The halves often shoulder the responsibility for steering a team around the field, but sometimes in that discussion the importance of a quality number nine is forgotten.
The hooker is required to make 100’s of split-second decisions each and every game, figuring out who to give the ball to and when, in attempting to play to the game plan and assist the halves in organising a team’s attack.
In the modern game they are also required to make upwards of 30 tackles per match, in the middle of the field and often on much bigger men, with the impact a quality dummy half can have on a team immense.
The Sharks have had their share of outstanding hookers throughout the years and some of the best of those have pulled on the Cronulla jersey during the most recent decade.
In again providing a ‘tip sheet’ on the best to have played for the Sharks in the respective positions, we turn the spotlight onto the hookers.
In asking you to select a Team of the Decade, a Sharks squad 1-17 which you believe to be the best from 2010 to the currently suspended 2020 season, who is your choice in the number nine jersey?
In 2010 current Sharks NRL coach John Morris slotted straight into the starting side as first choice hooker after joining the club from the Wests Tigers.
Paul Aiton and Stuart Flanagan would be the back-ups in Morris’s first two years at the club, before the signing of Isaac De Gois saw the pair share the responsibilities in 2012 and 2013.
De Gois would claim the starting job in ’12, Morris winning back the number nine jersey and run on spot in 2013, before injury cut short the 2014 season for both Sharks hookers.
The Morris-De Gois battle was an intriguing one, De Gois possessing speed and attacking flair, while Morris was the ultimate competitor, never more emphasised by his last-ditch try saving tackle in the closing moments of the Sharks semi-final win over the Cowboys in 2013. In the two-hooker rotation, their abilities complemented each other during those two-plus seasons together.
Following the injuries suffered by the pair, local product Michael Lichaa shared the dummy half role with Pat Politoni and Fa’amanu Brown for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Of all the hookers Politoni remained in 2015, Brown missed most of the year with an injury suffered at the NRL Nines, however taking over the mantle was Michael Ennis in what at the time was a controversial signing from the Bulldogs.
Many believing perhaps his best days were behind him, Ennis certainly turned the critics around, adding plenty to the Sharks performances in his first year at the club, before being one of the major reasons the club was able lift the NRL premiership trophy in 2016.
Watching and learning from Ennis during that period was Jayden Brailey, the local boy grabbing his chance in 2017, beating out James Segeyaro, Daniel Mortimer and Brown for the starting job, with the Aquinas Colts product first choice dummy half in the three years following the Ennis retirement.
In 2019 while Brailey retained the run-on role, in using racing parlance another dummy half from the same stable was beginning to emerge, with younger brother Blayke Brailey playing 14 matches as a back-up and one as the starter.
Then with big brother now at the Knights and unfortunately the experienced Cameron King suffering an ACL tear in the pre-season, Blayke performed strongly through the opening two games and was set to take the baton and run with it in 2020 if and when the competition resumed.
A crucial position on the field and an important choice in your Sharks Team of the Decade. Who makes your squad in the number nine jersey?
Download the Sharks Team of the Decade template here and start filling it out today - once you've finished your squad, upload a picture to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag our pages plus use the hashtag #UpUp - or email your sheet to [email protected].