing up the speedy youngster on his outside.
It was certainly an impressive return to the field from Graham and one which should have all Sharks fans excited about the prospects.
(Note: Sharks Media have spent 9 months tracking Wade Graham's recovery from a knee reconstruction. His Road to Recovery is an all-encompassing 20-minute video documentary going through every aspect of his recovery and his return on Saturday night. CLICK HERE to watch the video)
2 Playmakers in control
There has been barely a whisper about Chad Townsend as an Origin contender, however many good judges would have to agree the Sharks number seven has been the most consistent half back in the NRL through the opening half of the season.
Again against the Eels Townsend executed Morris’s game plan to perfection, with his kicking and control going a long way towards guiding the Sharks to what was a convincing victory.
It comes as no surprise that Townsend is well clear on the Sharks 2019 Player of the Year poll with the local junior in career-best form.
But all that being said, spare a thought for youngster Kyle Flanagan, who again showed he is more than up to the challenges of the NRL with another strong effort.
Flanagan kicked all the goals that mattered, turning four into six every time the Sharks crossed the line, but in general play he continues to grow in confidence and his defence is sound.
The playmakers were certainly in control, which was certainly reflected on the scoreboard on Saturday night.
3 Skipper less than impressed
Every victory in the NRL is to be celebrated, with wins hard fought regardless of the opposition.
The Eels lost their fullback and captain early, which certainly didn’t help their cause, but the Cronulla side had a job to do against an opponent who has taken down some big scalps, including the Sharks back in round 4, so far in 2019.
And they did just that, some exciting backline play, a couple of long range tries and after an hour or so the Sharks had a 36-6 lead and the game was won.
What happened next was less than impressive, the Eels scoring the next three tries and while they were no chance of pegging back the Sharks substantial lead, the 36-22 score line disappointed some, most notably skipper Paul Gallen.
Tempering the excitement of the win, Gallen expressed his disappointment at the lapse in concentration and intensity which allowed the Eels to claw their way back into the contest.
Their next opponents in the Raiders built up a 28-0 lead with still plenty of time on the clock and were ruthless in holding the Wests Tigers scoreless last Friday night. Gallen was quick to point this out to his teammates after the Eels game.
Gallen was pleased with the win but less than impressed with the final quarter, knowing full well if the Sharks want to challenge for the 2019 title they’ll need to play for the full 80-minutes.
4 He’s a tough kid
When his brother Blayke was the man to miss out when the Sharks final 17-man squad was announced, Jayden Brailey would have been fully aware the expectation was to play the full 80-minutes against the Eels.
Brailey again delivered his usual workmanlike effort, competing on every play, making all his tackles, providing slick dummy half service and running when the opportunity arrived.
However, with no back up on the bench the coaches box got a scare when Brailey went down with an apparent injury after hyper-extending his knee in the early moments of the second half.
He battled on, continued to do his job despite showing obvious discomfort, in displaying he has plenty of toughness to go along with his skills and ability.
The team comes out later today and despite the injury expect Jayden to be on the list. Chances are he’s already been in coach John Morris’s office telling him he is good to go.
No doubting he’s one tough kid.
5 It’s been coming
The pages of Five Key Points have been sounding a warning for a few weeks now that somewhere down the track coach John Morris was going to have some difficult selection decisions to make.
He has had four representative players on the sidelines for the most past of 2019, all of whom are slowly coming back into the team.
Also consider Josh Morris was rested for the Eels match after playing in the Origin game the previous Wednesday night. He will come back into the side for the Raiders clash on Thursday.
Matt Moylan was super-impressive in his first game back against the Dragons, while we all saw Graham’s performance in 30-odd minutes last Saturday night.
This week Shaun Johnson is likely to be available and after the rep weekend Aaron Woods is set to be good to go for the round 15 match against the Bulldogs.
As Paul Gallen said in an interview with Sharks TV, having to make tough team decisions beats the alternative of trying to find players to fill holes for the proven performers.
That being said, he’ll be happy to defer to his coach to make the tough calls that are on the horizon.
It’s been coming, the selection headaches we’ve been anticipating are here now and about to get worse.