Five Key Points - Sharks v Raiders

What were the big moments, the game changers, the key points of interest from the Sharks game with the Raiders on Thursday. Here’s what we thought

 

1 Sharks slow starts a killer
Skipper Paul Gallen and coach John Morris were on the same page with their assessment of the Sharks loss to the Raiders, with the pair scathing as to the 20-point start given up to their opponents on Thursday night. 

Dropped balls, penalties and poor discipline all contributed to the Raiders jumping out to a 20-0 advantage, and while the Sharks bravely battled back, as they often do, the damage was most likely already done. 

As summed up by Morris in his post-game media conference, the Sharks burnt through a lot of petrol in that opening period of the game, perhaps leaving them low on energy late in the game and unable to deliver the knockout blow after drawing level. 

Unfortunately it has been a common theme, the Sharks consistently giving up first half leads before fighting their way back into the contest. 

If they want to be amongst the contenders come September it can't continue, with the slow starts killing the Sharks and something they need to eliminate from their game. 

 

2 Graham’s astonishing return
Five Key Points had already gone to print before the NSW team had been confirmed, but it would come as no surprise if Wade Graham’s name was read out by Blues coach Brad Fittler. 

Graham has made a remarkable return from a nine-month injury, his return and the form he has displayed in two game has been a testament to his ability and to the work he has done in partnership with the Sharks medical and training staff, in his rehabilitation.

The leadership, skill and toughness he is known for has been there for all to see, with his fitness despite Graham not being in a match situation until the Eels game two weeks ago, making his comeback performances all the more amazing. 

Graham will be an integral part of the Sharks team going forward but it sounds like NSW need a little, or maybe a lot, of what he can provide as well. 

It has been an astonishing return from Graham and a NSW call-up would be well deserved. 

 

3 An Brailey with a big motor
Deputising for his brother Jayden, Blayke Brailey was making his first start for the Sharks on Thursday night. 

While there were no obvious dummy halves on the bench, the versatile Kurt Capewell had spent some time in the position at training as a safeguard in case the younger Brailey struggled to get through the full game. 

Having played cameo roles so far in 2019, coming on when his brother was fatigued or the coach was looking for a some spark or a point of difference, it was always going to be a big ask for Blayke to get through 80 minutes.

Then whatever plans there were to give him a spell went out the door when Bronson Xerri was unable to return after suffering a head knock, Capewell moving into the backs and taking himself out of the picture as a potential replacement, the youngster forced to push through. 

And he did it with the class and skill that justified the Sharks recent decision to sign Blayke up long-term, making 45 tackles, missing just one, with no errors and solid service out of the dummy half.  

Brother Jayden is good and w know he can go all day, well Blayke showed he has a good motor too, with the Sharks well served in the hooker, and the Brailey, department. 

 

4 Hamlin-Uele re-signing well earned
Not so much out of favour as down the pecking order, Braden Hamlin-Uele found it difficult to cement a spot in the Sharks pack in 2018. 

A Kiwi who arrived at the Sharks via the North Queensland Cowboys, Hamli-Uele played just one game in the NRL, in a win in Canberra, with the remainder of his year spent struggling with injury or otherwise with the Newtown Jets. 

The pre-season threw up some challenges, with Hamlin-Uele involved in an off-field incident prior to Christmas, but it could have been the wake up call he needed. 

The back end of his pre-season was outstanding as he found some fitness and confidence, with injuries and the departure of Ava Seumanufagai to the UK resulting in an opportunity coming his way. And hasn't he grabbed it with both hands. 

Hamlin-Uele has played nine NRL games straight and in than time has consistently been one the Sharks best performed players. His impact off the bench for coach John Morris has been enormous. 

As a result of his form, which continued in Canberra last weekend, Hamlin-Uele has signed a new three-year contract with the club. With his attitude, application, new found professionalism and form, he has certainly earned it. 

 

5 Lest we forget
It wasn't ANZAC Round but for the Sharks it was a significant occasion on Thursday night, with the Cronulla side playing in specially-designed Kokoda jerseys. 

Following the 2017 season a number of Sharks players and staff, Jayden Brailey and Kyle Flanagan included amongst them, went to Papua New Guinea and walked the Kokoda Track, helping to install solar lighting in some villages along the way. 

Both the players and those who accompanied them spoke about the difficulty of the trek, but also what an incredible, life-changing experience it was. 

Since that time, and the Sharks thank the Raiders for their acceptance and participation, the two clubs playing for the Kokoda Challenge Trophy, an incased 'diggers' hat which pays it respects to those who fought, the military past and present and the 'fuzzy-wuzzy' angels who supported our troops in that famous military battle of 1942. 

The Raiders claimed the trophy but the real winners were those hosted by Canberra and the Sharks representing PNG and the Kokoda Track Foundation, an organisation committed to bettering the lives of those living on and around the track.